Operation Graduation 2013 Winners Announced!

Date: September 16, 2013

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 2013, and before I do, I would like to recognize the operations managers, center directors, center staff, instructional leadership and support staff who made it possible for the Class of 2013 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 are to the success of our students.

We received more than 50 essay and video submissions this year from graduates in 16 centers. Special thanks to staff at the following centers who took time to collect essays and film interviews during the busy graduation season: Limestone, Ala.; Charter Northwest and Charter West, Ariz.; Hiram and Savannah East, Ga.; DeKalb, Downers Grove, Dundee-Elgin, Matteson North, Naperville, and Proviso, Ill.; EdTrek and Kalamazoo, Mich.; Seneca, Mo.; and Brook Park, Ohio.

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

Middle School

Grand Prize, iPad 2: Makayla Parker (Seneca, Mo.)
Excerpt: “A few days before school started the principal told me I didn’t meet the requirements to pass seventh grade. At first I was really disappointed in myself. Then he told me about the Ombudsman center, and that I could complete my seventh and eighth grade year. I was really happy there was a second chance for me.”

High School

Grand Prize Essay, Dell Inspiron 15 Laptop: Chancelor Miller (Lansing, Mich.)
Excerpt: “Ombudsman has been my home – a place where I felt safe and cared about.  It’s been a mass of hope that has allowed me to be confident and successful in an environment that felt personal. I’m not just a student here, I am a person.”

Grand Prize Video, Dell Inspiron 15 Laptop: Mary Mason (Brook Park, Ohio)
Excerpt: “I never thought I would be able to graduate high school being a single mom.”

First Runner-Up, iPad 2: Caitlin Hill (Elgin, Ill.)
Excerpt: “I started my journey down Ombudsman’s ‘alternative path’ and was given the greatest gift… the opportunity to turn my life around. From the first day at the center, I was treated with respect, given personal attention, encouragement to make positive choices, and the academic support that I really needed.”

Second Runner-Up, iPad 2: Michael Hollis (Seneca, Mo.)
Excerpt: “Ombudsman also helped me with more than just making to graduation: building a resume, filling out college applications, tax return sheets, and many other things made me feel more confident for graduation.”

Third Runner-Up, iPad Mini: Jennifer Mangerie (Peoria, Ariz.)
Excerpt: “For the first time in my entire life I can say I am proud of myself. I’ve never had that and that is where Ombudsman differentiates from every other high school. It changes your life and with hard work it helps build you into everything you could ever want to be.”

Fourth Runner-Up, Amazon Kindle Fire HD: Caitlin Welch ( DeKalb, Ill.)
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!”

Fifth Runner-Up, iPod Touch: Ricardo Montoya (Melrose Park, Ill.)
Excerpt: “Ombudsman alternative schooling was a blessing because now I am able to graduate and I learned what I didn’t learn when I went to an actual high school setting. I enjoy and enjoyed my time spent here at Ombudsman with great teachers and cool people.”

Essays from these students rounded out our High School 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 2014!


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