Alternative School graduation honors students who took untraditional path

May 31, 2017

For 19-year-old Kaylee Marias, taking high school classes at night was the best way to get her diploma and raise her 2-year-old daughter.

Marias was one of 26 graduates of the Wareham Cooperative Alternative School Pathways to Academic Student Success (PASS) program. Commencement was Wednesday night.

Marias had to drop out of high school for a year after she got pregnant, but when she resumed high school, she chose the PASS program because it was “easy and fast” for her.

“It wasn’t as many days of the week and not too long, so it was easier for me to find a babysitter,” Marias said.

The PASS diploma program runs similarly to the traditional high school, with core classes offered: algebra, science, geometry and more. The night school does not offer electives, however. Classes meet three or four nights a week from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The program is open to students in nearby districts as well, said Jane Fondulis, the principal of the PASS program. This year, 13 PASS students are from outside the Wareham school district.

In total, the program averages 50 students ages 16 to 21.

“Many of our students really need to work, whether it’s to help out their families or be able to have a car to get to work,” Fondulis said. “It’s a different pathway for them to achieve both things.”

PASS coordinator Joseph Marcus said some students just find the traditional route to complete high school doesn’t work well for them.

“I think it’s a wonderful alternative program for students who have made a conscientious decision to finish their studies,” Marcus said.

For Marias, PASS enabled her to take care of her daughter and get her diploma.

“It was more one-on-one where I could get the help I need,” Marias said. “It wasn’t overwhelming.”

Another graduate, Steven Klenert, said he chose to attend night classes after he became depressed and found traditional high school classes were not helping.

“It made a really big impact on me,” said Klenert, 18. “I liked it a lot better because the teachers actually did care. All my teachers I liked a lot and they really knew how to teach.”

In her address to the graduates, Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood called the students “worthy and victorious.”

“None of you are strangers to hard work, juggling responsibilities, and multitasking,” Shaver-Hood said. She said taking this route to finish high school gives students experience with life skills as well as academics.

PASS focuses on giving students another option to complete high school in a way that works for them, said Fondulis.

“There are many different pathways that students can achieve success,” Fondulis said.