ARLINGTON – Growing up, a child psychologist told Michael Griffith and his parents that he would struggle in life.
He would be anti-social and shy, have difficulty keeping a job, read at a third-grade level and, by the way, don’t expect him to graduate from high school. That wasn’t the Michael that spoke on behalf of Weston High School’s Class of 2017 on Wednesday night. Far from it.
He shared with families and school staff attending the commencement ceremony in the Byrnes Performing Arts Center that his social life at school has been amazing. He’s not shy, he’s held steady jobs, and he not only reads books – he’s finished writing eight chapters of one of his dozen or so fantasy books in various stages of progress. And, “Last time I checked, I’m here to graduate high school,” he said to the sound of cheers.
Griffith was one of 15 graduates to cross the stage to receive their diplomas and be recognized individually for the impression they will leave on staff and fellow students during their time at the alternative school.
Weston Principal Will Nelson said he was proud of the students’ achievements and their ability to rise above adversity. He is confident that good things are ahead in their futures.
“These graduates have really persevered, shown true grit and have made it through challenging adversities,” Nelson said. “These students you see here represent the equity that the district aspires to.”
Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Chrys Sweeting spoke about the importance of being a lifelong learner. “The end of your learning journey is only the beginning of a new one. Always keep learning, seek to be a lifelong learner, and give back.”
Griffith said he plans to attend Everett Community College this fall to earn dual degrees in business and information technology, while continuing his writing part time.
He said he’s ready for what awaits him in the next chapter of his life.
“Every one of you, like me, who is scared of what the future holds, the word fear, F-E-A-R, has two meanings: forget everything and run, or face everything and rise,” he said
Griffith was one of two students who spoke for the class of 2017.
Cory Tucker was the other. The 20-year-old said earning his high school diploma was an odyssey.
“It took seven years,” he said. “It was a long journey, but I did it, finally.”
Tucker credited family and friends with keeping him going.
When he was 15 entering high school, he wasn’t eager to do any work. When he became a senior, he dropped out of school and got a full-time job as a pizza delivery manager, but realized in last year that he wasn’t going to getter better jobs without a diploma.
He decided to go back to school.
Tucker tried to balance a new job with going to school part time, but school staff told him at the rate he was attending he wouldn’t wrack up enough credits to graduate.
As a result, he quit his job, refocused on school full time, gained motivation from his parents, homework help from his older brother, and support from his girlfriend and teachers to walk on graduation night.
“My advice is, even if high school is hard, push through it and graduate on time,” Tucker said.
“You don’t want to end up like me, twenty years old turning twenty-one. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it.”
Tucker said his post-high school plan is to join the Navy. No particular specialty, said an undecided Tucker. “Just bring it on as I go.”