Saturday, January 20, 2018
Education

Drive is a credit to these students

WESLEY CHAPEL — Rogelio Carrillo started the school year knowing he had a lot of ground to cover if he hoped to graduate this spring.

"I was about six credits behind," said Rogelio, 18. "I was basically one of those kids who thought, 'I can make it up next year.' "

Next year came around quickly.

With encouragement from his teachers, Rogelio entered Wesley Chapel High's credit recovery program. And after months of focused attention, he completed 4 1/2 of his credits while also passing his regular courses. His plans for spring break: To finish another credit.

"I realized if I don't graduate, I'm not going to do anything with my life," said Rogelio, a senior who hopes to become a video game producer. "I don't want to live without accomplishing anything."

On Friday, Wesley Chapel High leaders celebrated the successes of Rogelio and about 70 other students who had made up a combined total of 118 credits during the first three quarters of the school year. Officials said that's more than any of Pasco County's other high schools, all of which have the same program.

"You guys should feel very good about yourselves," principal Carin Nettles told the students during an award ceremony in the school's performing arts center.

She quoted Michael Jordan — "I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed" — and told the teens that they have the same grit and determination.

"Today is a celebration," Nettles said, "a celebration of your perseverance."

The kids whooped and hollered in support of one another as they were introduced, walked across the stage and received certificates and T-shirts.

"You go, girl!" they shouted. "You did it!"

They even gave their teachers gifts, thanking them for their support and hard work in helping them make it through.

Dropping out should not be an option, said senior Vanessa Apolon, 18, who had to make up credits for English and algebra.

"So close to the end, why bother dropping out when you can just keep on going?" said Vanessa, who plans to become a physical therapist.

She has known students who have quit school rather than finishing. They were lazy, she said.

"I think I did get lazy at the beginning of the school year," Vanessa admitted. "When I realized there was a chance I might not graduate, I kicked it. I got motivated."

Far from being the free and fun time that seniors look forward to, senior year became the hardest year for Vanessa. And she wasn't alone.

Diane DeMarsh, also 18, fell only one-half credit behind. But she needed that half credit to graduate just as much as Rogelio needed his six.

Financial literacy was standing between her and her desire to become a nurse.

"It was one of the toughest credits I had to make up," Diane said, noting that the course was far from simple. "It took 4 1/2 months."

But with the guidance of teacher Pam McLaughlin, she got through the math and story problems and all the work to get back on the path to graduation. She'd encourage anyone who finds himself in a similar position to get into the program.

"Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it, because you can," she said.

During a conversation after the ceremony , district graduation enhancement supervisor Ramon Suarez urged Diane and others to be role models. He praised them for their hard work, often in the face of hurdles that can be difficult to overcome.

"When you see somebody down, grab them and say, 'Get up!' " Suarez said. "You guys are the top."

During the recognition, the school showed slides of each student in a cap and gown. Counselor Kelly Davey took those pictures at the start of the year, to make sure the students knew exactly what their goal should be.

Now, she said, that goal is becoming real. And that's well worth recognizing, she said.

"These students have had some adversities," Davey said. "They've stepped up to the plate. . . . We just felt like it was important to celebrate."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Holding a piece of computer paper and a microphone, the leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a Friday afternoon forum by repeating the USF administration’s new mantra.He reassured the crowd before him that t...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exis...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

The Florida Department of Health has reported a sharp increase in flu activity in the last several weeks, prompting area schools to send out letters warning parents about the virus. At least two districts, however, say that flu activity in their scho...
Published: 01/19/18

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Published: 01/18/18
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

TAMPA — They were hoping to receive between $15 million and $17 million in scheduled pay raises. But the Hillsborough County school district says it can’t afford to give its teachers anywhere near that much, while the teachers say they deserve nothin...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

It’s decision time in Pinellas County and other local school districts as several school choice deadlines are upon us.For Pinellas families who want to apply for a magnet, fundamental or high school career program for the 2018-19 school year, the dea...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18