If any message rang clear during the Jan. 11 graduation ceremony for students of Crossroads High School at Lea Ledger Auditorium, it’s that an individual’s mistakes don’t have to derail his or her life.
The 17 students who wore blue caps and gowns for the ceremony had definitely earned their diplomas, many dealing with family or personal issues that made attending the traditional program at Cove High School problematic.
Not only the graduates’ families and friends were proud, but the staff of Crossroads and others in the district were as well.
“I couldn’t be more happy,” Crossroads Principal James Irick said. “To see them overcome so much, to meet life’s challenges, finish and graduate is very special.”
“These are a group of kids who wouldn’t graduate under a traditional setting,” said Cove school district superintendent Joe Burns.
“The greatest thing is being able to see them walk the stage.”
Burns acknowledged, when he spoke from the podium to the graduates, that he might have been one of them. As the youngest of 11 children in his family, he was the only one to earn a high school diploma.
Burns credited the Crossroads staff with encouraging the graduates through their difficult times.
“We believe in them until they believe in themselves,” he said.
Elroy Hendricks, assistant principal at Mendez Middle School in the Austin Independent School District, was guest speaker for the graduation. He, too, admitted to making mistakes that could have derailed his life.
Currently finishing his doctoral degree in education at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Hendricks told the graduates: “Don’t allow the mistakes you have made, or will make, to depreciate your value.”
Cove High teacher Darlen Ness attended the graduation, having taught some of the graduates when they were enrolled at Cove High.
“For some of them, this is a big step,” Ness said.
Graduate Summer Lovett appreciated Crossroads’ secretary Sharon Whitis’ help in adjusting her cap before the ceremony. “This means everything to me,” Lovett said.
Being able to participate in a program where it was possible to work at her own pace made a big difference for Lovett.
She plans to continue her studies and become a nurse.
“This opens a lot of doors for me,” said Terric Booth, another graduate. He flourished in Crossroads’ atmosphere, appreciating the small class sizes, and that teachers knew his name.
“The deadlines aren’t so harsh,” Booth said. “No one really forces you to do the work.”
As each graduate descended from the stage, diploma in hand, Whitis presented each with a yellow rose and a hug.
“Give the rose to the person who helped you graduate,” Whitis told each graduate.
Having organized 30 Crossroads’ graduations over the years, Whitis knows that’s usually the graduate’s mother.
Whoever received the rose, though, the fact their graduate completed this step is a cause for pride.
As for their futures, Irick provided a bit of advice, “Whatever it is you do, make sure you’re happy doing it.”