Alternative high school in Woodland holds special commencement for eight graduates

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TEAM High School in Woodland held a special early commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 17. The ceremony recognized eight students who finished their graduation requirements and earned their high school diplomas. 

TEAM High School is an alternative school at Woodland Public Schools. It offers students a path to earn a diploma while accommodating individual life circumstances like a full-time work schedule, challenges with traditional school schedules or family responsibilities. Over recent years, the graduation rate at the school has more than tripled, according to a news release. 

Commencement ceremonies at TEAM High School are usually a very intimate affair as staff members give speeches about each individual graduate in the program. For the Class of 2020, the ceremony lasted an entire day as staff members brought in each graduate one-by-one with family members due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. For the eight early Class of 2021 graduates, the commencement ceremony looked a little closer to normal as reduced virus transmission rates permitted a small, in-person and socially distant event. 

The release said the staff at TEAM High School decided to hold two ceremonies this year to not only accommodate a large number of students graduating in June, but to also take time to recognize those who could graduate early. 

“We had so many graduates finishing early this year that we decided to hold a commencement ceremony for those graduates who are done with requirements,” Jillian Domingo, the school’s English language arts, social studies, art and computer sciences teacher said in the release. “Additionally, by holding two ceremonies, an early one in April and a later one at its normal date in June, we are able to recognize our graduates in a fashion more similar to how we would traditionally, while still following all health guidelines.” 

Woodland High School Assistant Principal Dan Uhlenkott introduced graduates and read a speech prepared by TEAM High School Principal Jake Hall, who was unable to attend the ceremony. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of the alternative learning staff who, in the foreboding darkness of the pandemic, offered a ray of hope,” Uhlenkott read. “You are our heroes and we are more grateful for your care of us than can be put into words.”

Uhlenkott then turned to the graduates and said, “We wouldn’t be here now having this ceremony if it weren’t for your incredible efforts to finish your studies during a pandemic. You should all be so very proud of your accomplishments.”

Commencement ceremonies for the alternative high school look different than traditional high school ceremonies, and this early event was no different. Members of the staff wrote messages and selected quotes to recognize each graduate as they accepted their diplomas with an elbow bump in lieu of a handshake from Superintendent Michael Green. Family members and guests sat at desks in the commons area instead of using the normal theater seating to ensure social distancing guidelines were closely followed.

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