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To finish off a time full of local high school graduations, Bailey Alternative High School in Springfield held its commencement ceremony Wednesday morning. For many graduates at this unique school, this moment is the result of overcoming obstacles that most teenagers don’t face. One student received her diploma only moments prior to her departure back to her hometown, Joplin, where she plans to officially return, despite that her house was destroyed by last year’s tornado. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has her story, along with details about the event.
Courtney Depreste has been attending Bailey for almost a full year. And what a year it was for her. After losing her home in the Joplin tornado a year ago, Depreste is eager to return. She came to school here because her family and living situation was disrupted due to the storm.
“I mean, with going through Joplin and looking at it, you can tell that people are still coming together and are still trying to help each other out. It’s still emotional because so many lives were lost.”
Lives, Depreste says, that she knew. After moving to Springfield and attending Bailey for three quarters, she graduates with plans to attend college at Missouri Southern State University and become a nurse, like her mom. Her mother, she says, is her inspiration and the reason she is graduating.
“I have all my stuff packed and I’m moving to Joplin today. I will be down there before five. I am so excited.”
Other students like Despreste share her enthusiasm. For many of them, their transfers to Bailey were due to life-altering events that put them in a higher risk of not finishing high school. Some of these events include an unplanned pregnancy, or the student moving into foster care. Justin Dickenson, principal of the school, says he and his staff recognize the personal issues of the students, and try to help them succeed, despite the obstacles.
“That’s not really atypical of a class…that’s just our student body for the most part. We have a lot of stories. Every Wednesday, our staff meets and we have a chance to really discuss each student in depth, how they’re doing grade wise, attendance wise, and sometimes, to be honest, that time can be a little bit depressing because there is so much going on in so many lives.
And yet, Dickenson says his job is worthwhile, and that celebrations like this graduation make up for any sadness he feels on the job. He credits the small student-to-teacher ratio as a huge part of the program’s success. Classes hold 12-16 students each. This class in particular has stepped up and participated in many service projects around the community.
“And then other than that, it’s really the relationships that the advisors have with their advisees. They really take on a role of almost like a parent for that group of 13-15 advisees.”
The 2012 class this quarter had 16 students graduate, giving Bailey a grand total of 870 graduates since its opening in 1992.
[nat sound: clapping]
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.