Students graduating from Independence High School on Thursday afternoon were met by the uproarious sound of cheers as they strode through the Charlene Powers Lange Theatre at Hutchins Street Square.
Independence High provides an alternative curriculum and instruction through independent study. Students can also graduate by their junior year because the school allows students to take up to 80 units a school year instead of 60 — which is standard at most high schools.
This year Independence had five juniors amongst its 54 graduates. Attia Ishaq, this year’s class speaker, was one of the juniors that graduated early.
“I am so grateful for the past years at this school, and I look forward to what the future holds for all of us,” Ishaq said. “As we move on next year, we will all choose our own paths. Challenges will come our way, but stay true to your heart and hold your head high.”
Following Ishaq’s speech, Principal Dominee Muller-Kimball awarded the honor students with their medals and recognized Salutatorian Sarah Keller and Valedictorian Umm-E-Salma Zaman.
Keller had enrolled at Independence at the beginning of her junior year.
“At Independence education is taken upon by the individual and encourages critical thinking. As a student who preferred a more centric learning this school was perfect for me,” Keller said.
Keller recognized teachers Brad Braden and Stacey Salisbury for helping fuel her creativity and giving her an outlet to practice her public speaking.
Keller, who hopes to become an English teacher, was inspired by the world around her. She has found unwavering support from teachers helpful in her decision-making process.
“We all have this, ‘I want to save the world attitude’ in us, we must remember to save ourselves, we are the designers of our own lives,” Keller said.
Keller explained that her experiences at Independence have helped mold her into the person she wants to become.
The sentiment of navigating life, and forging your own path, was expressed in Zaman’s speech. She took a moment to remind her fellow students to always appreciate themselves, to help them through the difficult times.
“We take too much time trying to find someone to appreciate us, sometimes never finding those people, and forgetting to appreciate ourselves,” Zaman said.
Zaman touched on how busy life can get for each student, and recognized how each student has their own hurdles they must overcome and that attending Independence for some was that hurdle.
“I am here to tell you those long nights spent awake finishing the units were worth it because we are sitting here today graduating,” Zaman said. “We are one step closer to getting out, and pursuing something better until better is our best,”
Zaman’s words on the pursuit of excellence foreshadowed the level of greatness that many students have achieved at Independence.
During the scholarship portion of the ceremony student Hallelujah Faulkner received a $29,800 Provost Scholarship from Grand Canyon University, which drew many gasps from the crowd.
“We really love our students, and their success is always our success. We are so proud of all our students and the scholarships they received,” Muller-Kimball said.
Before handing students their diplomas, Muller-Kimball encouraged students to ask for help when they need it and to seek advice when they are struggling.
“I use Siri for everything, and it helps me that I can talk into my phone and get directions, or call someone. I want you all to look at us or the other teachers as Siri. We are always here to help you and guide you and give direction when you need it,” Muller-Kimball said.