Seattle World School celebrated its first 13 high school graduates Tuesday, in an emotional and touching graduation ceremony that recognized each student.
“This is so beautiful,” said Cynthia Nkeze, ELL teacher. “When I look at them today I get so emotional. These are the moments you work for.”
Seattle World School is a school for new immigrants that Seattle Public Schools. The school provides continual bilingual support for immigrants from numerous countries as well as a feeling of home with friends who all share one important thing in common—being an immigrant. The high school program was added two years ago and is now demonstrating the fruits of its work.
Nino Chaboshvili, a 19-year-old graduating senior originally from Georgia, initially transferred to Garfield High School but returned to Seattle World School to finish high school.
“I didn’t feel the same way at Garfield High School—felt like nobody cared there,” she said. “At the SWS, everybody knows each other and are always there to help you. I am so proud and happy to be here today. I’m very excited for my future but very sad to say ‘goodbye.’”
“A lot of people didn’t believe this moment would happen,” principal Concie Pedroza said. “We faced problems together and everybody was in it. It all definitely paid off to see these students graduate.”
The ceremony was held in Campion Hall at Seattle University and was organized by the graduating class.
Each student had a chance to be the star of the show as they were all personally introduced by their teachers while photographs of their past and present were played in a loop on a giant screen. They also had the chance to thank all their loved ones and supporters who helped them cross that bridge.
The students presented a senior gift to the school that carries a lot of symbolism—a map of the world.
The graduates pinned their names to their home countries and they hope that future graduating classes keep adding to it to show the diversity of the families at the school.
Pedroza presented diplomas along with house administrator Irene Rodriguez, school board member Sherry Carr, and district superintendent Larry Nyland.
Seattle World School started 30 years ago as a transitional school to help incoming immigrant students adjust to school. Before Seattle Public Schools adopted the school’s current program several years ago, students used to stay up to three semesters and then they would be required to transfer to another school.
However, for many students, it wasn’t ideal. Some couldn’t gain enough English proficiency in that time while others would find a very hard time being accepted as an outsider.
Some Seattle World Students students have stories of hardship in the background. Some fled their home country because of a political turmoil, worked full-time jobs to support their families, and adapted to a new life here in the United States. These first 13 kids are proof that hard work and perseverance pay off.
The teachers and counselors worked hard to help the graduates receive a diploma. They worked extra hours with students who needed help with passing standardized tests, spoke with family members to convince them let a child graduate before diving into work, and encouraged students to strive for the heights.
The school has 175 kids in the high school program, and future graduating classes will get bigger. Pedroza said that the school’s goal now is to figure out a way to keep that personalized care that prepares them for the real world.
All 13 graduates said they have plans to continue their education at a local community college. Now, it will be up to them to keep going and become SWS’ legacy and inspiration for future students.
As an alumna of SWS— I attended when it was called Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center—I’m beyond excited to see this happening. The school is the right step forward for young immigrants for a chance at getting their education.
Having witnessed myself several students drop out of regular schools after being forced to leave, the SWS high school program gives kids like this a chance to aim high and get that much desired education.
Editor’s note: This story has been amended since publication. The original version of this story incorrectly stated which grade levels attend Seattle World School.