By Meg Upton
A few hundred people braved the 90+ degree heat at 6 p.m. on June 4 to see their favorite charter students graduate at the Feather River College stadium.
The graduates were decked out in caps and gowns personalized to their own unique taste in any color they chose emphasizing the metaphor of Plumas Charter School’s mission of delivering a personalized education tailored to the individual student’s needs.
As executive director Taletha Washburn mentioned in her opening remarks, the graduation ceremony — comprised of the Quincy, Taylorsville, and Chester sites — was a return to normalcy for PCS.
She also pointed out PCS was among the 3 percent of schools in California that maintained in-person instruction throughout the pandemic. The crowd of parents, friends and family members seemed to appreciate her message and her reiteration of what the charter system is for—personalized instruction that fits the needs of the students it serves.
PCS graduated 41 students from the Quincy, Chester and Indian Valley Academy sites this year, with 28 attending the ceremony (a few graduated mid-year and did not return for the event).
What was striking at a PCS graduation, and this one in particular, since last years’ three sites did not combine for a ceremony, was the focus the rhetoric of the presenters took in emphasizing the school’s mission of personalized learning and resilience in the context of all that 2020 brought with it.
“We are a school that spans communities across the county,” said Ryan Schramel, site director for IVA.
This year’s student speakers were Kylie Anderson of Quincy and Madi Goss of Indian Valley. Anderson spoke of the history of the school and the many manifestations and changes it has undergone as it has grown and the values it instilled. Goss spoke too of the core values of the school and how it has shaped the graduating class as a whole and the care they take with one another and their communities. Anderson is taking a gap year to do volunteer work, and Goss is enrolled in UC Davis for the fall.
Dr. Lisa Kelly delivered the keynote address giving the graduating students nuggets of wisdom for their “tool belt,” uplifting words about remembering the skills they’ve already acquired and adding on to them over time. She reiterated the need in today’s world to be able to work in collaboration, and be creative, adaptable, and resilient. In the words of Dale Carnegie she encouraged graduates to be interested in their worlds and the people around them over the concept of trying to be interesting. Most of all she told the graduates to “be open, adaptable, and kind.”
Next came the scholarships and acknowledgement section of the program with Audrey Peters holding back tears to say how proud she was of the students graduating in her Upward Bound program (Kylie Anderson, Nicholas Dunnington, Tyanna Farmer, and Jacey Taylor).
Matt Taborski, representing Sierra Pacific Industries, was on hand to present IVA graduate Kaytlyn Cedillos with a scholarship.
Travis Rubke, representing the Indian Valley Rotary Club, awarded Adeline Tilton and Madi Goss renewing scholarships for their academic goals. Pheasants Forever’s awarded scholarships to Adeline Tilton and Ailish Carmichael.
Indian Valley Thrift Store awarded Goss, Tilton, and Cedillos scholarships as well.
Schramel then read off additional scholarship awards from various entities around the county going to Tilton and Goss.
The graduation included a Rose Ceremony where graduates left their section of the football field to give long stem roses to those that helped in their journey, (which might explain why Safeway was nearly out of roses). PCS sophomore Lilah Washburn and music teacher Greg Willis played mandolin and guitar during the ceremony.
Finally it was time for the presentation of the diplomas. PCS board president Steve Hill was on hand to give out diplomas as each site director spoke of the student coming up to the platform, with each having something to say about working individually with each student on their path toward graduation.
Poignantly, site director, Keri Reed in Chester told stories of her four students and gave acknowledgement for her students—in particular students who graduate while needing to work at the same time. Reminding all present that not all students have the same playing field going in.
Schramel followed with a respectful acknowledgements of the 12 Indian Valley Academy graduates heading to college, the workforce, and the military in equal measure.
Brittini Wade, 7-12 Site Coordinator in Quincy, rounded out the program speaking of the nine graduates from the Quincy site and her experience working with each of them for years or even just a semester.
Schramel closed the ceremony with a few remarks quoting Henry David Thoreau, telling the students that what ever path their lives should take that they should live lives with meaning and purpose.