Creekside Community High School held its second graduation ceremony since opening on June 11, when 63 students, many of whom were at one point written off after struggling at traditional schools, received their diplomas.
The school employs a hybrid model of education, offering both in-person and online courses for high school students that are unable to thrive in the larger traditional high schools of the Tigard-Tualatin School District. Class sizes are kept small and a diverse range of teaching models are employed in an effort to engage students and create a sense of community that is difficult to replicate in larger schools.
“I wouldn’t say Creekside has rules – it’s more like values,” said graduate speaker Isabelle Anlauf. “Creekside doesn’t focus on one agenda, but the biggest thing is probably to make sure that students feel heard. And working with them on a person-to-person level.”
As Principal Russ Romas told the assembled graduates and their families on the playing field at Durham Elementary School, which sits just behind the Creekside building, “we are strongest together.”
“Let it be said, let it be known, that nothing could keep me down,” Romas said, reciting from a poem. “Not politics, not hate, not the fight for justice and peace, not even the end of the world as we knew it. You got through it. Coming through again, and again, and again.”
That feeling of family came through on the graduation stage, as each staff member stepped up to take a turn introducing graduates, sharing hugs and offering anecdotes and compliments for each one.
“This school felt like a second family, and then COVID hit,” said speaker Sadie Wilkins. “I think I can speak for most of us, that this past year has been one big roller coaster. In the beginning I thought, okay, this is only a two-week break from school, sweet. Then those two weeks turned into the rest of our junior year. And then almost our entire senior year got taken away from us.”
Amber Fields, the school district’s Director of Secondary Education and College & Career, also spoke, and praised the staff for the family atmosphere they instill at the school.
“As I watched the weather today, I couldn’t help but smile,” Fields said. “It was just so fitting. To me Creekside is the place, where, even if it’s just for the time we’re on campus, or in a class, the rain … it pauses. But the love of this incredible staff and Russ, is like sunshine.”