Grads headed for distant locations

Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2000

Yvonne Harris will head to Ghana, Rory Fletcher to Moscow -- Idaho -- and Katrina Stone to Kodiak after graduating from Juneau-Douglas High School on Saturday afternoon. It's the annual scattering of the seeds of education.

Starting this summer, Harris, 18, will spend five months in Ghana doing community service, probably in an orphanage in Accra, a city of 3 million. After her return to Juneau from Africa, she expects to work with people with disabilities and then go to college.

``I see myself somewhere along the lines of a social service counselor,'' Harris said. ``I think I would do anything where I would be a benefit, helping people.''

Harris said her choice was influenced by people who have helped her and by Nancy Seamount's JDHS class on conflict, diversity and communication.

``I've lived a hard life,'' said Harris, who was in foster care for four years until she set out on her own this year. She now shares an apartment with a disabled woman she cares for.

 

Katrina Stone

``I needed a family to go to and I didn't have it, so I'd go to counselors to help,'' Harris said of her earlier years.

Harris, who played junior varsity and varsity basketball, said coaches Lucy Jones and Jim Hamey helped her. In Seamount's class, she gained more confidence, became a peer helper and has mediated students' disputes.

``Before (the class), I went in and people judged from the outside and not the inside. People didn't like me in a sense and they said that directly to me,'' Harris said. ``They changed their mind after that.''

Harris, who is part African-American and part Tlingit, said she's always wanted to go to Africa. ``I felt like there's a piece of my life missing.''

``It's a very, very trying experience,'' said Jane Ginter, the local volunteer representative for American Field Service, which sponsors student exchanges. ``The circumstances are very bleak in this orphanage.''

Harris has to pay for part of her expenses. Interested donors can contact Ginter at 586-6682, or ginter@ptialaska.net.

Rory Fletcher, 18, a cellist and athlete, is going to the University of Idaho this fall to study sports science. He plans to become a physical therapist, something he knows about from the receiving end. He broke his arm wrestling in seventh grade and underwent three months of therapy.

``I play soccer and I enjoy sports,'' Fletcher said. ``I personally have been through physical therapy and I like working with people. I don't like the idea of being in an office all day long.''

 

Yvonne Harris

Music also has been part of Fletcher's life. He's played cello since sixth grade and was in the JDHS Orchestra for four years.

``It's another enjoyment,'' he said. ``I just try to do things that are fun. Playing the cello, I guess it's an emotional release.''

``He's not a natural musician. He's just worked real hard for everything he's gotten,'' said orchestra director Julia Bastuscheck, who said Fletcher encouraged the other students.

Fletcher is one of the Phoenix program's last seniors. The alternative program -- which stressed academics, technology, self-motivation and project-based learning -- is ending this year because of low enrollment.

Fletcher said Phoenix prepared him for college and jobs. In the work world, you don't choose who you'll work with, he said. And in Phoenix projects with other students, ``whether you like them or not, you have to live with them. And you end up liking them.''

Phoenix students learned how to organize their time and speak in public. He counts the community projects among his most significant high school experiences.

``I've been involved with more things than I can even remember,'' he said.

This year he and other Phoenix students modernized Shakespeare's ``The Tempest'' and performed it in several elementary classrooms.

Phoenix students expected their education to be relevant, Fletcher said. In math class, the first thing students would ask is, ``When are we going to use it,'' and they'd expect a reasonable answer, he said.

For Katrina Stone, 17, Juneau-Douglas High School has been an opportunity to get her degree on time, something she didn't expect.

``For it to finally happen this year is kind of shocking,'' she said.

Stone, who grew up in Chiniak on Kodiak Island, said she didn't do well in her freshman year in Kodiak and had to repeat it, losing her self-confidence. She had a baby and put it up for adoption.

She then enrolled in Kodiak's alternative program until this school year, when she came to Juneau, stayed with a family friend and entered Yaakoosge Daakahidi, the alternative high school here.

``It's smaller,'' Stone said of Yaakoosge compared to regular high schools. ``There's more one-on-one work with the students and teachers. It's more flexible with how you can earn credits. You're a lot closer to your peers and your teachers than in a regular high school setting.''

Stone said students find support in a family-like setting where teachers take account of students' personal lives, such as being young parents, and work to keep students in school.

``I'd like to see more funding for (alternative high schools). I'd like to see more support for them,'' she said. ``I wouldn't know where I'd be without them.''

Stone plans to return to Kodiak for now and eventually study acting. Why acting?

``I'm a very moody person. I like being an actor because you can be a variety of characters,'' Stone said.

For now, she'll be Katrina Stone, high school graduate.



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