Venture Academy Celebrates Graduates

Students, educators re-unite to celebrate milestone

High school senior Cheyenne Luther arrived for the Venture Academy Family of Schools drive-thru commencement ceremony surrounded by her family in a vehicle decorated with balloons, words of celebration, and hand-painted illustrations of toilet paper -- -- a sign of the times for the Class of 2020.

Cheyenne was nervous. She was worried that pulling up to the front of the school to pick up her diploma would turn out to be an anticlimactic way to celebrate her high school graduation. But then she said she saw something that made the celebration truly special.

"My favorite teacher was screaming for me," she said.

Jennifer Tereba did more than just yell. She also had a string of jingle bells wrapped around her hand she used to add to the commotion. And she was not alone. She was joined by her fellow teachers from Excel Academy who were also there with handmade signs and lots of noise to cheer on students. Excel Academy is part of the Venture Academy Family of Schools, a charter school operated by the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE).

As each car drove by, traditional Pomp and Circumstance music blared as the cars rolled by slowly, stopped to grab a diploma, then drove away. The ceremony took place at the Venture Academy main campus in Stockton on May 22. Each high school academy had an allotted time throughout the day to hold its ceremony. The exception was Durham Ferry, which held its ceremony on its campus the day before. Venture staff also put together a video for the students for their commencement that was shared online.

It might not have been the graduation the students and families envisioned at the start of the year, but they appreciated the ceremony.

"At least they can come by and have some sense of normalcy," said Charles Manning, father of Delta Vista Academy graduate Cynia Manning. It was, after all a celebration. "I feel great," he said, adding he was proud of his daughter and her dedication and hard work to graduate high school and move on to the University of the Pacific.

Students and staff had not seen each in person for about two months before the ceremony. "I'm very glad to see them again. We miss them terribly," said Kelly Hazen, who teaches at Delta Vista.

Hazen said living through extraordinary times will help these graduates do extraordinary things.

"It will absolutely shape them for the rest of their lives," she said

Posted: 5/29/2020