By JENNIFER OSBORN
On June 4, Helix Charter High School proudly celebrated its 69th commencement, featuring more than 500 members of the class of 2020.
With strict guidelines from the state and the county of San Diego in place prohibiting a traditional graduation ceremony, the administrative team had to put a plan in place quickly to ensure these deserving students had a memorable experience for this milestone occasion. Prior to the big day, it was clear that students and their families were disappointed that they would not have a processional onto the football field with their family and friends in the stands, but would instead have a “drive-through” diploma pick up in the parking lot, with a pre-recorded ceremony airing later in the day. Both portions were streamed on the Helix YouTube channel so even family members out of town were able to watch.
Many students weren’t aware what was waiting for them. An hour before the ceremony, staff members dressed in caps and gowns began to fill the parking lot, each stationed at their cars (properly distanced, of course), some decorated with signs, balloons, and streamers. Students and their families lined up in their cars and drove into the parking lot, then drove up and down each aisle of the lot lined by staff members shouting their congratulations, clapping and cheering, and taking photos.
At a designated point, each student left their car and picked up their diploma cover. As they approached the stage set up for official graduation photos, their names were read over a loudspeaker. Parents/family had this to say following the ceremony:
“It was so great to be able to see all the teachers — much more persona. I think this should be the new Helix tradition, much better than fighting for seats in the hot sun. Loved it — good job Helix,” said Leah Laing
“I thought it was fantastic, so special for these seniors that have missed so much, wouldn’t mind doing it again in 2023 for my granddaughter,” said Karen Thada Decker.
“I have so much gratitude and thanks for the Helix staff and our GLT (Grade Level Team). It was amazing! I would love to see Randy walk down the middle of all the teachers in their cap and gowns. But I also know I didn’t have to sit for hours waiting in the stands. The teachers knocked it out of the park with their enthusiasm. My mom and I had tears,” said Stephanie Jones.
“It was truly amazing and everyone that helped and participated, please know that you made our seniors feel extra special and we appreciate it. It was so fun and beautiful,” said Shawna Jimenez.
Helix wishes the class of 2020 a sincere congratulations and best wishes for their futures!
2020-2021 school year
While there is much uncertainty surrounding plans for the 2020-21 school year, the Helix team is working diligently to ensure the school is prepared for whatever situation presents itself in August.
Multiple schedules and approaches have been drafted, including a plan for a structured distance-learning-only plan, a hybrid plan that involves students doing mostly distance learning with some on campus activity, and a hybrid plan that involves students doing mostly on-campus learning with some distance learning included. It is far too soon to speculate which plan is most likely, but school officials will continue to inform stakeholders as more information becomes available.
With distance learning being a likely component of the upcoming school year, Helix has scheduled teacher training during the summer. The training will be done through the Leading Edge Certification/Flex program and will provide K-12 distance learning certification for the entire staff. This will ensure they will be well-prepared to give high-quality education to students, regardless of how they are teaching it.
Speech and debate championships
Junior Lucas Osborn was a national finalist in Student Congress in the Senate at the 2020 National Speech and Debate Association’s National Championships, finishing in the top 10 in the country. Almost 200 students qualified from their local areas to compete in the Senate. This is Helix’s first national finalist under coach Gregg Osborn.
Four additional members of the Helix Speech and Debate Team qualified to compete, as well. Jackie Hammack (12th) competed in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and Extemporaneous Debate, and finished tied for 22nd in Extemporaneous Debate; John Garcia (12th) competed in World Schools debate; Owen Dahlkamp (10th) competed in Dramatic Interpretation; and Stone Eastman (11th) competed in Humorous Interpretation.
The tournament was scheduled to take place in Albuquerque, but was ultimately held virtually. Thousands of students from all over the country participated in various events at the tournament.
Grammy Music Educator Award
Helix Vocal Music Director Michelle Tolvo-Chan is a quarterfinalist for the 2021 Music Educator award, presented by the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum. Nearly 2,000 nominations were submitted for the award, and 216 music teachers from 199 cities have been announced as quarterfinalists.
The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators (kindergarten through college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. The recipient will be recognized during Grammy Week 2021.
Students from Helix’s Architecture, Construction and Engineering Club (ACE) were recognized recently by the ACE Mentor Program of America. ACE is a national program that pairs mentors with schools to help students explore careers in design and construction. Thirteen Helix students were awarded with a total of $18,000 in college scholarship money. Congratulations to all of the students, and to advisor Jennifer Bullock.
$1,000 winners: Andrew Ayap, Bryan Quezada, Christan Reel, Isaac Reveles, Jose Romero, Ryan Trainor, Ruben Vaca
$1,500 winners: Uriel Lopez, Fernando Pluma, Miguel Talamantez
$2,000 winners: Olivia Havluciyan, Nick Smith
$2,500 Winner: Alex Chau
— Jennifer Osborn writes on behalf of Helix Charter High School.