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by Bill Zoellick, Education Researcher Emeritus

Last evening Pauline and I watched the Sumner Class of 2019 graduate from high school.  The school invited us to join the faculty for the ceremony, so we had front-of-gym seats and could really see the students’ faces as they walked across the stage. Wonderful.

Because Sumner is a small school, it can take time to talk about each student as they receive their diplomas. Ty Thurlow, the principal, identified the students’ parents or the families they lived with, talked about the things that each student did while at Sumner (basketball, show choir, and so on), had something to say about what made each student special, and said what they would be doing after leaving school.  This was much different from my own high school graduation, where, as I remember, I walked across a stage when my name was called, got my diploma, shook someone’s hand, and exited stage right.One of the things that was really special for Pauline and me was how many students listed “participated in the shellfish conservation program” as one of their important activities.  That the program has achieved enough standing in the school to be featured in the graduation ceremony is wonderful.

And, it was so great to see students I have worked with — in some cases for three years — graduate and head off to clear, solid, next steps in life. They have also recommended the shellfish program to younger siblings and friends. Watching the students and their interactions with faculty and seeing how the whole ceremony was put together — the tone of it — I came away with an even deeper appreciation for this small high school. There is something special going on here.

I drove home happy to be part of all this and with a commitment to seeing where we — the district, the school, and those of us who are trying to create ways to connect students and community — can take this over the next few years.  I am looking forward to it.

Learn more about our work with Sumner Memorial High School.