June 24, 2011
Alternative high grads find path to success
13 seniors accept certificates of achievement at BOCES ceremony for students from area schools
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Sonja Shannon of Cortland, left, goes to hug her son Dean Dries, right, during the Cortland Alternative School graduation ceremony.
Luke Wood and Tiffany Olson decided in 10th grade that they wanted to go to school somewhere besides Cortland High School, and the couple found a place at Cortland Alternative School.
“I walked in its doors and wondered where the staircase was,” Wood said during his graduation speech Thursday. “At Cortland High, I was always running up and down staircases. Now I had a school right around the corner.”
Olson, who is still his girlfriend, decided “to let people get to know me” and found a place where school was more appealing.
They were two of the 13 seniors who accepted certificates of achievement from the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES school, during a ceremony at SUNY Cortland’s Corey Union Exhibition Lounge.
The BOCES has alternative junior and senior high schools on Port Watson Street in Cortland and in Solvay. The students will receive their diplomas at their home high schools this weekend: six from Cortland, three each from McGraw and Cincinnatus, and one from Marathon.
Principal Karen Clark presented the Thomas A. Clark Scholarship to Wood. The scholarship was endowed by a former Cortland High School science teacher who did not graduate from high school, finished after serving in the Navy, then went to SUNY Cortland.
The Harvey Kaufman Rotary Scholarship for having a positive impact on the community went to Joseph Malmquist of Cincinnatus, a volunteer firefighter.
As part of meeting their final English requirement, they have to give a graduation speech, telling their story. They also were given a rose to present to someone who had helped them along the way; most gave their roses to their mothers.
Wood, who plans to study video game design at ITT Technical Institute in Liverpool, and Olson, who may pursue a career in culinary arts, said they grew personally from their three years at the school. Olson recalled kayaking on Raquette Lake and being terrified of large bodies of water, but being reassured by teachers that she would be fine.
Wood said afterward that an alternative path for him would be studying “green” science and working to solve the nation’s fuel problems.
Scott Neff of McGraw said he and his mother, Nancy Hansen, “always worried about what would come next for me, we wondered if this day would ever come.”
Neff said afterward that spending three years at the school was a sound decision and that he hopes to study criminal justice at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Malmquist said he came to the school in eighth grade because “I made poor choices in Cincy and they stuck with me, so I needed a fresh start.” He said he learned to get along with people from different backgrounds.
Malmquist plans to study firefighting technology at Onondaga Community College and has been accepted by the bunker program at the Solvay Fire Department, where he will receive room and board in return for volunteering as a firefighter.
Marathon’s Dustin Thalheimer and McGraw’s Christopher Towsley were honored for placing third out of 250 school teams in a stock market challenge conducted by Le Moyne College. The pair turned a fictional $200 into $21,000 over a two-month period.
The other graduates were Cincinnatus students Ryan Hubbard and Ryan Loomis, McGraw’s Christina Garcia, and Cortland’s Matthew Thorne, Chase Hopkins, Chanel Stroman and Dean Dries.
Hubbard plans to study life science at TC3. Garcia said she will enroll at Cazenovia College for anthropology studies.
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