Submitted by Denair Charter Academy
As with most high school seniors, the final three weeks of the school year for the 95 soon-to-be graduates of Denair Charter Academy are filled with a mixture of stress, anticipation and excitement.
And, for the first time, there also is a Senior Trip to look forward to and a yearbook to sign.
Both experiences were the idea of first-year Principal Brian LaFountain and his staff, who wanted to add some of the traditional high school experiences to the county’s premier independent study program.
As its name suggests, independent learning provides the flexibility for many students to complete their studies even while holding a job or helping with family obligations. In the past, many DCA students only spent one day a week on campus to meet with teachers and assess their academic progress.
That still holds true for some students. But LaFountain and his team have brainstormed other ways to engage teens and give them a reason to spend more time on campus – and with each other. Popular electives like wood shop and yearbook were added and clubs created, all to expand opportunities. The former DCA office was turned into a student center, providing a place to share lunch, complete homework and socialize.
“We’ve got a group of kids who are getting involved in everything. Every elective. Every club. There are the same faces we see everywhere,” LaFountain said. “There is no reason they can’t come here and make lifelong friends, just as they might on a traditional campus.”
One of the incentives LaFountain felt especially strong about adding this year was a Senior Trip. For decades, seniors across California often have bussed to Disneyland for a chaperoned overnight party. Denair High School students will be doing that in a couple of weeks.
Sensitive to costs, La Fountain looked for an affordable alternative. He found one at Magic Mountain. Not only is it a shorter bus ride for grads to be, but the price is only $169 per student. Fundraising – including Friday night’s Denair-themed event at the Modesto Nuts baseball game – helped keep costs down.
A chartered bus will depart Denair about 5 p.m. and arrive in Valencia about 9 p.m. DCA students and hundreds of other teens will be treated to all the rides they can handle, plus a dance party, an all-you-can eat buffet and receive a souvenir.
By the time they reboard the bus at 5:15 a.m. for the ride home, there should be plenty of happy memories made. And some very tired teens.
Before then, DCA students have many more things to look forward to:
- May 4: Like all Denair Unified campuses, DCA will open its doors at p.m. for Open House, giving parents and other community members a chance to see for themselves all the good things that are happening.
- May 5: The first-ever yearbook is 78 pages. It will highlight all 302 students affiliated with the campus, from the home-schooled children in grades kindergarten through eight to the teens in high school. “It was ambitious,” LaFountain admitted. “We like to go big.”
- May 5: Friday also is the countywide prom for alternative education students, hosted at the Martin Peterson Event Center in downtown Modesto. LaFountain said about 20 DCA have signed up to attend.
- May 9: About 60 students will be invited to a special awards night, where teachers at every grade level will recognize boys and girls for achievement.
- May 23: A barbecue is planned to honor seniors after graduation practice.
- May 24: About 95 seniors will receive their diplomas at the Denair High School gym. The ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m.
In between all the fun activities remains the serious business of education. There are finals to take and classes to complete. For the seniors, more than a decade of academic preparation has come down to a final, frenetic few weeks.
“I’m very proud of all our students as well as our dedicated staff,” LaFountain said. “For the graduates, this is an important milestone in their lives. We encourage them to become lifelong learners, whether they enroll in a traditional college or perhaps pursue a vocational path. Whatever their choice, we know that education is a key component of building a career and becoming engaged and active members of their communities, regardless of what they do or where they live.”