Crossroads students overcome obstacles to finish school
By LYNETTE SOWELL
When Michael Gresko walks across the stage at Lea Ledger Auditorium on Friday night, he will not only be receiving his high school diploma, but he will also be celebrating the accomplishment of not just one, but two certifications from Central Texas College.
Michael enrolled at Crossroads High School 2-1/2 years ago, and for him, it was “one more shot” to earn his diploma after staying out of school for three years after dropping out at age 16. He said he then tried a “military program” to get his GED, took the test, but failed by two points. “So I just gave up on it.”
But then, he decided to try one more time. “I figured that with no high school diploma, no GED, no nothing, I won’t be able to get anywhere in life. I won’t have a great future like I wanted when I was younger,” Michael said about his decision to go back to school. “I figured why not, give it another shot? I overcame a lot of problems. I thought that going back to school would be the best choice for me. It really was. I’m proud of myself.”
He said he sat down with principal James Irick and talked to him about trying to do dual credit work. Michael brought 13 core credits with him to Crossroads and had no electives completed.
“(Irick) talked to me about doing auto mechanics and going to CTC, and I agreed to it,” Michael said “So, it was him, my instructor Mr. Harry Byrd, and Dr. Burns…they all put this together for me and I’m appreciative of it.”
It was easy for him to say yes to the idea of studying auto mechanics at Central Texas College, since he said he’d always wanted to be a mechanic. Instead of being a “wanna-be mechanic,” Michael said he’d rather go to college to “get it done right.” He has completed his auto mechanic work and will also have his brake certification. After finishing half a semester more, he will then be able to sit and test for his ASE certification.
“I find that this school is much more convenient for me at the time,” Michael said about studying at Crossroads. “The teachers were willing to help me a lot more than other teachers were. They were really striving to help me, to help me accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.”
He said he found the smaller campus and atmosphere better for him.
I’m happy with myself; I’m proud of myself. I gained what I wanted to accomplish and I’m relieved,” Michael said.
For 19-year-old Selina Finkel, getting her high school diploma on Friday night is a big step toward breaking the cycle of poverty in her family.
Enrolled at Crossroads High School since January, Selina called her effort one more chance to make a positive change in her life. After living in South Carolina with her mother, Selina moved to Copperas Cove last year to live with her father and stepmother. She admits to trying to complete her GED requirements on her own, at the beginning of the school year. It didn’t work out.
After turmoil in her personal life and finding herself homeless shortly after enrolling at Crossroads, Selina has been living with a roommate, after bouncing from home to home. Dropping out again was never an option. Selina was even recognized with the ACE award from the Morning Exchange Club while at Crossroads.
Crossroads, she said, hasn’t been as hectic as attending a traditional high school.
“It’s relaxed, but you can still get the things done that you need to., having teachers here for you that are encouraging, saying ‘Here, get this done.’”
She said that Mandi Stai, who teaches history, and Paraprofessional Sheila Grantham, have been particularly encouraging for her. In the home stretch this week, Selina is completing her English IV and physics course work.
She decided to enroll in Crossroads because she didn’t want to enroll in school and return being behind for a full semester.
“I was thinking more of my future in nursing, than anything else, to break the cycle of poverty in my family,” she said. Her mother dropped out of school, as did her three older brothers, one of whom did complete his G.E.D.
Selina has applied to Central Texas College and would like to study nursing. She is also preparing to take the ASVAB exam in July to join the Texas Army National Guard.
Principal James Irick talked about his students in the class of 2017.
“This year’s class is very unique. I have some students who knew what they wanted when they came in and they didn’t stop. Selina, for example, had pretty much given up on school and decided to go back. Michael, the pretty much the same thing. We have several students in that same boat.”
Irick said two 20-year-old students, boyfriend and girlfriend, had both previously dropped out but are finishing together and walking on Friday night.
“I think the structure of our campus and the way things are designed gives our students the opp to come in and feel safe and feel that there is a team of cheerleaders behind them you tell us what your goal is, and we’ll be behind you to achieve that goal.”
He credits office Sharon Whitis with setting the tone for the campus.
“Sharon Whitis is the first face anyone sees when coming onto our campus. Sharon is very inviting and the entire time anybody is with us, she makes them feel like family, even the parents. That’s why our students want to come back after graduation and tell us what good things are going on with them.”
Crossroads High School Graduation is set for Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Lea Ledger Auditorium.