Above: Tom Eulenberg accepts a Dogwood

Above: Tom Eulenberg accepts a Dogwood

Graduation day takes on special meaning for CEC students

Last Thursday at Trail Middle School, graduates of the Cooperative Education Centre received their diplomas.

Two years ago the drudgery of high school academics was usurped by the excitement of its inherent extra curricular activities for Samantha Anstey.

She couldn’t be bothered to focus on her studies when having fun and partying felt so much better — so she quit school.

When that life began to feel empty, she turned back to school to find an answer. Last Thursday at Trail Middle School the 19-year-old graduated high school from the Cooperative Education Centre with her Dogwood certificate in hand, four months after she began to re-apply herself with vigour to studies that once seemed unbearably tedious.

She was one of 27 students, ranging in age from 18 to 55, in Trail who took the road less traveled for their Grade 12 certificate, and participated in a ceremony celebrating their achievement at the school in front of 130 people.

“When you get older you finally have to realize you need certain things in your life,” she said after the ceremonies were done.

“I just wanted to do something with my life instead of sitting at home and doing nothing. It gave me way more determination, going away and coming back.”

But school won’t be ending for Anstey. She will now be going to college in fall in Vancouver for aesthetics and spa to begin building her career.

Under the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre, the Cooperative Education Centre (CEC) offers a family-like environment for students that have found the program because they left high school and decided to come back, or felt that a traditional campus wasn’t working for them.

A lot of the 140 students at Trail Middle School — and a total of 200 across the school district itself — are in a position where they might have thought they wouldn’t ever be graduating high school, said Derek Zimmer, district coordinator for alternative education and one of the two teachers who work at the centre.

“You see that fear when they come in … and things haven’t worked out, and there is that fear that they won’t graduate,” he said. “So this day is an amazing celebration for everyone, to see them get through this in whatever way they can.”

Using a more understanding and nurturing format, the centre takes on students young and old with different learning capabilities. Though still providing a structured learning environment like J. L. Crowe or Rossland Secondary School, the co-op program accepts that it may take longer for students to complete their studies.

On Thursday, some students received a completion certificate, some earned an adult Dogwood, while some got through with a regular Dogwood (Grade 12 matriculation). Two of the graduates were university prepared and will be looking to go on to post secondary, said Zimmer, and some are looking at opening up businesses or head into the trades.

One of those is Tom Eulenberg, an 18-year-old Trail resident who wasn’t inspired by the school system, but knew Grade 12 was something he had to complete.

It felt good to be done, he said on Thursday, but there was some doubt throughout he would finish after he transferred to CEC three years ago.

“I knew I wanted to (graduate) but I felt like it was taking so long. I wanted to get on with other parts of life but still I wanted to get this done,” he said.

“It feels exciting and a relief to get this done.”

With the help of the school’s teachers urging him on, making sure he attended class, Eulenberg has now set himself up for entrance into a trades apprenticeship program later this year.