The Courage to Reach Out: In One Graduate’s Words (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Date: July 10, 2018

Since opening in 1996, more than 3,000 young men and women have earned their high school diplomas at Ombudsman Arizona Alternative Charter Schools. The Class of 2018 saw 306 students earn their diplomas – our largest graduating class ever!

For many students, Ombudsman offers the best path to help them overcome personal, economic, or academic challenges as they work toward their degree.

We’re featuring the commencement speeches of seven graduates from the Class of 2018 here on the blog this month.

This is Zachary Simonis’ Ombudsman Arizona Charter success story.

Earning a high school diploma is about more than completing courses and passing tests. It’s also about personal growth. Zachary Simonis, a 2018 graduate of Ombudsman Charter Northeast is living proof. Zachary delivered the following speech during the graduation ceremony in Phoenix. His statement about courage shows a wisdom we can all learn from.

“Holy smokes… Man, I could say anything up here.

I could have started off today by saying, “Yes, I am aware that there is a rubber duck on my head” but Miss Rosy said I couldn’t decorate my hat. I could have also written a speech for today that would get a reaction from you all, a laugh or a pat on the back. That’s what I’ve done for most of my life, try to get some smiles and recognition. Today, though, in this moment specifically set aside to celebrate this milestone, what I’d really like to do is share a few things that I’ve learned from high school.”

“The first thing I’ve learned is that life is not a set of easy pathways leading us to college or work, then family, taxes, and death. Life is actually an enormous field filled with obstacles, exciting new challenges, and anomalies. Each adventure more interesting than the last, but still requiring creative solutions.”


“Our personal problems and society’s problems can only be solved if we are all courageous enough to look each other in the eye and have meaningful conversations.”


“Three years ago, my first senior year, I started at EVIT (East Valley Institute of Technology). One year ago, I started at Ombudsman. From EVIT, I learned that there is always going to be something new to learn. From Ombudsman, I learned that there are many different ways to maneuver through life’s obstacles and challenges as long as you’re willing to look from them. I learned that solutions can be found in the strangest places like a strip mall, next door to the Goodwill.”

“The second thing I’ve learned is that the most important life skill for navigating through life’s obstacle course, is courage. Courage is when you are scared to do or say something, for whatever reason, but you choose to do it anyway. Our personal problems and society’s problems can only be solved if we are all courageous enough to look each other in the eye and have meaningful conversations. We must choose to engage in meaningful dialogue with the world. We must choose to stand up and say something when we see injustice. If we don’t, who will? And how many amazing things will we miss out on if we aren’t courageous enough to connect with and cooperate with others? Have the courage to express your opinions and debate them intelligently. Have the courage to reach out to others for what you need and want because others genuinely want to help you get it.”

“I want to thank Ms. Werba, Ms. Zook and the rest of the Charter Northeast staff. I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have made it through high school without them giving me knowledge and information while still giving me the room to grow and mature on my own. The flexible schedule gave me the opportunity to pursue other interests and learn about life outside of high school and helped me to succeed in ways that the traditional school couldn’t. I’d like to thank my friends Bryce and Kelly from EVIT where I completed the Criminal Justice program and got the opportunity to work as a security guard. And, last, but not least, I would like to thank my family, as cliché as it sounds, it is true, I wouldn’t be here without them. Thank you very much and congratulations to the Ombudsman class of 2018.”


Categories: Success Stories
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