Excelsior High School graduation

Excelsior High School graduating senior Andrew Schneider make their way to the stage.

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Mariah Rollins makes her way into the theater during the processional of seniors during the Excelsior graduation on Friday.

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Audrey Sibley performs “When I’m Gone,” during Excelsior High School graduation ceremonies at the Washburn Performing Arts Center. There were 19 students in the 2013 graduating class.

Excelsior High School

Each of the graduates had a different story to about how they ended up at Excelsior High School.

From pregnancy and struggles to keep up with school work to a lack of motivation and feeling lost in the shuffle, each of these situations could have led these students to make the decision to forego earning a high school diploma.

But thanks to finding a place at Excelsior High School, they all achieved their goal of graduating.

“This is a great moment,” said Principal Aaron Hansen at the commencement ceremony Friday afternoon. “We are here to celebrate what these 19 graduates have done.”

Hansen told the story of one student, Desirae Hite, who wrote a letter in response to a Facebook post that was critical of Excelsior and its students. He witnessed Hite get emotional about the situation.

“What I realized is she wasn’t crying because she was sad,” he said. “She was crying because she was standing up for Excelsior, and she was doing it in a very positive, proactive and productive way. She was standing up for the program, staff and students on her own. I’m not sure that happened before.”

Hansen read several letters from students who wrote about the positive impacts the school has had on their lives.

“Excelsior has been a godsend for me. There was a time where I thought I would never graduate,” one letter stated. “But here it is my senior year and getting ready for that next step.”

Hite was one of two students who earned the school’s first scholarships. She and Christian Banks received money for college from the Odd Fellows.

Linda Shidner, mother to graduate Stephen Shidner, gave the students some advice.

“Believe in yourselves,” she said. “Set out to do whatever you want to do in your lives.”