‘I never thought I would get here’: On Track Academy honors Class of 2020 with a photo and a message

SPOKANE, Wash. — High schools across the nation are honoring their seniors. Tuesday morning, staff at On Track Academy spent hours making sure its students feel special by hanging photos with a meaningful message.

“It didn’t close the way it was supposed to close,” said student Hayzlene Smith of her senior year. “It was supposed to close, chapter end, in a certain way that all the other seniors get but I guess we got something different.”

Something different ended up with her photo and 259 other student’s photos on the fence at their school — honoring them and their accomplishment of finishing one chapter of their lives and moving onto the next.

“I’m excited. Finally moving on and growing up,” said Jacob Quimby, who will be going to Spokane Community College in the fall.

Some students at On Track Academy moved on from a past that was hard to overcome. Some couldn’t go through traditional high school, struggling to keep up with the pace.

“Many of our kids, as gritty as they are and as determined as they are, the system just wasn’t supporting them.  They really felt like they were kind of at their wits end. A lot of kids tell me ‘Well, I was just going to drop out,'” explained Lisa Mattson-Coleman, the principal of On Track Academy.

Senior Ashley Henegar was one who struggled through traditional high school. Now, she hopes to go to the Spokane Community College for its pastry arts program.

“It’s kind of unreal, because I never thought I would get here,” she told 4 News Now.

“Regular school was not my thing. Being here was like a lot more freedom and able to be at my own pace. It was just really nice and everyone here is like family,” Quimby said.

All three students 4 News Now talked to said they enjoyed their teachers at On Track Academy, who helped them pave the way to their future.

“I got through with the best teachers I ever had,” Smith said. She was originally going to take a gap year, but decided to go to the Spokane Falls Community College come fall.

In the past, the photos hanging on the fence would have been in a slideshow in a regular graduation ceremony. Whether that will happen or not is still uncertain.

“They’ve been working so hard, so hard, to get here and so we have to do something to honor that,” Mattson-Coleman said.

On that chalkboard held in the photo, students wrote where they’ll go next. Some will be going to work, college or are joining the military; others aren’t sure yet of where they will go next, but they all still have a goal.

Mattson-Coleman says they have a plan in the works for their students’ graduation. Spokane Public Schools says it is hoping to have an update later in the week about the ceremonies.

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