Treehouse Youth Gets Graduation They Deserve

By Jesse Colman, Public Relations Specialist

With the average youth in foster care changing placements three times and losing up to six months of academic progress at each stop, graduating in four years isn’t always realistic. Regardless how long it takes to earn a diploma, everyone deserves to celebrate.

“All students are on their own individual journeys,” said Dr. Mathew Livingston, Director of Eastlake Learning Community at Lake Washington School District. “Our job as a school district is to support all students and families, no matter what that journey entails.”

With that in mind, the Lake Washington School District started a summer graduation ceremony last year.

“The deputy superintendent told me that even if we just have one student in attendance, we were going to have this graduation because that student deserves to be celebrated,” Livingston said.

This year, 11 graduates were in attendance, including Avrey, a student in Treehouse’s Graduation Success program.

“I didn’t think I’d ever graduate,” Avrey said. “When things were falling apart at home, school just got harder and harder. There was just always something bad going on in my life.”

Yet this summer, dressed in cap and gown, Avrey marched into a room filled with loved ones to the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

“The ceremony was intimate and beautiful,” Avrey said. “It was really special, for me and my family.”

At the end, each student was invited to speak to the audience.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Livingston said. “Hearing the stories of each student’s journey was very powerful. They’ve encountered hardships, but they didn’t quit. They kept their eye on graduation and they got help from somebody. I think there’s a lesson to be learned from that. For students to not quit and for the adults not to quit on the student.”

Avrey took the opportunity to thank her family, a supportive school counselor and her Treehouse education specialist, Jamie.

“I’ve had social workers come and go, most of which I wanted to see go,” Avrey said. “But not Jamie. Whatever she could do to help, she would do it. If it wasn’t for her and all these programs, I wouldn’t have graduated.”

Avrey is working with Jamie on securing financial aid so she can attend Seattle Central for winter quarter. Inspired by her own experiences, Avrey wants to become a social worker.

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About the Author

Jesse Colman is the Public Relations Specialist for Treehouse. He is passionate about building relationships, storytelling and community development.

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