DAILY HIGH SCHOOL — ADVANCEPATH ACADEMY — VERDUGO ACADEMY: 'We have overcome personal obstacles'

Students and school officials extolled the value of brushing oneself off and trying again when life's obstacles get in the way during a graduation ceremony Thursday for students at Daily High School, Verdugo Academy and AdvancePath Academy.

The number of times someone falls down when they are tripped up is not what matters, school board member Nayiri Nahabedian said at the ceremony.

“What is important is getting up every time you fall,” she said.

Students from the three programs — Daily High School, the school district's continuation school; AdvancePath, a high school dropout recovery program; and Verdugo Academy, an independent study program — have met and surmounted their share of obstacles during their teenage years, students and educators said at the graduation.

The graduating classes included students who are teenage parents, those who had come close to dropping out of other high schools, and those who have balanced school with full-time jobs.

Students from the three programs graduated together Thursday afternoon during a ceremony at First United Methodist Church in Glendale.

The combined 125 graduates was the largest group to finish school together in any year, said Sherry Stockhamer, the principal who oversees Daily High and the two academies.

Sixty-seven of those students graduated from Daily High, 30 completed high school through AdvancePath, and 28 finished through Verdugo Academy, Stockhamer said.

Daily High student Talin Stephen, 17, spoke at the ceremony, describing her school as an academically challenging and yet extremely fun place to be, a place where students were so close they were like family.

Each student came to Daily High for different reasons, she said, but she found the students' similarities mattered more than their differences.

“We have overcome personal obstacles,” she said.

Talin said she slacked off her first two years of high school, but the environment at Daily prompted her to work hard and stay focused.

“I've never stuck to something and done it,” she said.

For 18-year-old Ana Julia Hernandez, having the option to transfer from Glendale High to AdvancePath gave her a path to graduation, as she was behind in credits by her senior year, she said. The specialized program allowed her to focus on her schoolwork and even finish early, she said.

She and her friend, Tanya Dueñas, said they probably wouldn't be graduating at all if it wasn't for AdvancePath.

“We would have probably made our parents disappointed,” Hernandez said. “We would not have been wearing this right now,” she said, holding up her arm, which was draped in graduation regalia.

And for Rey Barcena, 18, attending a program with flexible hours like Verdugo Academy meant that he could continue dancing professionally, which he's been doing for about eight years.

“Graduates, the final moments of my parents' dream is about to come true, right here, right now,” he said during his speech.

Then, in the middle of the ceremony, he asked his parents to stand and be recognized.

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