Catching up and getting ahead in summer school

Published 10:22 pm Friday, August 5, 2011

King’s Fork High School summer school graduates watch the remainder of the summer school graduation ceremony Thursday at Lakeland High School. Almost 50 students walked across the stage in the ceremony after passing courses they took during the summer to either make up a class they failed or earn extra credit to graduate early.

After two attempts at his senior year at King’s Fork High School, the pressure was definitely on for Hunter Gregory to make it through summer school.

His mother, Karen, said even after her son missed two chances to graduate — in 2010 and this year — she worried about the effects on his self-esteem.

“When he didn’t graduate in June, it was heartbreaking,” she said.

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But Hunter never gave up.

When he called her on Wednesday to let her know he’d passed, Karen said, she was overjoyed.

“I felt like I was at the Super Bowl,” she said. “I was jumping up and down and crying.”

Dressed in a maroon cap and gown, Hunter walked across the auditorium stage at Lakeland High School to earn his high school diploma Thursday at a regional summer school graduation ceremony.

“My shoulders are a lot lighter now,” he said. “It feels really good.”

Hunter was one of nearly 50 students who earned their diplomas through Suffolk Public Schools’ summer school program.

The graduates represented the three high schools in Suffolk, as well as schools in Windsor, Surry County and Gates County, N.C.

For a little more than a month, these students have been in fast-track courses, working toward graduation.

Summer school principal Dale Kittle said summer school goes by very quickly for the students — they took their final exams Wednesday morning, and by that afternoon, they knew whether they would be walking in graduation or not.

“The turnaround is very quick,” he said. “It is a nail-biter for some of them on the last day of classes.”

Students enroll in summer school both to retake courses they need for graduation and to get ahead in their classes.

Kent Brooks was one of the students at Thursday’s ceremony looking to get ahead, rather than catch up.

Prior to Thursday’s ceremony, Brooks was a rising senior at Lakeland with a projected graduation for next June.

Even the class ring he wore at the graduation has the year 2012 carved into the side.

But Brooks decided last November he wanted to graduate early in order to join the Army.

“I want to get out of Suffolk and do something bigger,” he said.

Brooks said he isn’t disappointed he won’t walk with his classmates; instead, he’s excited to enlist as soon as possible.

Hunter Gregory, on the other hand, was disappointed he didn’t get to participate in June’s ceremony, but many of his friends came Thursday to show their support.

Karen Gregory said she thinks it’s great that Suffolk put on a graduation ceremony for the summer school students that is just like the June graduations.

“I just think it’s important,” she said. “It’s a milestone; it’s like riding a bike or learning how to drive a car.”

Kittle said he thinks these students earned a ceremony just like the June graduates.

“They work just as hard as the other students — and sometimes harder — to get their graduation service,” he said. “They deserve it.”