This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Last Friday night, 62 students from what had been Fairhill Community High School and North Philadelphia Community High School received diplomas at a ceremony that celebrated resilience and second chances.
The two schools had been operated by One Bright Ray, Inc., as alternative schools for students who have dropped out or are on the verge of dropping out from traditional high schools. The so-called "accelerated schools" give over-age and under-credited students a relative fast track to a diploma.
They were merged last summer to form One Bright Ray Community High School, primarily as a result of budget cuts to alternative schools from the District.
"It’s been a long road, but you made it,” said Marcus Delgado, CEO of One Bright Ray and a native of the neighborhood in eastern North Philadelphia that most of the students come from.
Since 2006, One Bright Ray schools have graduated 525 students, Delgado said.
Each teacher selected two students for special awards, and the school therapist also cited two graduates for exceptional perseverance. Sharlyn Sanchez graduated while advocating for her developmentally disabled son who she gave birth to at 16. Ulises Ventura was recognized for overcoming personal struggles that had led to sporadic attendance.
More than half the students had yellow sashes for “honors” to go with their hard-won diplomas.
Six students received the Phoenix Award for maintaining consistently high grades: Natasha Fogel, Angelique DeBraganza, Eddie Rosado, Beryl Davis, Sara Cassis, and Shydera Edwards.