ILWACO — Anthony Andreotti had no doubts the Ocean Beach Alternative School was the best choice.

He moved to Washington with his father with too few credits on his transcript and a recruitment deadline to meet.

“I have always wanted to be in the military. I thought about the Marines, but the Army allows me to pick my specialty,” he said.

Thirty days from now he will shave off his beard then report for basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., destined to be an infantryman.

“I feel like Alternative School is such a better path for people who want to get things done quicker,” he said. “They allow you to get done what you want to be done, if you are willing to do the work. Sometimes I was up until 2 in the morning doing school work — but it was all worth it.”

National Honor Society member Phoenix Cavasos and students Dayna West and Mariah Wade joined him at Hilltop Auditorium in Ilwaco on Friday night for an informal ceremony attended by Ocean Beach School Board members.

The entire Alternative School staff dressed in burgundy to express solidarity with the graduates in their gowns.

While their neighbors at Ilwaco High School are the Fishermen, the Alternative School logo is a pirate ship. Their motto is “We are small, but we are mighty.”

And appropriate to the different cadence of their academic walk, they processed into the auditorium to Edward Elgar’s traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” but once diplomas were in hand they departed to the AC/DC classic “Back in Black.”

Principal Amy Huntley commended them all. “It has been an inspiration working with you this year,” she said, through somewhat misty eyes, a condition reflected by the graduates. “This group is a group of individuals each on their own path, rather than one class.”

Always an English teacher, Huntley drew inspiration from the Shel Silverstein children’s poem “Listen to the Mustn’ts” which contains the line, “Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Drawing on lines from the poem, she said the Alternative Class of 2019 had defied the “don’ts,” “shouldn’ts,” “won’ts” and “the impossibles.”

“The Alternative School is a place where anything can happen,” she said, telling the story of each of the students’ perseverance. She concluded that these graduates had all shown that the “traditional path is not the only path.”

Huntley, who becomes district superintendent next month, will continue at the helm of the Alternative School in the coming year.

Andreotti, Cavasos, West and Wade took their turn in the spotlight, receiving their diplomas from board member Mike Robinson and hugs from the staff, including teacher Karyn Veland, para-educator Lianne Loo and the district’s family resource coordinator, Elly Rosaire.

Matthew Shirley, the AmeriCorps staffer who shares the school building and assists with their education, was among those on hand to applaud their success.

Departing interim Superintendent Scott Fenter commended the graduates and officially proclaimed that they had met the requirements to graduate in Washington. Four others who did not attend, Cameron Odell, Ashley Hampton, Casey Muir and Nathan Rankin were included in that proclamation.

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