On the evening of June 7, 2019, Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa Director Dr. Karen Kenkel, in accordance with the laws of the state of California, conferred the high school diploma, and the rights and privileges there of, to the eight students comprising the first graduating class. Just 75 minutes earlier, when students processed in cap and gown to the front of the auditorium, they were still high school students. After the emotional ceremony, they became adults, ready to enter the world and make their mark, drawing on all skills and habits they had learned over their time at Quest Forward Academy.
Looking out at the hundred and forty people in attendance, one could see proud parents and family members, friends, and former teachers. Surprisingly large number of current students from the lower grades at the Academy, who were there with their parents, also came to support the new graduates.
The ceremony itself was a mix of playfulness and seriousness, reflecting the spirit of the Academy. There was an undercurrent of the importance of individuals to take control of their lives, and to understand that the greatest limitations they face will likely be the ones they place on themselves. Highlighting this theme was commencement speaker Andre Kajlich, who shared his life story through a devastating injury to becoming the first solo hand-cyclist to complete the 3,100 mile Race Across America.
Students were given an opportunity to thank those who had impacted their lives. The most touching moment may have been from a graduate who kept tearing up as she talked about how she never thought she would make it to graduation, but that if her parents were willing to take the risk of moving to the US for her to have a better life, she owed it to them to get her high school diploma. Now she is off to nursing school.
As the students received their diplomas, mentors took turns telling personal stories about the students, underscoring the defining moments in their educational career. The stories illustrated the uniquely personal nature of the Academies and the education provided.
Listening to students, mentors, and parents at the reception afterwards, it was clear to all in attendance just how deeply the Academy is touching the lives of its students. It will be exciting to hear from these students again in six months, after they have started college and have had a chance to reflect on their Quest Forward education.