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Not your traditional commencement ceremony: Four alt ed students graduate

The school provides a hands-on, project-based curriculum with the opportunity to work in both classroom setting and a packet-based system in the afternoons.
Kathleen Ellyn

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on June 5, 2018 3:07PM

Tough love smothered in affection is the recipe that yields results in Wallowa County Alternative Education Program. Teacher Jeni Greenshields embraces graduating student Alexandria Johnson. The graduation ceremony includes a “roast” of students that admits the struggles they had while simultaneously pouring on love.

Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain

Tough love smothered in affection is the recipe that yields results in Wallowa County Alternative Education Program. Teacher Jeni Greenshields embraces graduating student Alexandria Johnson. The graduation ceremony includes a “roast” of students that admits the struggles they had while simultaneously pouring on love.

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A bedazzled cap adorns the head of Wallowa County Alternative Education grad Georgia Falk.

Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain

A bedazzled cap adorns the head of Wallowa County Alternative Education grad Georgia Falk.

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The graduating class of the 2018 Wallowa County Alternative Education, Jean Luc Palma, left, Alexandria Johnson, Tripper Lane Beske and Georgia Falk.

Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain

The graduating class of the 2018 Wallowa County Alternative Education, Jean Luc Palma, left, Alexandria Johnson, Tripper Lane Beske and Georgia Falk.

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It’s the only school in the county where graduation speeches start with a “roast” of the students.

Wallowa County Alternative Education Program graduated four students this year.

The guests, many of whom had driven hundreds of miles, were treated to the traditional “acknowledgment of human flaws on the way to graduation” as that pertained to each student.

It’s true that some students do come to the Alternative Education School because of behavioral problems, but not all. Some have been victims of bullying. Some have had tragedies, accidents or family upheaval that resulted in their losing their momentum.

“I came to Alt Ed with the goal in mind, just get my credits recovered and get out ... then I fell in love with everybody.” said graduate Georgia Falk. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot.”

She credited the school’s assistant teacher Jeni Greenshields, IT specialist, mentor and teacher Michael Cooler and teacher and executive director Maria Weer.

In addition to being enrolled in a school that provides a hands-on, project-based curriculum with the opportunity to work in both classroom setting and a packet-based system in the afternoons, students expand their emotional intelligence.

They learn that it’s normal to have problems, that’s it’s okay to be angry while remaining in relationship, that standing toe-to-toe and arguing issues out is better than saying nothing and that maturity means taking responsibility for your own future, said Weer.

Alternative Education students receive the attention and support they need along the way as they learn to accept responsibility.

The ceremony was not all good-natured roasting. The qualities demonstrated by the students are recognized as well and teachers are often moved to tears recounting those.

Graduating this year were Tripper Lane Beske, Alexandria Johnson, Jean Luc Palma and Falk. There were several “firsts” in the graduating class.

• Beske was one of the first to meet all essential skills in the first testing.

• Falk, who also walked with the Enterprise High School Class at the traditional commencement ceremony, was the first to be on the cheerleading team at EHS while attending Alternative Education.

• Alexandria Johnson was the first to attend all four years of high school with Alternative Education.

Beske plans to join the National Guard after graduation; Falk is planning on attending Spokane Falls Community College pursuing a degree in journalism and nonprofits; Johnson enjoys photography and travel; and Palma hopes to pursue kinesiology and athletics at Gavilan College in Hollister, Calif., after some time off.





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