The 2019 graduates from Discovery High School received a roaring standing ovation from family and friends as they walked on stage for their graduation ceremony Saturday in the Lower Columbia College Rose Center.
The applause marked a momentous occasion for the group of 37 students, which included first-generation high school graduates, first-generation college attendees and students who said they never imagined themselves earning their diplomas.
“Every single graduate here tonight has been through struggles,” said Madalyn Ficek, the student speaker. “This school was our second chance.”
Discovery is Longview School District’s alternative high school. It caters to students who are credit deficient, have work schedules that conflict with their classes or face other obstacles that make attending a traditional high school difficult.
Senior Cara Davey said she started failing her classes at R.A. Long High School when she picked up a full-time job after her mother left the family. She switched to Discovery soon after because the school was okay with her taking online classes and coming into school around her work schedule, she said.
“I almost dropped out … but my teachers at Discovery made me want to graduate,” Davey said. She now plans to enroll at LCC in 2020 to earn a degree in elementary education, she said.
Senior Damian Perez said he also couldn’t have graduated with Discovery’s help.
“I didn’t feel 100% supported in the environment of my last school (before Discovery),” Perez said. “This school created so much time for me. .. The teachers will literally do anything they need to do to help you.”
Discovery math teacher Valerie Dunaway is a perfect example, Perez said. She would stay late after class to go over “100 different ways ... to make sure I’d get it,” he said.
“She did not give up on me,” Perez said.
Next year Perez will study auto-mechanics at Clark College. He’s the first person in his family to seek higher education, he said.
During the graduation ceremony, Discovery staff honored five graduates who received local scholarships. Two of those awards provide a full-ride to the Stylemasters College of Hair Design in Longview.
College is also in the plan for Lucy Martinez, though it’s a new dream made real by her one-month journey at Discovery, she said.
The first in her family to earn her diploma, Martinez said she never thought she’d actually finish high school. She took two years off of high school after moving to Mexico from South Carolina at the end of her junior year, and when she returned to re-enroll at her old high school, they told her she was too old to attend classes there, she said.
But then Martinez, 19, moved to Longview and got a call from Discovery, she said. The alternative school allowed her to enroll in classes, and she was able to complete the last four credits she needed for her diploma in just more than a month.
“To me, this (graduation) is a really big thing,” Martinez said. I’m making my parents and myself proud. … I thought I wouldn’t finish high school.”
In his address to students, Discovery social studies teacher James Bryant commended the Class of 2019 for their drive, motivation and passion to do better for themselves.
“You have shown everyone in this room that you have the right stuff,” Bryant said. “Nothing was handed to you. Even when the road ahead was dark, you pushed and pulled and triumphed.”