SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — A local high school is boasting remarkable figures. Its graduation numbers doubled in just one year.
Gateways High School is an alternative school. Many of the students that attend there are troubled kids referred by their previous campuses or even the juvenile detention centers.
While they cater to all high school age kids, this year they decided they should concentrate on the older crowd to give them what they call the gift of time they may need to achieve success.
“High schools for me, normal high schools just didn’t work out,” said fourth-year student Melissa Vazquez.
The 17-year-old isn’t alone. In fact, her classes are filled with students just like her. They are kids who don’t necessarily fit the mold.
“A lot of them have given up. A lot of them were out of school for a long time,” said teacher Janet Nelson.
They say they’re lucky to have a school like Gateways High School.
“It’s unrealistic to expect every student will make nine-month increments of progress from grade one to grade 12,” said Paul Weill, the school’s co-principal
“Something has to be done for those kids who haven’t completed their diploma. So Springfield has decided whether they finish in their 12th grade year or not isn’t relevant. What matters is that they complete,” Nelson said.
For someone like Vazquez, who’s not just a student, but a mother, the support changed her life. She was only 16 when she found out she was pregnant, so many questions filled her head.
“Was I going to have time to raise a child and finish high school? Would I be able to do both at the same time because having a baby and going to school is tough,” Vazquez said.
But she didn’t have to choose at Gateways. They helped her do both. Vasquez attends parenting classes each day with those in her very shoes in conjunction with her core courses. She’s on track to graduate next year, which she hadn’t previously seen in her future.
“I have hope that I’m going to go to college and that I’ll better my life for myself and my child. And it all started from coming here. They helped changed my mindset to something positive,” Vazquez said.
Staff and students say the environment at Gateways is very encouraging. Together they recently came up with a school mascot–the Phoenix–which they believe truly represents the student body.