Edmonds Heights K-12 graduates 45 in festive Friday ceremony

The reception on the plaza following graduation was marked with balloons, photos, handshakes and hugs.

“We’re not your average school,” remarked first-year Edmonds Heights K-12 principal Kathleen Hodges as an estimated 200 parents and graduates began filling the seats in the school gymnasium. “The big thing that distinguishes us is the vital role of families – at our school, it’s the parents who are the primary educators of their children. It requires some commitment, but the rewards are amazing. We’re graduating several seniors tonight who have been with us since kindergarten.”

Organized in 1996, Edmonds Heights K-12 specializes in parent-based alternative education. While faculty hold classes on campus covering a range of academic and other topics, Hodges stresses that the students don’t get all their learning in a classroom setting.

After the land acknowledgement by principal Kathleen Hodges, graduating senior and speaker Chayton Remie was joined by family members to present a Native American song in lieu of a traditional speech.

“Our faculty’s primary role is to work with parents as an advisor,” she explained. “Every family has a faculty advisor, and every teacher here is an advisor. Together with the student they work out a written student learning plan (WSLP) that maps out the overall goals and how they will work together to achieve them.”

This was very much in evidence at Friday night’s graduation ceremonies, where diplomas were presented not by school officials, but by the graduates’ parents. And in keeping with the self-directed nature of learning at Edmonds Heights, Friday’s student speakers were not selected by faculty. Rather, students who wish to speak can “self-select” and volunteer as a graduation speaker. This year’s speakers were Gryffon Matthews, Jayla Judd, Chayton Remie and Zeb Schultz. View the full program and graduate names here.

Graduate and speaker Gryffon Matthews spoke of his personal journey, the challenges he faced, and the supportive role of EH and parents in bringing him here today. “EH is real reason I’m standing here today,” he remarked. “This community has supported me through my worst times, never failed to offer me a hand up time and again.”
Graduate and speaker Jayla Judd has attended Edmonds Heights since kindergarten. “At EH I found a love of performance, science, the library, math and writing,” she said. “None of this would have been possible without the people – my mom and dad, my brother and sister, the friends I’ve made along the way, and the amazing EH staff.”
Graduate and speaker Zebedee (Zeb) Schultz spoke of the school as a safe and nurturing place to experiment with who you are, learn, and grow. “Students are breaking norms here – wearing what they like, experimenting with style, trying out new names, using variety of pronouns – everyone’s self-expression is valued here,” he said.

Graduating seniors filed in to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, taking their seats to be welcomed by Hodges, listen to the student speakers and view a special commemorative video profiling each graduate in music and photos.

In her remarks as principal, Kathleen Hodges stressed again that Edmonds Heights is a family partnership, and asked that all the parents of graduates stand and be acknowledged for the vital role they play.

“This was my first year in the world of alternative learning, and one big thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know what I don’t know,” she explained. “This has kept me humble and curious as I joined this dynamic community that fosters independent thinkers who are poised to live authentic lives, test boundaries and seek truth. I am truly in awe of these graduates.”

There were many touching moments as parents met their graduates on the podium to present diplomas.

Following her remarks, students and parents lined up for the presentation of diplomas. Student stepped up to podium in the left, parents on the right, meeting in the middle amid handshakes, hugs and not a few tears evidencing and acknowledging the teamwork, love and dedication that brought them to this moment.

Graduate Yafate Yared honored his parents with a bow acknowledging his deep appreciation for their love and support.
Graduate Yafate Yared with his parents.

The ceremonies ended with the traditional switching of tassels signifying the reality of graduation, and the exuberant tossing of a sea of mortarboards into the air.

The tassels are moved, marking the official transition from student to graduate.
Mortarboards fly.

The ceremony was live-streamed and you can watch the video recording of it here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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