Gloating on graduation day

Neener, neener. While other parents packed into crowded places by the hundreds to watch their seniors graduate from high school, I had it good. Instead of a long, inspiring speech by some local dignitary, I watched a magic show. Instead of listening to prerecorded music, I watched a student rock band play “Pomp & Circumstance” while perched on the wings of an airplane parked, no kidding, on a Reno Hilton stage.

After three years at a Very Crowded High School, my son Dan did his senior year at Truckee Meadows Community College High School. The benefits were many. The drawbacks were few.

In case you haven’t heard, Nevada’s rate of high school dropoutism is on the rise. And it’s only going to get tougher for kids to get through high school. Proficiency exams are great for making sure kids memorize a certain amount of stuff before being let loose in the real world, where, of course, we all know how to amortize a loan off the top of our heads.

TMCC High School was designed for smart, original thinkers who “take the road less traveled.” I heard about the school when I reported on its graduation in 1998. Just like Saturday, the graduation of the 40 or so seniors was held on the “world’s largest stage,” the Reno Hilton Theater. Students rose on a platform, floating through a cloud of dry ice to Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” (This year, more than 100 students marched through the dry ice to a different number, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

As the kids received their diplomas, pre-recorded messages played. In the messages, many parents and students thanked teachers and the cool, innovative school. Many of the graduates said they wouldn’t have finished high school if it hadn’t been for TMCC High. These kids were mature and responsible. They were artistic and creative. Most had jobs. Some were teen parents.

The program for juniors and seniors offers lots of flexibility. Classes meet every other day, mostly in the afternoons. Best of all, students can take community college classes for college credit, for almost free—you buy the books. My son has about a semester’s worth of college already. His friend, Cody Williams, will start college as a sophomore in the fall.

The school doesn’t offer an array of extra-curriculars. There’s no football team. No band. But I talked to one girl who attends classes at TMCC High while cheering for Galena. And my son ended up playing his viola with TMCC’s orchestra.

TMCC High teachers are passionate about their work, about doing something different for kids who need a change. The idea, a novelty four years ago, is working.

So thanks, TMCC High Principal Greer Gladstone, for being a good sport when the magician made your ring disappear Saturday. And thanks to all of those who’ve been involved in giving some great kids a fantastic chance to succeed.