‘Champions’ recognized for come-from-behind victories



May 13, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Iola High School students were cheered as champions Thursday night.
It happened during the annual Crossroads Learning Center Recognition Night ceremony at the school’s gymnasium in Gas, where 75 awards went to 35 participants in the alternative education program.
In the presence of parents, teachers and peers they celebrated dramatic come-from-behind victories.
Nine students, including three adults, were recognized for earning their high school diplomas.
Many underclassmen earned award certificates for doing well on their state assessments.
It was a wingding.
“We try to make it a big deal because, for one thing a lot of these students haven’t had much success in school,” said Tim Seibel, program director.
They know who they are.
They are proud of themselves and their parents are proud of them. But the identities and privacy of the younger participants should be protected, Seibel said.
One young man in the adult program was eager to go public with his story.
Eric Smith, 18, LaHarpe, should have graduated from Iola High last year but fell two credits short. Filled with regret, he enrolled in the adult education program at Crossroads last fall.
Smith volunteered to be the graduate speaker for the awards ceremony.
He pulled index cards from his blue shirt pocket.
“I wrote a speech about what I accomplished and all the stuff that the teachers helped me with, and I’m going to start reading it,” he said. “I graduated this year because I was eager to finish school and go on with my life… If I didn’t work hard, I wouldn’t be standing here today. So those of you who haven’t graduated, keep up the good work.”
Smith finished his speech by thanking each member of the Crossroads staff — Seibel, Shawn Johns, Jon Minor, Katie Murphy and Amy Carson — for helping him succeed.
“Thanks to you, I will be receiving a high school diploma,” he said, as the diverse crowd cheered.
A mother in the audience wore a “Proud of my Graduate” button on her blouse, and a big smile.
Her son was at risk of failing in his junior year, due to Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Crossroads was quiet, calm, and safe — just what he needed.
“Mr. Seibel treated him like a young man, like he was important, even if he didn’t play football, even if he wasn’t a straight-A kid, that he mattered.
“And my son does matter,” added the mother, who asked to remain anonymous. “He makes a difference in the world.”
Her son went to the senior picnic and graduation rehearsal Thursday. Although it felt awkward to be among the regular high school students again, he plans to participate in the graduation ceremony Sunday, donning his cap and gown, and blending in with his peers.
His name will be listed in the commencement program — without an asterisk.
“I’m pretty excited about it now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Concluding its 13th school year, the mission of the Crossroads program is to “provide a quality, challenging, and encouraging environment where students recommit themselves to academic and social success by completing their high school education.”
Seibel says the awards ceremony reminds everyone that despite long odds and frequent disappointments, victories have been won.

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