Thirty-two seniors from DeLaSalle Education Center received their diplomas Friday, marking the first time the charter high school has graduated every student who started the year as a twelfth grader.
Most students come to DeLaSalle after struggling in other schools. Senior Walter Taylor used to go to school in Raytown, where he didn’t feel like anyone cared if he came to class.
“DeLaSalle is like a family. You walk into the building, and everybody knows your name. You feel a little like a celebrity,” Taylor said. “Now I got somewhere to call a second home. If I ever get big and famous, I can always come back here to give back to my people.”
Taylor is headed to Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley to study automotive collision repair, but he wants to transfer to the University of Arizona to play basketball and study animal science. This year, Taylor and his classmates got career counseling through Missouri Connections, an online jobs portal, and every DeLaSalle senior is graduating with a plan, said Executive Director Elizabeth Sanders.
Sanders and other school leaders are trying to transform DeLaSalle from an alternative school into a charter that kids choose because they’ll have options they can’t get anywhere else. At the same time, they still want to support the students who come to DeLaSalle in need of extra help.
“At the end of April, I had all of the teachers who had seniors present where those seniors were in class and what they were lacking. For those that looked like they were at risk of not graduating, then we had a parent conference, with the student and the counselor, and devised a plan of how we could get that kid back on track,” Sanders said. “And it worked.”
Devontaye Stephens has been at DeLaSalle since he was a freshman, and he said it’s changed a lot.
“It’s been different because Dr. Sanders is here to shine a light,” said Stephens, who is about to start an apprenticeship with construction company J.E. Dunn. “This year she’s helped me a lot.”
It was Kyresha Haggins’ first year at DeLaSalle, and her favorite classes were English and cooking.
“I learned a lot of new recipes and tried foods that I'd never even heard of before,” Haggins said.
The culinary arts program has been a point of pride for DeLaSalle as it tries to provide a more well-rounded high school experience. For her part, Haggins will study nursing at MCC-Penn Valley.
Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.