Pine Tree High School began a program a not many years ago that they have dubbed their ExCEL High School of Choice. The ExCEL stands for Excellence Compelling Extraordinary Learners – which is exactly what they do.

The program moves students along who are behind on credits or just want to get ahead on life outside of school and allows them to graduate much more rapidly. The program holds two graduations a year, one in January for their fall class and one in May right alongside the “typical” high school grads.

The mission statement for the program is that the, “goal and responsibility is to prepare our students with the knowledge and skills necessary to become responsible citizens in order to prepare them for a successful future in college, the market place or both.  We seek to provide a solid academic foundation so every student is successful.”

Recently, the fall 2015 class held their graduation with full pomp and circumstance, as six eager young people moved on to the next chapter of their lives.

These students include, Karla Maria Diaz, Victoria Lynn Dorse, Isaiah Martin Shane Hooten, Sequoyah NeKye Lister, Dylan Aaron Manley, and Montana Cole Mize.

The students were treated to a full ceremony, complete with a slide show of pictures and music depicting their growth both as people and as citizens.

The ceremony was kicked off with a welcome from Dr. T.J Farler who said that, “This is an exciting night, especially for us at Pine Tree. We are excited to look at these graduates here and know that Pine Tree ISD offers a personalized, individual, opportunity for every student.”

Dr. Farler continued, “We are very excited to see what you go on to do in the next chapter of your life. I want you to give a big thank you to everyone who helped you get to this place. I also want to say a special thank you to the faculty and staff of the ExCEL program for all of their hard work. It isn’t easy to be an educator today, but these people always find a way no matter what the challenge is and you (graduates) mean the world to each of them. We have the right people, helping you to achieve your goal.”

The ceremony went on with ExCEL staff members Caci Brinkley and Cheryl Cafton leading the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem respectively.

After that, Principal of the ExCEL High School of Choice, Tyrance “Duke” Barnett gave the keynote address to the graduates.

Barnett spoke on “splat” the point where you feel as if you hit a wall between yourself and success. “Success is just on the other side of “splat.” The story he shared that was read from the book “Monday Morning Mentoring” by David Cottrell. A guru is sitting alone on a rock when a man approaches him asking where to go to find success. The guru simply points into the distance, and the man eagerly runs towards where he pointed until he reaches a certain point, then “SPLAT” the man is knocked down. This happens again, and the man becomes frustrated, asking just to be told where to find success. The guru says, “Success is in that direction, it is just beyond the ‘splat.’”

Barnett went on to say of his students, “I am very proud of all of you, you have worked so very hard to get here. You have represented ExCEL High School of Choice in a positive manor. Even when you seemed to have the cards stacked against you – you rose to the challenges placed before you, you have changed and reshaped the image of our school by showing those who will come behind you the right way.”

The pride of the students and the teachers alike was shown as the graduates took their diplomas and received hugs, handshakes, and respect from the teachers and administrators in attendance. These six individuals now move on to the next phase of life – the next chapter – and with a successful beginning, success will follow.