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Townsend Community School graduates 91 students

Alissa Widman Neese • Jun 8, 2015 at 5:44 PM


At most graduation ceremonies, school officials demand silence while they rattle off a long list of graduates.

But on Tuesday, at the State Theatre, each high school senior who walked across the stage was showered with thunderous applause, whistling and enthusiastic cheers.

Many never thought they'd reach this day.

The occasion, therefore, called for a massive celebration.

Click HERE for more photos from the graduation

"Before you got to this stage, your light may have been dim," said Therome James, a retired educator and the event's keynote speaker. "I want you to understand that the time has come for you now to let your light shine. I challenge you to use your gifts and talents to turn up your light and make a difference in this world."

On cue, the lights dimmed and a glistening disco ball dropped from the ceiling, illuminating the room as the popular song "Turn Down For What" boomed from the speakers.

Townsend Community School, the only school of its kind in north-central Ohio, honored this year's 91 graduates at its third-ever graduation ceremony.

The institution is a year-round charter school Margaretta Schools sponsors. 

Since 2011, it has distributed high school diplomas to nearly 200 students once considered at risk of not graduating.

Townsend Community School students complete work independently, allowing for flexible scheduling and a blend of online and classroom coursework. 

Because of its nontraditional nature, its graduation ceremonies usually contain at least one atypical twist, as well as the common graduation rituals.

During Tuesday's event, graduates Levi Dorobek and Ashley Kieffer read "Always Be a Student" by Joanna Fuchs and "I Wish You Enough," by Bob Perks, respectively.

Breanna Reese, one of the first 27 students to enroll in Townsend Community School three years ago, also spoke at the event, thanking her family, friends and school staff for encouraging her to achieve her dreams.

Other speakers included Pete Bartkowiak, the school's director, and Ed Kurt, Margaretta Schools superintendent.

After the event, Kieffer, of Bettsville, and graduate Benjamin Carpenter, of Castalia, said they're excited to move forward with their future plans.

Kieffer will attend Terra State Community College, while Carpenter said he plans to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

"Everyone at (Townsend Community School) is helpful, and they push you to do your best," he said. "I'm so ready and excited to start the next chapter of my life."

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