Forging an alternative pathway to graduation

Thirty-three students who might have been lost without alternative means of education walked across the stage Thursday to receive high school diplomas.

Destinations Academy had 23 graduates while Resource Link Charter School had 10. Both schools are part of the Coos Bay School District, but they give students a different route to graduation.

Destinations graduates Buddy Lockwood and Samuel Cagley shared their stories, saying without Destinations they would not have graduated on time. In part due to COVID and in part due to other issues, both students fell way behind after their sophomore years.

They were given two options. Stay at Marshfield and stay in high school five years or move to Destinations and have a chance to graduate in four. Both chose Destinations, which offers individual learning plans for each student.

Lockwood said he was still well behind entering this year, but by working with Principal Kayla Crook and his teachers, he was able to catch up.

“Destinations helped get me in the right direction,” Cagley said.

One person who understands the value of alternative education more than most is Kimberly Brick, the chair of the Coos Bay School Board.

“I’m not anybody special,” Brick told the graduates. “I’m not particularly smart. I failed math all four years of high school. The only reason I made it to class most days was because it was better than being home. I failed a lot.

“There were so many challenges I needed to learn from. There were times I didn’t think I would graduate. One reason I did was because I continued to show up.”

Brick told the students she tried out for cheerleading every year since seventh grade and finally made the team as a senior. Then she found out she was pregnant. As a pregnant teen, Brick was given the opportunity to go to the alternative-education school, and it changed her life.

She graduated from high school and became the first person in her family to graduate from college. All because she showed up and never quit, much like the students from Destinations and Resource Link.

“As alt-ed students, we sometimes have lives that don’t fit into the traditional model,” Brick said. “It doesn’t mean we’re less than those students in other schools. It means we’re bad asses who need to make our own way.:”

Leslie Traylor, who leads the Resource Link Charter School, told the students they were able to redefine what education means for themselves.

“Redefining education is the hallmark of alternative education,” Traylor said. “You are the embodiment of what that means, a pathway for students that works for them. Show the world who you are.”

Destinations Principal Kayla Crook had a similar message for the graduates.

“Today, we gather to honor a group of students who have overcome many obstacles and worked hard to succeed,” Crook said. “Graduates, congratulations, you made it. Once you walk across that stage tonight, you start a new class – adulting 101. I have confidence you possess the skills, knowledge and resiliency to ace this class. Remember, you got this.”

Dr. Charis McGaughy, superintendent of Coos Bay School District, said watching the seniors graduate was a moment of extreme pride.

“I am proud this district offers multiple pathways for students to chart their own success,” McGaughy said. “This is truly a group accomplishment. Kudos to everyone here who has provided care and support for this group of students.”

After hearing the speeches, the students finally got what they came for, diplomas signifying a major accomplishment in life.