Steps to turning the tassel often motivated by others

Jan. 17, 2014 @ 09:56 PM

When Hakeem Dortch accepted his high school diploma Friday night, he was honoring his late grandmother’s wish.

“To be honest, I never saw myself graduating,” the 20-year-old admitted. “I did it for her. Her goal was for me to graduate.”

Dortch and 13 of his classmates at Western Vance High School brought the school’s total number of graduates to more than 500 students over 11 years.

“We are calling them the fortunate 500. Since we started in 2003 we have graduated 501 students,” said Eric Pierce, Western Vance’s principal.

While waiting for the ceremony to start, Kudesha Terry said she felt wonderful.

The 18-year-old had dropped out of Northern Vance High School after she failed a couple classes and couldn’t graduate.

But she returned to Western Vance, and the school was her second chance for success.

Terry said she wants to pursue certification in nursing, while Dortch said he plans to join the Marines.

With more than 100 students, Western Vance serves as the district’s alternative high school for at-risk students who face a strong chance of never earning a diploma. State guidelines are followed for graduation requirements, though the number of credit hours are less than at Northern and Southern.

In the four-year cohort graduation rates, Western checked in at 92.5 percent in 2012 and above 95 percent in 2013.

Local options allow students to get ahead independently and the school typically holds winter and spring graduations. The individualized help is promoted through reduced class sizes and through motivational and specialized programs.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.