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Storefront graduates overcome obstacles

4:28 PM, Sep. 25, 2013  |  Comments
Mary Beth Maas
Mary Beth Maas
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Aleix, Cassie, Christie, Jessica, Joanna, and Kalen (Kado) - six people you should know. Who are they? They are our six latest graduates from Storefront Learning Center, and we couldn't be prouder of them!

Each of them had a dream about graduating from high school, and that dream was strong enough to carry them through heartache to get their high school diploma from Storefront.

Their stories were different: One had been told by a previous school administrator that she wouldn't graduate because an older sibling hadn't made it, another had a learning disability, one was pregnant and suffered from severe morning sickness. But each of these five young women and one young man dug deep inside themselves and decided that she or he was going to be the one that made it.

It wasn't easy. Storefront students have required classes that they must attend, of course, but they also must do a fair amount of schoolwork on their own. Each student is also required to complete 28 hours of community service, such as stocking shelves at The Salvation Army, folding diapers at United Way, or wrapping Christmas gifts at the Wausau Mall. Our young graduates also often hold part-time jobs and at times had difficult family obligations as well. But these six young people, through trials and tribulations, kept that goal shining in front of them: "I am determined to be a high school graduate."

Graduation day was Aug. 1. St. John's Episcopal Church in Wausau provided the setting for our ceremony, as they have so graciously done for many years, Storefront staff provided much of the food (student Christie and her family prepared dozens of delicious egg rolls), and two large congratulatory cakes sat in a place of honor on a front table. The graduates and their families began to arrive. At first the room was quiet as people began to get to know each other, but soon laughter rang out as pictures were taken and the graduates congratulated. After the meal was eaten, each Storefront staff member spoke about their experiences with the graduates (lots more laughter!) and finally each graduate was presented with that important piece of paper many of them thought they might never have: a high school diploma.

More pictures, more smiles, hugs, and the room began to empty. The graduates clutched their diplomas and bouquets of flowers, trailed by their proud families, and soon the room was quiet again. Storefront Learning Center had made dreams into reality once again, this time for five young women and one young man.

This is my fourth, and last, year as an AmeriCorps member and Storefront tutor. Storefront will close in December as a result of government budget cuts; we hope to have one more graduation ceremony for several students who are attempting to finish their required studies by then.

But this article isn't about the sadness of our school's closing, it's to honor our class of 2013. Aleix, Cassie, Christie, Jessica, Joanna and Kado - Congratulations, Graduates!

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