(June 20, 2014) – The smallest – but perhaps most significant – graduation of the year took place on June 9, in the School Board Meeting Room of the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Administrative Offices in Ashburn, Va.
The Young Adults Project (YAP) is designed to meet the needs of students who are not succeeding in the traditional school setting. Students are provided with a variety of options that can lead to graduation and are supported by services for them and their immediate family.
During the past decade, YAP has served more than 450 students.
YAP Program Manager Francis Coughlin said this year’s graduates were exemplary in many ways. He noted that this year only six students were suspended from YAP for a total of eight days and that discipline reports had been cut by 50 percent. YAP’s facility also was flooded, which meant that students had to move to a distant facility. Coughlin noted that attendance didn’t drop even though the students had to transfer to two buses coming to, and returning from, school.
The six YAP graduates included:
- Brian Andrade, Stone Bridge High School
- Kandi Bettis, Woodgrove High School
- Michelle Castro, Dominion High School
- Cameron DeBerry, Tuscarora High School
- Julia Groves. Park View High School
- Steven Petrey, Broad Run High School
The graduates spoke about what the YAP program meant to them.
“I always felt like no one cared for me,” said Castro. “Coming to YAP really changed my mind. I didn’t want to be here at first, but when I saw how much I was improving and how much the staff really cared for me, I was astonished.
Petrey praised the persistence and understanding of YAP’s staff.
“I’ve seen a lot of teachers put up with a lot of stuff from the kids. Sometimes we act like elementary schoolers, throwing fits in the classrooms… We like to argue with each other, but the teachers constantly try to help us learn. They stay patient with us.”
LCPS Special Education Supervisor Heather Cleary spoke about what the YAP students mean to the staff. “Not a day goes by that I don’t marvel at the special effort that you all demonstrate; the great courage and superior ability to overcome the challenges that you’ve been faced with.”
Several special award were presented:
- History: Kandi Bettis
- Math: Cameron DeBerry
- Service Award: Steven Petrey
- English: Michelle Castro
- Leadership Award: Michelle Castro
- Science: Julia Groves
- Student Achievement Award: Brian Andrade
Coughlin announced that YAP’s Student Achievement Award, its highest honor, was being re-named in honor of retiring LCPS Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III. Hatrick provided the keynote address for the event.
“Remember how you got to where you are today; everything you had to do to become part of the Class of 2014,” Hatrick told the graduates. “I understand that you experienced bumps in the road. You experienced obstacles. I wish I could tell you that’s all over.
“But you know from your own practical reality, and I can tell you from mine, it’s not all over.”
Knowing that they will face further obstacles, Hatrick said the graduates had already learned something that will help them overcome them.
“Nothing that we know about life tells us that we only get one chance at anything. The fact of the matter is that the land of opportunity in America means that we do get more than one chance to succeed. All of the people who have been working with you are devoted to the notion of creating a Climate for Success. But frankly, not a one of them could force you to be successful. Not a one of them could force any student to be successful. The reason that you are successful is because you saw an opportunity and you took advantage of it…
“The power of adversity is opportunity.”
The YAP graduation was attended by School Board members Tom Reed (At-Large) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District), County Administrator Tim Hemstreet and State Sen. Dick Black.