Editor, Daily News
I am usually one to not complain. But, tonight's Ralph C. Mahar High School graduation was the utmost in disappointments.
In the graduating class there were 19 students that went over and above the call of education.
These students were Pathways Students who in tenth grade agreed to a strict and intensive program called the Pathways Program. In doing so they were able to achieve their high school diplomas at the same time as receiving their associate's degree from Mount Wachusett Community College. They gave up the chance of being the Top 10 in their class when they signed on. They were not told this when they signed up and only found out at their high school graduation that even though these students graduated with 4.0 averages and already earned their associate's degrees at 17 to 18 years old, their peers who did not agree to this program were awarded the Top 10 places at their high school graduation instead.
In other words, if these Pathways students had stayed in the regular everyday high school program, they would have been Mahar's Top 10 GPAs. Instead, they received NO acknowledgment whatsoever and in fact when I spoke with Ishmael Tabales, principal of Mahar, and the superintendent that represented the graduating students, Tari Thomas, after the graduating ceremony, they were surprised that they had "forgot" to acknowledge the Pathways students. They quickly "blamed the guidance department."
I also spoke with Sarah Storm, the counselor in charge of the Pathways Program. She said no one, to her knowledge was upset; she didn't even show remorse for the obvious mistake. In talking with the students and parents of the Pathways Program, I found that there IS outrage and only five of the students showed up for the graduation. So, 14 of the 19 did not come to the graduation because they were told they would not be acknowledged. They were even told they could not wear their hoods that they were awarded for their associates' degree they had earned a week before, by the staff, because they were inappropriate. Yet, all the staff that were wearing robes wore their hoods that they had earned for their efforts.
Every year since the Pathways Program began, the graduates at Mahar who went through the Pathways Program were acknowledged by the Mahar faculty. They were asked to stand and be recognized, that is, until this year. I say to Ralph C. Mahar, your grade for this graduation performance is an F. I happen to know that one of those students you overlooked has the been awarded the credentials to teach at the community college level. He was college faculty during the past year at Mount Wachusett Community College.
This is an outrage. Are we as a community really going to let this go by? How can we encourage our young students in this community to be anything more than a burger flipper if we do not let them know how proud we are of them? These students went home to serious disappointment. They did not get together to have a party, they all just left the graduation. The Pathaways students were all in the back rows waiting their turn to leave the staging area when the other students threw their caps. So they were even denied that simple part of high school graduation.
What Mahar implied tonight is that "if you achieve an AA degree at the same time as your high school degree, you should not get anything special or anything at all for your high school graduation." Not a gift, not a pin, not a "stand up and acknowledge you." Not a thing.
Next year, after this letter reaches all those who I have sent it to, the Pathways students will be recognized. That is good. But for those who graduated tonight, all I can say is a resounding SORRY to them; WE as a community let you down. We should all be sorry. For 19 Mahar High School students, graduation was ruined by Mahar faculty. Not for doing something wrong but for doing something right and remarkable! Shame, shame on Mahar. Those not acknowledged tonight were:
Ivan D. Abermagger;
Kathryn M. Becker;
Megan Rose Bibeau;
Jinny Rae Blaisdell;
Darren John Edward Blakely;
Alexa Grace Fournier-Barrette;
Grace Maria Hartin;
Jillian Holly Johnson;
Ingunn Eydal Jonsdottir;
Erin Brooke Leamy;
Ryain Calum Maclean;
Isabella Saundra Mertzic;
Carly Elizabeth Mongeau;
Theodore William Mulder;
Samantha Maria Peters;
Mallory Elaine Piragis;
Joshua David Poegel;
Hannah Isabelle Reese;
Andrew Alan Terry.
Congratulations on your remarkable achievements. You are all amazing students and outstanding young adults!