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 Community School Students Celebrate Graduation

Three recent commencement ceremonies celebrated new beginnings for dozens of students from San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) community schools. 

Nearly 60 students earning their high school diplomas were honored at three traditional graduation events last week.

Innovations Academy of Empowerment graduate Lauren Welch, 18, said she was equally excited and nervous ahead of the Jan. 25 ceremony for 21 North County students, held at San Marcos Civic Center. “No one thought I would even make it,” Welch said. “I was the kid always getting in trouble, and now I’ve turned my life around.”

Welch and her mother, Patricia Bell, credit the SDCOE instructors for the success. “Each teacher was behind her 100 percent,” Bell said. “She had a very hard time. We didn’t think she would graduate. This is very special. She’s on the right track.”

Graduates honored Thursday night also included students from North County Independent Study, and North County Technology and Science Academy. 

At a ceremony Jan. 24, 31 students from six community schools in the south and east regions of the county celebrated their graduation, held at Monarch School. The graduates were from La Mesa, East County, Cuyamaca Prep, South County, Southland, and Victoria community schools.

Seven students graduated Jan. 23 from 37ECB, a community school in San Diego. All of those graduates said they are planning to continue their education.

The community schools are part of SDCOE’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools program, which serves school-age youth who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, Probation, or a school district. Services are provided for students who are incarcerated, pregnant or new parents, in foster care, chronically truant, in drug treatment centers and group homes, and experiencing homelessness. The community schools provide a smaller learning environment, as well as practical, inquiry-based learning opportunities that teach core academic subjects through the posing of questions, problems, and scenarios.

JCCS serves nearly 5,000 students per year at more than 24 sites across the county. SDCOE’s community schools hold two graduations each year, one in January and another in June.