The Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA)-Lehighton held its commencement at Penn's Peak, Jim Thorpe last night. Thirty-one students entered to the music of "Pomp and Circumstance." Each wore a black gown with a cap and tassel. They looked just like any other graduating class. But CCA graduates have one distinction-many had never even met their teachers in person. That's because CCA, accredited by the Middle States Association, is free public cyber school, an online school that serves students in grades K-12 with state-certified teachers and full-time licensed school counselors.
Greg Gettle, CCA high school principal welcomed the graduates and their family and friends to the second graduating class from Lehighton. He said that CCA is growing rapidly. Last year there were 104 graduates from four locations throughout Pennsylvania-Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Butler and Lehighton. This year there are 230 graduates. There are 33 from the Lehighton area.
"People wonder what happens to our students after graduation. Just like any other school, we have many 2010 students who have earned scholarships and many are going on to further their educations, some are entering the armed forces and others plan to enter the work field. I think it speaks well of the class of 2010."
He shared with everyone the good news that starting with the Juniors of 2010, they will be entitled to a $1,000 scholarship, Sophmores of 2010 will receive a $2,000 scholarship and Freshmen of 2010 will receive a $3,000 scholarship upon graduation.
He told the parents of the graduating class of 2010 that they were as much a part of graduation as the graduates and promised them that while they may not be appreciated by their sons and daughters today, they will in years to come.
Dr. Dennis Tulli, ED. D, CEO of CAA, addressed the class and guests.
"We've had a short time together but we have a story. Our story is one of hope and success. Our story is about how 15 years ago our state legislature offered an opportunity for our children by passing charter schools legislature. Before that, a family had two choices to public schools-private and home schooling," he said.
He said that in 2010-11 there would be two additional CCA locations-Williamsport and Scranton.
"We're growing to meet families' needs. About 10 years ago there were only two cyber schools. Now there are 11 in Pennsylvania."
He said that what makes CCA work is that "families want us and the board of education make us possible. Ninety-four percent of our parents give us a mark of an A or B."
He called cyber schools "pioneers in the journey of education."
"Before us, there was no competition in education. I believe competition is good. It makes us all strive to be better."
He admits that students and parents may have had a difficult decision in deciding to attend cyber school.
"I hope you feel, as I do, that you made the right decision. So on behalf of the school board and Commonwealth Cyber Academy, we wish you success and God speed."
Lehighton teacher Kristin Jachowicz announced the graduates as each received their hard-earned diploma.
The CCA graduating class of 2010 and their future plans are:
Christa Becker, entering the United States Navy
Justine Beers, Northampton County Community College
**Andrew Bergey, Wilkes University
Matthew Burden hopes to live a good lifeCrystal Doyle, college
*Brittany Franya, Lockhaven University
Chloe Frost, veterinarian technician
Robert Gillis, traveling the Pacific
Blake Graham, Weiss Markets
John Hawkins, plans to work one year and then go to welding school
Monica Hill, Montgomery Community College
*Amber Minnich, Kutztown University
Emily Newman, writer
Meagan O'Shaughnessy, Millersville University
John Pirolli, Seton Hall University
Stevi-Lorayn Platzer, community college
Carmen Reilly, community college
*Zachary Rosario, Penn State
Nikelle Schleicher, radiation therapist
Kirsten Shafer, NCCC
Lynette Simeone, work and save for a house
Kevin Snyder, ATV and motorcycle engineer
Jennifer Strohl, x-ray technician
Cody Thorpe, local college
Michael Vickery, Bucks County Community College
Christina Watson, college
Samantha Wiltrout, college
Mary Wolfram, college
* indicates graduating with honors with a 3.25 and above
**indicates graduating with high honors with a 3.5 and above.
A reception with refreshments and music was provided immediately after the ceremony for the CCA graduating class, staff, board members and family and friends.