Tykara Ferguson, a shock of black hair peering from beneath her Monterey High School graduation cap, stood at the microphone and began to serenade the class of 2009 with a hushed rendition of Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever).”
“And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives/Where we’re gonna be when we turn 25/I keep thinking times will never change/Keep on thinking things will always be the same.”
Suddenly, she stopped.
“Can I start over?”
“And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives/Where we’re gonna be when we turn 25/I keep thinking times will never change…”
Second chances — rather, starting anew — is what Monterey High School is about, Principal Ann Brooks said.
Hundreds of friends and family on Thursday joined the 57 graduates on the Woodbury University campus for the continuation high school’s graduation ceremony.
The evening was complete with Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” as well as scholarships and accolades for years of hard work, but it was the lyrical, reflective speeches by students and administrators that began to reveal the imprint the alternative education model made on so many lives.
Donna Salant, a longtime flight attendant, began working in the school office 12 years ago.
“During that time, I’ve seen many students come through those doors thinking that they will never graduate,” Salant said in the school’s commencement speech.
“All of them have one common thread and that is that they are so grateful to have a second chance at success.
“You have beat the odds once,” she said. “The only compass any of us have is our heart, follow it with conviction. You have the power within you to do great things.”
In many ways, they already have, Counselor Joe Peterson said.
“Many of them have contended against great adversity,” he said.
Christina Reyes arrived on the campus in 2005, unsure of her future. Soon after, she learned that she was pregnant.
“I spent all four of my high school years here, but if given a chance to go back to another school, I wouldn’t,” she said, thanking the staff of the child care center on campus, which provides up to seven hours of day care for infants and toddlers while their parents study.
The teens also take a parenting class and assist in the child care center one class period per day.
While Monterey has the same graduation requirements as the two comprehensive high schools in Burbank — 230 credits, 10 hours of service learning, and passage of the state high school exit exam — much of the program is based on individual course outlines completed by students at their own pace. The typical school days lasts from 8 a.m to noon with an extra help period offered for study hall.
Seniors also complete portfolios complete with job applications and reflection pieces on what’s next in their lives.
In his speech, Frank Canela launched into a meditation on the beauty of life, as well as self-imposed limitations and boundaries.
“There should be no barrier to do what’s right,” Canela said. “Believe in yourself.”
Canela arrived at the school as many students do, falling behind in credits and lacking direction.
“It helped me grow,” he said after the ceremony. “It helped me wise-up.”
One of the school’s mottos, “A Second Chance at Success,” applied appropriately by Ferguson in her opening hymnal, could just as easily be translated to mean, “A Different Way to Success,” said Student of the Year Kelci Griffith-Young.
“All of us will be thankful for the life skills we learned at Monterey,” said Griffith-Young, a veteran of three high schools. “At other schools, you’re lucky if one of your teachers just asks you what you want to do after high school.”