Community School graduates receive hard-earned diplomas

Community graduates Giovanny Alcaraz, Tyler Abele, and Daisy Hernandez show off their high school diplomas with Principal Stephen Liles, left, and Colusa County Assistant Superintendent Maria Arvizu-Espinoza at their sides.

If S. William Able Community School graduates had a motto for their commencement exercises June 14, it might have been “All roads lead to Rome,” the modern working of an ancient expression that means all methods of doing something will achieve the same results.

Eight seniors received their high school diplomas from the school, named after retired Judge Bill Abel, although only three were available to take part in the formal ceremony.

“Some of our graduates are already working,” said Principal Stephen Liles.

Anayeli Paez, a mother of two from Colusa, has started secondary education in the medical field in Sacramento. Diego Ruiz, of Colusa, is training to become an electrician.

Tyler Abele, of Grimes, Giovanny Alcaraz, of Williams, and Daisy Hernandez, of Arbuckle, participated in the ceremony, which was held at the Education Village in Williams.

Luis Zuniga, of Williams, along with Zackary Wills and Ralph Castanon, of Colusa, already received their diplomas upon completion of high school.

Guadalupe Vargas, of Arbuckle, and Ernesto Arce, Steven Jones, and Rebecca Mosqueda, of Colusa, received their high school equivalency.

The Colusa County Office of Education operates the school primarily – but not entirely – for at-risk juveniles that have been referred by the court, expelled from their home districts or had dropped out of school.

“It was really hard, but I did it in just over a year,” said Alcaraz, 16. “I got my diploma.”

Hernandez, 19, had attended Pierce High School, but left to have her daughter, Mailen, now almost 2-years-old.

Hernandez got tears in her eyes when she spoke after the ceremony about deciding to go back and finish school so she could set a good example for her child.

Hernandez finished her education, while holding down a job, to teach Mailen the importance of study and education. “My daughter motivated me to go back to school,” Hernandez said.

Abele had also attended Pierce High School, but voluntarily chose to finish his education at the Community School. He is attending Woodland College to study wildlife biology, and hopes to become a hunting and fishing guide.

The Class of 2017 is the second graduating class for the Community School, which opened in October 2015.

In addition to providing a high school education, the school focuses on the development of pro-social skills, and student self-esteem and resiliency, officials said.

Liles said the Colusa County Office of Education is also working to get accreditation on their adult education program, so that the county can issue high school diplomas to adults of all ages who want to return to school for their diploma, and not just receive high school equivalency certificates.