ALC seniors overcome obstacles to graduate

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Jun 22, 2014
Photo by: Jessi Stone ALC graduates Jonathan Grasty and Miranda Jenkins celebrate with their daughter Nataley Grasty.

Defying many odds, more than 50 Alternative Learning Center students received their high school diplomas Thursday night.

Each senior had a story of obstacles they had to overcome to get to walk across that stage. Morgan Cowart, 19, is the first person in her family to graduate from high school, and it was anything but easy.

"It means a lot to me," she said. "I have two kids that I have to support by myself."

Cowart's mother Margie Rathbone was beaming with pride before the graduation ceremony. Knowing that her daughter dropped out of high school three years ago and was able to complete her high-school education in a year at ALC.

"She was able to finish four years worth of work in a year, and she's a mother of two," Rathbone said. "I am so proud of her."

Cowart said she is looking forward to starting college at Haywood Community College in the fall to study cosmetology. She said none of it would have been possible without the support she got at ALC.

"I loved it here. It's the best opportunity anyone could have," she said.

MacKenzie Czerwonky attended ALC for a year after being at Tuscola High School for three years. She enjoyed ALC because the teachers and curriculum allowed her to move at her own pace instead of dealing with constant and overwhelming pressure.

"I was able to work while going to school and I had more free time to spend with my family," she said.

She plans to attend Eastern Tennessee State University to major in biology.

Now that he has his diploma, Kyle Messer can focus more on working full time. He recently got a job at ConMet in Canton and looks forward to growing with the manufacturing company. Attending ALC made it easier to go to school and have a job.

"I loved the close knit community feel of ALC," he said. "And being able to have someone to help you instead of just trying to get you out of the way."

When asked what it meant to him to have his diploma, Eric Messer said, "Everything." He plans to go into the U.S. Navy after graduation.

Nancy Hester, vice president of TE21, a software company that works closely with ALC, gave the commencement address at the graduation. She encouraged the students to have passion in their lives no matter what path they pursue.

"Don't take your eyes off your goals if there is an obstacle," Hester said. "You had a choice and you came here — that already says a lot about your character."

She also reminded the graduates that their failures wouldn't define them — how they respond to a failure is what will define them.

"The actions we take after we make a mistake is what matters," she said. "Your attitude will define you as a person so pick yourself back up."