Truman High School graduation: Tears, laughs and family

Career Academy office manager Maribeth Steincipher sings the National Anthem with graduate Mazarie Gandule-Fernandez during the graduation ceremony June 12. - Courtesy photo
Career Academy office manager Maribeth Steincipher sings the National Anthem with graduate Mazarie Gandule-Fernandez during the graduation ceremony June 12.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Career Academy at Truman High School graduation on June 12 was unmistakably a family affair – fitting for a school where students call the office manager “mom,” use their teachers’ first names and play basketball with their principal.

As family members waited for the ceremony to begin at the Knutzen Family Theater, they oohed, aahed and laughed at childhood and baby photographs of the graduates playing on a screen up front.

There were 35 graduates this year at the Career Academy, the most of any previous year. The students and staff are a close-knit group.

“It’s a smaller school, more teacher-to-student ratio and they have more of a family vibe,” said graduating senior Kelsey Clark. “We got more one-on-one attention from teachers.”

The sense of family was apparent during the opening of the ceremony when graduate Mazarie Gandule-Fernandez began to sing the National Anthem. She broke out in tears and was so overcome with emotion that she couldn’t finish the song. Principal Ron Mayberry stepped up to offer reassurance and office manager Maribeth Steincipher, with her arm around Fernandez, began to help sing.

By the song’s conclusion, much of the audience was tearful and singing along. It was one moment that helped illustrate what the Career Academy is all about – a family who all gather around to support each other.

The sense of community starts with the teachers, said principal Ron Mayberry.

“They share their struggles and successes and laugh and cry together — they’re pretty cool,” Mayberry said. “When teachers are frustrated with a student, it’s almost like a parent’s frustration. It shows how much they care about the kids.”

This was the first school year that Truman revamped its program and became the Career Academy at Truman. There were changes to the curriculum and the graduation rate saw a large increase – from six graduates last year to 35 this year. The increase was due partly to an extra push from teachers and partly to increased enrollment.

“We have worked really hard to individualize and to work with our seniors one senior at a time,” Mayberry said. “We were constantly checking on them, pushing them to get those last few things done.”

The Career Academy was at capacity for enrollment this year, with about 50 students on a waiting list. Students are attracted to the Career Academy because of the small environment, individualized learning at the students pace and many off-campus learning opportunities.

“What we have are kids that are intrigued by having a more personal type of schooling, where they actually thoroughly get to know all their teachers and their classmates,” Mayberry said. “A lot of them are just kids who need that.”

Learn more

Because of increasing interest from students and a growing waiting list, the Career Academy will add more teachers next year and increase their capacity from 110 to at least 170 students.

There will be open houses for prospective students and families from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. August 12 and August 18 at Truman, 31455 28th Avenue South in Federal Way.

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