Not just for underachievers

Published 8:54 pm Saturday, August 6, 2011

While their friends were enjoying a break from school this summer, some students from Suffolk and other parts of Western Tidewater and even Northeast North Carolina spent most of their “vacation” at school desks, listening to lectures and completing homework assignments. For nearly 50 of those students, all the hard work paid off with high school diplomas handed to them during a special ceremony Thursday at Lakeland High School.

Summer school has long been considered the province of underachievers and potential high school dropouts. It was the place one would go if he declined to apply himself to his work during the regular school year.

But this group of fresh high school graduates gives reason to reconsider the old stereotypes.

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Sure, most of those attending summer school in Suffolk would not have been listed near the top of their classes. The majority of those attending did so, in fact, to retake courses they had failed during the regular school year. For them, the failed classes were enough to keep them from earning their diplomas with the rest of the classes during June graduation exercises.

For some, this year’s summer school is not the first summer-school experience they have had. One student, in fact, told Suffolk News-Herald staff writer Emily Collins that he had failed to graduate for two years in a row, and attending summer school was one more chance to earn a diploma. His mother described Thursday’s graduation as being like the Super Bowl.

One cannot help but give this young man and the others in his summer school class credit for their persistence. It would have been easy for many of them to choose just to drop out of school, look for a part-time, minimum-wage job and accept the life that would have sprung from that decision. Instead, they chose to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to finally complete their secondary education. Will these young adults go on to college? Maybe not, but completing the work for their high school diplomas should give them a boost to their self esteem and a rise in their lifetime earnings potential.

That was a mature and thoughtful choice to make, and it gives reason to believe that these new high school graduates have grown up a bit. And if that assumption is true, it will be a good thing, both for them and for the community they are a part of.

Congratulations, summer graduates.