Alternative high school programs taught graduates to move forward

Their course of study might have been a bit unorthodox, but the graduates of Glendale Unified's alternative education programs Thursday had all the trimmings and trappings of a traditional commencement ceremony.

“It is amazing,” said Verdugo Academy graduate Anni Avanesyan, 17, as she lined up in her cap and gown. “Finally, I am finished. I can say I have my high school diploma.”

The celebration at First United Methodist Church in Glendale was a three-way event, featuring the district's alternative high school programs. In addition to Verdugo Academy, they include Re-ConnectEd Glendale and Daily High School.

All three are run out of the Daily High campus, and are designed to accommodate students for whom a traditional high school setting is not a good fit. Some are pursing their diplomas while balancing extraordinary family obligations, others are parenting young children, and many are working.

This year, a total of 104 students received their diplomas through the alternative programs, Daily High School Principal Chris Coulter said, with 68 present at the ceremony Thursday.

Andy Camacho, 17, attended Hoover High School for 3 1/2 years before completing his credits with Verdugo Academy, which offers students a flexible course of study in which they meet with teachers once a week.

“That made more time for jobs and getting applications done and all that. It was almost like a head-start to college because it focused on putting a lot of work on the students at home,” said Andy, who wants to study astronomy.

The good-natured advice the graduates doled out to incoming freshman — including “don't get pregnant,” “don't ditch class” and “do it right the first time” — spoke to their own high school challenges.

They also recounted the support they received from family members and teachers.

“Daily and its wonderful staff is the reason I am on this stage today,” Nazaneen Kouzoukian said in addressing the audience at commencement. “They taught me that to get forward in life, all I had to do was just believe and be me. Each staff member brought this much-broken-down student hope.”

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