An academic and personal journey reached a new path Thursday at Trail Middle School (TMS) when 12 students proudly rose to their feet to accept a certificate of graduation.
Under the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre, the Cooperative Education Centre 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 traditional campus wasn’t working for them.
Nearly 100 people watched in the crowd as the grads were congratulated for their success, some which benefited from about $5,000 in scholarships from community organizations.
“Grad is not an end but a beginning,” said Fred Dattolo, a retired teacher who was warmed by his invitation as guest speaker.
Jodi Tache, child and youth care worker, said it’s a rewarding day for grads but also their family and teachers who have watched them grow.
“It’s been a hard journey for most of them as they have personal issues that they have to deal with first,” she said before the ceremony.
“It takes years for some of them to settle in and get to a place where academics become important to them and sometimes that’s a long journey.”
It only took 18-year-old Taylor Diakew an extra year to complete her studies.
The class valedictorian transferred from J. L. Crowe in Grade 10 when life got “ridiculous.”
“It was just stuff to do with boys and friends and I wasn’t getting the help I needed so I decided it was better to come down here,” she smiled, thinking of a past that seems so long ago.
Her goal to find a job in health care will begin with work at the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital’s cafeteria or house keeping, a financial step closer to working as a care aid.
Decked out in a $3 baby pink long dress, a steal she dug up at the Rossland Thrift Store,
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the Trail resident was “definitely ecstatic,” a feeling her classmate Thomas Forlin, 18, shared.
“Only on special occasions do I straighten my hair,” said the Genelle resident of his blue/black long locks.
The two waved down Trail RCMP Const. Matt Hope who came suited up in his Red Serge to watch students he connected with this year receive their certificate. Const. Hope attended monthly hikes and other recreational activities through the adventure-based program, one of many programs under the centre’s umbrella.
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 Crowe or Rossland Secondary School, the co-op program accepts that it may take longer for students to complete their studies.
“There are a whole bunch of kids out there who are struggling in the academic system,” said Tach, who has worked at TMS for three years.“The regular system works for most kids but there are a number of kids it doesn’t work for and we believe they have the same right for an education as anybody else.”