Center upholds tradition
However nontraditional the path through high school, some traditions are important to uphold.
The Eudora Community Learning Center graduated nine students Saturday, a handful of whom attended a traditional, if abbreviated, ceremony.
"I wanted it," graduate Patricia Thieme said of the cap-and-gown ceremony.
Graduates processed to the Eudora High School commons to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance," and each received a white rose with his or her diploma.
"I was glad this was a high school diploma, not a GED class," Thieme said.
She and other graduates earned a EudoraHigh School diploma at their own pace at the Eudora Community Learning Center. Thieme, who left Eudora High School last year, said the program took her about nine months, considering the time she took off to have her baby.
Fellow graduate Randy Flaherty, who recently moved to Eudora from Lawrence, said he had been a part of the program since it opened in August.
Keynote speaker Marty Kobza, superintendent of USD 491, said the idea for the program started about five years ago when it was apparent there were people in the Eudora community who could be in school but weren't. Kobza said the program was hoped to give a second chance to those who needed it.
"One of the things I've learned from this group is perseverance," Kobza said. "(These students) have faced a lot of things many of us have not experienced in our own lives.
"They made a choice, and they're taking advantage of this opportunity to get this diploma."
Kobza told the graduates statistics showed they had a 99 percent greater chance of earning a million more dollars with a high school diploma. Moreover, he told the students he hoped this wasn't the end of their education but rather a gateway to college, a vocational program or other form of education.
"Don't stop now -- you're on a roll," he said.
Mark Poltera, the program's coordinator, said the Eudora Community Learning Center had enrolled and graduated more students than expected.
"But it isn't about our accomplishments," he said. "It's about the accomplishments of the students sitting in the front row. Their reason for finishing their diploma is varied.
"But each of these students saw it as something important in their lives."