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Sprinting to Graduation

Jul 15, 2016 08:54AM ● Published by Tori La Rue

Ciera Solorzano, of Copper Hills High School, accepts her high school diploma at graduation. – Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com


More than 1,000 students graduated from West Jordan high schools in June. Some of these students jogged consistently through four years of studies to earn their diploma, but others meandered through their coursework before deciding to sprint to the finish line during their senior year.

 Ciera Solorzano, of Copper Hills High School, said she was one of those sprinters.

 “I honestly didn’t think I was going to graduate a few years ago, and now that I am here and I made it this far through all of this, it’s made me open my eyes about everything,” Ciera, 18, said. “I probably wouldn’t have gone to college if I didn’t graduate.”

 In the fall, Ciera will be heading to Dixie State University, the campus that she said she fell in love with, to pursue her goal of becoming a dental hygienist. Ciera has been a dental assistant for two years already, but she said she now realizes her potential to increase her education within her chosen field.

 “Graduation really means everything,” she said.

 While high school administrators don’t want to enable students to slack during their early high school years, Michelle Putnam, one of the Administrators at West Jordan High School, said it’s essential to create a helpful, yet rigorous way for students to re-earn credits and get the help they need.

 “We don’t want kids to think they can get away with slacking, but we realize that they each have their own stories,” Putnam said. “There are a lot of reasons kids aren’t on track for graduation, from health issues and family traumas to just not thinking it is important. We love our struggling kids, even though we don’t recommend having to make up all of the credits at the end.”

 Both West Jordan High School and Copper Hills High School have implemented new credit make-up credit programs within the last two years. It may be too soon to see how West Jordan High’s Base Camp program is influencing graduation rates, according to Putnam, but Graduation rates at Copper Hills High School increased by nearly 6 percent after the implementation of their CARES program, according to data released by the board of education.

 Kaitlin Black, 18, said if it weren’t for CARES and Kris Strong, who teaches the class, she wouldn’t have graduated.

 “Basically, at the start of my senior year, things started to happen at home, and Mrs. Strong helped me to know that I couldn’t let that affect me. I still needed to move on with my life,” Kaitlin said. “I realized you’ve been in school for 13 years, and if you don’t make it, what was the point?”

 Kaitlin plans to work full time in Utah for an undetermined amount of time before following her dream to move to Seattle and attend the University of Washington to study psychology.

 “I feel accomplished. I feel like I went through these 13 years of school and I actually accomplished this,” Kaitlin said about graduation. “I finished it. I’m done. I did it.”

 Alyssa Childs, 18, said West Jordan High School’s Base Camp program taught by Kristie Clawson was just the kind of no-nonsense program that she needed. In all, Alyssa completed three language arts packets and five elective packets during her Base Camp class.

 “Miss Clawson has been really supportive and kept me in check,” Alyssa said. “She was always telling me to get on it and do it. That really helped me having her there to give me motivation.”

 Alyssa said she felt satisfied knowing that the effort she put into getting caught up paid off when she graduated, but she suggested that other freshman and sophomore students steer clear of needing make-up work.

 “Go to class. Do your homework when you get it – the day you get it, and if you need help, ask for it,” Alyssa said. “Just to realize that high school goes by really, really fast, and graduating from high school is a really important step in shaping your future.”

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