‘We all need you’: Alternative school holds up 74 graduates | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

‘We all need you’: Alternative school holds up 74 graduates

Port Alberni, BC

This June 74 students are graduating from the Eighth Avenue Learning Centre. As they took the stage to celebrate this milestone a common sentiment was apparent: a deep sense of gratitude to the faculty for supporting them through their high school years.

Serving as an alternative to Port Alberni’s much larger high school, Eighth Avenue stresses the importance of forming close relationships with its students, fostering an adaptable educational environment according to individual learning needs.

“We need to make sure that we have that relationship with our students before we can even consider getting to the academic end of things,” said Eighth Avenue Principal Nick Seredick. “I think the high school does a tremendous job with all their students, they make a great deal of effort, but sometimes students just need a change of scenery and they need a different approach to education. I think that at Eighth Avenue we do a really good job of personalizing education for our students, meeting them where they’re at, and then forming a relationship with them.”

The school recognized its most recent graduates on June 20 with an event held at Alberni District Secondary’s auditorium. Class valedictorian Gracie Martinez, whose heritage is from the Chiricahua Apache Nation of the southern United States, is grateful for attending Eighth Avenue, where she got “exceptional support” from staff.

“I truly hope that they are able to continue making this school the welcoming, accessible and educational environment it is for any individuals who need help the way I did,” said Martinez. “I will leave with only good memories of the staff and students.”

After receiving his diploma Julius Joe stepped up to the microphone. He admitted that at one point he wondered if he could finish, but he got through with the help of teachers and faculty.

“I think I was able to find who I really am,” said Joe. “I’m very happy that the staff there helped me do that.”

During his address to the audience Ian Caplette, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s director of Education, Training and Social Development, noted the supportive environment fostered at eighth Avenue.

“The place in and of itself looks like a school, but it feels a little different there,” he said. “It feels much more peaceful, it feels much more welcoming. It feels like, if I’m having a hard time I can sit down somewhere. Somebody may or may not come up to me ask me how I’m doing, ask me if I’m okay - but more often than not they do.”

At the ceremony School District 70 Superintendent Tim Davie admitted that there were interruptions during his high school years. He ended up finishing with help from an alternative learning centre in Nanaimo.

“I stand before you as an educated person, but I left in Grade 10, I left again in Grade 12. I went to Vast in Nanaimo, alternate school, and I had people in my corner as well who cared and took the time to support me,” said Davie to the graduates. “I hope you’re very proud. I hope you take a few moments to reflect on where you’ve been, where you’re at presently, and where you want to go in terms of your life.”

As they progress beyond high school, Seredick reminded the graduates that it will become readily apparent that there is far more to life than academic grades.

“In B.C. our education system is starting to value who you are at your core and your interactions with others, your problem-solving skills, if you walked your siblings to school on rainy days to make sure that they got there safe,” said the principal. “Have you been a good friend to someone? Value that. If you’ve taken on a job to build skills and make money, give yourselves an A. If you’ve figured out why an engine hasn’t started and fixed it, value that too. There are so many things outside of the walls of the classroom that you can be good at. Life after graduation isn’t going to be giving you grades, rather you will need to continually assess yourself and set your next set of goals.”

For the time being, graduates like Julius Joe will be elevated by this recent accomplishment. While on the stage he saw faces in the audience, proud that he was “moving forward” with his friends.

“With the help of my teachers, the staff of ELC, the support from them, I was grateful I was able to do it,” said Joe.

“Thank you for believing in yourselves. We all need you,” added Caplette.

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