Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Thousands of graduates and just as many stories

High school grads build unique memories

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] From left, Laura Guldner and her mother, Megan; Stacie Meihaus and her mother, Paula; Megan Otte and her father, David; Jennifer Myatt and her mother, Peggy; Alison Warken and her mother, Jean; and Joanna Ruehl and her mother, Gina.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Behind the pomp and circumstance of Tristate high school graduation ceremonies over the next several weeks are thousands of stories of individual success and unique accomplishments.

        From the nation's first public Montessori graduating class of two, to the first awarding of “guaranteed employability” diplomas to four years of perfect attendance, the Tristate Class of 2000 made its mark.

        These are some of the highlights:

        • Graduation will be a family affair at St. Henry District High School in Erlanger.

        Six seniors each have a parent who works at the school, including Megan Otte, whose father is Principal David Otte.

        “I think it's been easier on my end than her end,” Mr. Otte said.

        For Megan and friends Laura Guldner, Stacie Meihaus, Jennifer Myatt, Joanna Ruehl and Alison Warken, going to school with mom or dad had advantages and disadvantages.

        “People always thought I knew everything that was going on because I am the principal's kid,” Megan said.

        “We knew that if we acted up in one class, our par ents would know right away,” Joanna said.

        On the other hand, having a parent at school turned St. Henry into a part of the family, Alison said.

        Laura's mom, Megan, teaches science. Stacie's mom, Paula, teaches health. Jennifer's mom, Peggy, teaches math. Joanna's mom, Gina, teaches theology and Alison's mom, Jean, is the dean of students.

        Each of the girls plan to attend college in the fall. They graduate Saturday.

        Mrs. Warken said she and Alison had a deal. "“I told her, "You stay out of the principal's office and I'll stay out of the cafeteria with your friends.'”

[photo] Chelsea Buncher and Bert Sigafoos
(Tony Jones photo)
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        • Chelsea Buncher and Bert Sigafoos are the entire graduating class at Clark Montessori, a Cincinnati Public School in Hyde Park. And they are the first to graduate from the nation's first public Montessori high school.

        Marta Donohoe, high school director, said, “It's kind of sweet just having two kids this year. They've been good to practice on.”

        Next year's graduating class will swell to 25, but Chelsea and Bert will share the spotlight at a May 30 ceremony.

        Each will read a personal essay. The school's steel drum band will play “Pomp and Circumstance.”

        “We are a trial class,” Bert said, “a pilot for what they want to do in the future. I feel honored to be helping out that much.”

        Chelsea said the Montessori experience, including field trips to a Hopi reservation and Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood helped broaden her perspective.

        “Those trips were real eye openers to see what's out there,” Chelsea said.

        After turning their tassels, Chelsea will spend a semester in Guatemala learning Spanish. Bert will either work or take classes and join the swim team at Cincinnati State Technical College.

        • A 1988 Enquirer photo of 10 Washburn Elementary kindergarten students proclaimed four of the 10 would not graduate.

        Tess Marie Sneed did graduate. She'll go through commencement ceremonies at the Hughes Center Paideia high school program May 30.

        “Of course it feels good,” Tess said. “I knew I was going to graduate. I knew it wasn't going to be a problem for me.”

        Tess earns A's and B's, works after school and was almost too busy to be interviewed. She made time to speak to a reporter on her lunch break.

        The rest of her free time for this week was booked to study for exams.

        One thing that makes Tess sad: Washburn Elementary will close this year. She is glad her aunt, Michele Starr, found the old photo.

        Tess plans to attend Cincinnati State for computer/information technology training. Then it's on to Xavier University of Louisiana.

        At Conner High School in Hebron, 24 graduating students will receive more than one diploma.

        The “guaranteed employability'' diploma certifies that students are prepared to be good workers, and know the skills required to contribute to a competent work force.

        Business partners give these students first priority in hiring.

        June 1 graduation ceremonies will be the first time these diplomas are awarded, business teacher Sue Sorrell said.

        Jeremiah Giron is one of the recipients.

        “This guarantees that I can find a job, and it will look good on my resume,” Jere miah said.

        Students must earn a C average, have a 97 percent attendance rate and have no discipline referrals. They must also perform 60 hours of community service and write and defend an essay before a committee of school, business and community leaders.

        If students with these diplomas don't perform well, Conner High will retrain them through its adult learning center.

        Jeremiah plans to attend the University of Kentucky as an accounting major.

        • Perfect attendance — for all four years of high school — came easily for Milford High seniors Dusty Faulkner and Nathan Martin.

        “I only got sick on weekends and I had parents who made me go to school,” Nathan said.

        The boys graduate Friday. Neither student set an attendance goal. And there was no competition between the two boys.

        The accomplishment was more a desire to avoid make-up work and the hassle that comes with missing classes, Dusty said.

        “This helped me get into college and get a scholarship,” Dusty said.

        Admissions counselors at Ohio Wesleyan University told Dusty his attendance record made him stand out. He plans to study psychology.

        Nathan, who plans to attend Cincinnati State to study marketing management, is low-key about his achievement.

        “It's not a big deal,” Nathan said. “But I don't know if I'll have perfect attendance in college.” are the first graduates of Clark Montessori High School.


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