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June 19, 2013

Niles grads move on

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Niles Community High School seniors, from left, Andrew Cummings and Antonio Wilson go airborne to celebrate their graduation at commencement ceremonies June 12 held at Troy High School.

Cody Kearse struggled in school, especially in ninth to 11th grade.

“I failed one-third of my classes,” he said. Kearse turned to Niles Community High School because it gave him an option to graduate, which he did in 2002.

Since then, he’s earned a bachelor’s degree with a psychology major from Oakland University and his master’s in counseling, also from Oakland University.

He talked about his journey as the keynote speaker at the Niles commencement, which was held at Troy High June 12 for 53 graduates.

The students come to the alternative high school from other school districts and other counties for a number of reasons and most, if not all, of the students at Niles, arrive short on credits they need to graduate from high school.

Debra MacDonald, supervisor at Niles, said that 10 of the 2013 graduates were dual enrollment students at Niles and Oakland Community College, and nine graduates plan to enter the military this summer.

Through dual enrollment, students earn credits at Oakland Community College and high school credits at Niles. Students must have their high school instructor’s approval and good grades and attendance to be dually enrolled. Also, they must successfully complete a course in college note-taking.

MacDonald said that the Niles graduating class of 2013 earned $40,000 in scholarships, including two Chancellor Scholarships in which recipients are awarded two years of full-time course tuition at Oakland Community College.

Kearse has been back at Niles lecturing Patrick Dawood’s classes throughout the year.

“The keynote speakers are always Niles graduates,” MacDonald explained.

“The atmosphere was different than what I was used to,” Kearse said of the Niles environment. “The structure was a little more relaxed. The teachers spent time with you on things you were interested in.”

He was very interested in his science class and said he “bombed” his teacher with questions. His said his writing teachers taught him to express himself and to “put myself out there with fun, novel ideas.”

He said he got a lot of help and mentorship from MacDonald.

He started his college track at Oakland Community College and “got his grades up there.” Kearse now assists in medical trials in fibromyalgia research.

“I’ve found that since entering the workforce at the graduate level, that people want motivated people who pick things up fast,” he said.

He planned to tell the 2013 grads “education goes beyond finding a job and earning a living. Education can be intrinsically rewarding and fulfilling,” he said.  “Once that happens, jobs follow naturally.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.