Higher education calling


The Mirror

100 percent.

Of the 23 students who graduated from Truman High School in ceremonies Thursday at Knutzen Family Theater, 23 are continuing their education at college or vocational school.

That’s right. All the graduates.

100 percent.

This is the largest graduating class in recent years and the most academically successful in Truman’s existence. Eleven of the students are Gates Scholarship recipients who will get as much as $42,500 apiece over five years to help them pay for college or a technical school. One student will attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and the rest of the students are going to community colleges or four-year institutions, including the University of Puget Sound and St. Martins College.

It’s a high point for principal Pam Morris-Stendal, who retired the same day as graduation.

“We’ve never had that,” she said of the scholarships. “I’m so proud of the students and staff and what they have been able to do.”

There were tears and laughter at the graduation ceremony as all the seniors spoke and were introduced by their teachers.

In 2001, Morris-Stendal and the staff began a project to change the school. Truman is a small school dedicated to helping students succeed who don’t fit into the mold of a traditional high school.

They’ve had problems. They’ve been problems.

But not at Truman.

As Paki Robert Crawford, a 2004 graduate, explains, the program called The Big Picture changed the school to look at not only helping students succeed, but discover what they want to do after high school.

The Big Picture started in Rhode Island in the early 1990s, specializing in educating students for a career and how they take their first steps towards that career. Morris-Stendal said Truman has made some tweaks to the original program.

Crawford is tall and sturdy at 19 years old. He plays football and enjoys being on the line. One of the Gates Scholarship recipients, he wants to major in criminal justice, starting at Highline Community College and transferring to Evergreen State College.

He’s confident it’s the right path because while taking classes at Truman, he was also researching possible careers. Criminal justice was his choice. He wants to catch the bad guys and be a role model, especially to his younger siblings.

“I’m kind of the leader of the pack,” he said.

Students at Truman have tailored education plans. Each must meet the state’s education requirements (they don’t have grades), and they do it their own way. They are mentored by the teachers and counselors at the school, and their parents are deeply involved, Morris-Stendal said.

Students are working constantly on what they enjoy, so there isn’t a lot of time for slacking, Crawford said.

Morris-Stendal remembers many of the students pointedly telling her they were not interested in college when they enrolled at Truman. Next fall, all the graduates are entering higher education.

100 percent.

Mike Halliday: 925-5566,

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