Operation Graduation 2015 Winners Announced!

Date: August 25, 2015

A guest post from Ombudsman’s Chief Operating Officer Rudolph Flores.

I am excited to announce the winners of Operation Graduation 2015, 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 2015 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 the roles of operations manager, director and teacher are to the success of our students.

Again this year, we received essay and video submissions from Ombudsman graduates across the country. Special thanks to staff at the following centers who took time to collect essays and film interviews during last year’s busy graduation season: Parker, Ariz., Arizona Charter Schools (Tucson and Phoenix); DeKalb, Chicago, Crestwood, Mundelein and North Harlem, Ill., and Holt, Mich.

Now, on to our winners!

Click below to read their inspiring winning essays:

Grand Prize Essay, Dell Inspiron 15 Laptop: Kate Speare (North Harlem, Ill.)
Excerpt: “My teachers at Ombudsman encouraged me to do my best as I challenged myself when possible. I was able to make the decisions to succeed on my own and be independent. Guidance and help was always just around the corner if needed, but Ombudsman gave me the space to grow.

Grand Prize Video, Dell Inspiron 15 Laptop: Stephanie Tsoutsos (Chicago Northwest, Chicago, Ill.)
Excerpt: “I am so thankful to say that I’m going to graduate with my class in 2015. I could not be more grateful for the teachers and staff at Ombudsman; they helped me beyond belief. The personalization of my education here was awesome. I would not have been able to graduate without them.”

First Runner-Up, iPad Air: Esteban Orozco (Charter Central, Tucson, Ariz.)
Excerpt: “In spite of all the challenges and detours I had during High School, I finally reached this milestone. I have learned to never blame others for my personal problems, but instead to look forward and continue towards my goals. Even though my brother passed away and I would have loved for him to be here.

Second Runner-Up, iPad Air: Nysa Martinez (DeKalb, Ill.)
Excerpt: “I realized how strong I was. After struggling for so long and thinking that suicide was the answer, I finally got through it. I am definitely not the person I was five years ago. I thank Ombudsman for transforming me to the person I am today. I’ve been accepted to attend Kishwaukee College this fall, and I know I’m ready. I’m ready to face the world and face any obstacle that comes in my way.”

Third Runner-Up, Kindle Fire: Name Withheld (DeKalb, Ill.)

Excerpt: “All odds have been against me my whole life. With those odds pointing that I should have never even made it here, that I should have given up on school and life, that I should have took my life away, that I should not be here now. But here I am. I couldn’t have done this without the help of these awesome and caring teachers. I couldn’t have done it without Ombudsman.”

Fourth Runner-Up, Kindle Fire: Marty Sebrell (EdTrek, Holt, Mich.)
Excerpt: “My life before EdTrek was a difficult one; being in the high school was not for me. I have been deaf in my right ear since I was born. Therefore, I have always had to deal with that, and I’m very shy so that is another thing I struggle with. After three years at the high school, I was enrolled into Ombudsman EdTrek, and it has been amazing.”
Essays from these students rounded out our Top 10:

Mercedes Tikkun (DeKalb, Ill.)

Destiny Wright (Chicago, Ill.)

Ivan Torres (Chicago Northwest, Chicago, Ill.)

Hipolito Hernandez (Phoenix, Ariz.)

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 2016.

Thank you for all you do for Ombudsman students!

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