Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
In ninth grade, Karrah Weeder skipped classes, her grade point average fell to a point two, and she didn’t really care when she was kicked out of Huron High School. Weeder is now one of the first 62 students to graduate from Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Pathways to Success Academic Campus. Her long road to graduation earned Weeder the Principals’ Distinguished Honors Award for her character and determination to prevail despite all obstacles.
Eastern Michigan University’s Student Center was the site of the first commencement ceremony for Pathways to Success. Another 10 graduates from Ann Arbor Adult Education participated, as well.
Valedictorian Yizhou Zhu noted that since starting at Pathways last year as a junior, he flourished following a difficult high school experience in Shanghai.
“Pathways offered me a range of choices such as dual enrollment and online classes to help me catch up with my work,” he said. “I was able to take small steps to catch up with my work. I stand here today as a proud senior graduate, with accumulative GPA of 4.0, and plan to continue my studies with some of my fellow seniors such as Juwan, Jalen, Storm and Javier, just to name a few.”
Most of the 2015 graduates had a bumpy start to high school that has now ended happily.
The same can be said for the first year of Pathways.
Like many students, Weeder had apprehensions about moving to Pathways when Roberto Clemente closed and was combined with A2 Tech High. In the end, she’s happy she made the move. “First couple weeks were a little bit unorganized, but once they got that together, it turned out to be a pretty good school. It’s in the first year, so it’s still in the process of becoming the best school, but it was pretty good for this year, and I’m happy I spent my senior year here,” Weeder says.
Co-principal Ben Edmondson says it’s been a great first year thanks to a lot of work over six months merging the two programs. He says some aspects of Roberto Clemente were lost, but believes Pathways gives students more options. “There’s give and take, there’s some loss in having a very, very small building where there’s only one door to get out so you lose that uniqueness, but the opportunities are just vast that we had this year,” Edmondson says.
Overcoming challenges is a typical story for Pathways inaugural graduating class. ”I’m a totally different person education wise, my attitude has improved about school. At Huron I just didn’t care,” Weed says. “Now, I’m actually graduating. I never thought I was going to graduate in the first place. I had no plans to go to college. I just planned on moving in with friends and all of these unrealistic things. Now I’m going to actually make a difference and it’s cool.”
Weeder credits the teachers and staff at Roberto Clemente and now Pathways for helping change her attitude, and boost her GPA to 3.15. She says the staff really cares about issues students are facing. “At Roberto it was like, ‘Where are you?’ and they’d call me and make sure I was ok, and it’s the same at Pathways,” Weeder says.
She will attend Washtenaw Community College in the fall on a scholarship from the Ann Arbor Rotary that’s a result of the STRIVE program. Weeder already has some college credits thanks to the dual enrollment program Pathways has with WCC.
Jalen Castrejon is also thankful for the opportunity the dual enrollment program has given him. “I’m much more prepared for my first full year of college. I’m glad I learned lessons about college, about communications with professors,” he says.
Creating additional paths to success for students is why Co-prinicpal Tyrone Weeks says bringing together A2 Tech and Roberto Clemente was worth all of the hard work. “We could have both maintained programs that were OK, but come together to design something great, and I’ll take the latter any day. So we’ve been able to come together and pool the resources, pool the energy, and things that would have been allocated to us individually within our respective buildings are now being given to us together. That’s the reason why we’re able to launch a program like dual enrollment with Washtenaw Community college,” Weeks says.
The success of the dual enrollment program is important to Edmondson because the chance to get college credits was a pledge he made to students that came with him from Roberto Clemente. He says students who take the maximum number of WCC classes their junior and senior year will save $10,000.
Overall, Weeks thinks it was a good first year, but everyone at Pathways is looking for more. “We’re where we need to be, but we’re also excited about where we’re going though,” he says.
The next big program for Pathways is already taking shape as the school works with Zingerman’s and other area businesses. The goal is to have a co-op type program next year that will help students understand the connection between what they study and real-world applications.
Story by Andrew Cluley
Photos by Jo Mathis
AAPS District News