Operation Graduation 2012 Winners Announced!

Date: September 5, 2012

Allison O'Neill

A guest post from Ombudsman’s Chief Operating Officer Allison O’Neill.

I am excited to announce the winners of Operation Graduation 2012, and before I do, I would like to recognize the operations managers, center directors and center staff who made it possible for the Class of 2012 to earn their high school diplomas.

Thanks to our staff for inspiring our graduates to reflect on what their diplomas mean to them, their futures and their families. Each student essay and video reminded me of how important it is to provide an alternate route to graduation for our students – and how vital your roles of operations manager, director and teacher are to the success of our students.

We received nearly 60 essay and video submissions this year from graduates in 12 centers. Special thanks to staff at the following centers who took time to collect essays and film interviews during the busy graduation season: Limestone and Huntsville, Ala.; Charter West in Phoenix; Gordon, Ga.; DeKalb, Dundee, Matteson South, Proviso, and Waukegan, Ill.; Culinary High Las Vegas; Seneca, Mo.; and Claremont, N.H.

Now, on to our winners! Click below to read their inspiring winning essays:

Grand Prize, iPad 2: Ricki Hernandez (Lansing, Mich.)
Excerpt: “As most of you know, Ombudsman is an alternative school. Many of us have faced different challenges that brought us here. For those of you that know my story, I am a teen parent and wife. There were a lot of challenges I faced. At the beginning of my senior year, I started with a newborn baby. I didn’t have the support I needed at home for the first six months of my daughter’s life. There were sleepless nights, money was always tight, and getting to school was a struggle.”

Grand Prize, iPad 2: Dequandre Dotson (Lansing, Mich.)
Excerpt: “I would say my life before Ombudsman was kind of filled with chaos because being the first year of high school you usually hang out with the wrong crowd and doing things I wouldn’t normally do. And that led me to be here today, which I am thankful for.”

First Runner-Up, iPod Touch: Hannah Williams (Athens, Ala.)
Excerpt: “Without the constant nagging, and the question “Do you want to graduate!?” from Mrs. Brown, there is no way I would’ve finished. Getting to know the teachers, and the classmates, have the greatest of times. I own them my success. This program changed my life around completely, and I’m excited to start college and the rest of my life, in the hopes of making my Ombudsman family proud.”

Second Runner-Up, iPod Touch: Joeseph Gagnon (Seneca, Mo.)
Excerpt: “Ombudsman is a second chance, an alternative route. Some of the students are on their last chance. Many had the choice to stay at the regular school or transfer over to our Ombudsman center. This school is an opportunity to set up your future, to ensure you have a future.”

Third Runner-Up, iPod Nano: Edith Mendez (DeKalb, Ill.)
Excerpt: “Since coming to Ombudsman I have learned that we all learn differently and that I wasn’t just another statistic. That I could achieve what was needed if I asked questions and put forth the effort. I also learned that is never too late to become what you could have been, and for me, that was graduating with my diploma. I dropped out, then I had my daughter not long after. I knew I needed to go back and finish what I had started, not just for me, but for my daughter and our future.”

Fourth Runner-Up, iPod Nano: Mercedes Grado (Charter West)
Excerpt: “Ever since the day I dropped out of Deer Valley High School, I felt like a failure. I had this feeling that I let down all of my family. I always carried this with me, always having that what if? Some of my family would always bring me down by saying I was going to follow the foot steps of my mother. Meaning that because she dropped out of school to have my older brother when she was a teenager. Now to this day I am more then happy to tell all of ya’ll that didn’t have faith in me that ya’ll were all wrong, and I will be successful in my life!”

Essays from these students rounded out our Top 12:

I encourage our center staff members to keep these graduates’ words top of mind as we begin the school year. I hope they will serve as motivation to keep up the great work as we work toward graduating the Class of 2013!

Categories: Education Resources
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