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A Triumphant Dragon Highlights the 2013 Valley High School Graduating Class

June 17, 2013

Valley High School Commencement 2013 6One of the inherent joys of supporting this blog is the opportunity to both tell compelling stories and to meet extraordinary people. This again was the case as attended the 2013 graduation ceremony at Valley High School last Wednesday. On a sunlit and slightly breezy evening, 35 graduates were in attendance to receive their diplomas. The majority of them were Valley High School students and the others were students from Quest Independent Study or Adult Education. As previously stated, Valley High is the continuation high school for the Dublin Unified School District. This school site serves as an excellent alternative to the comprehensive setting at Dublin High. As the learning environment is much more intimate, it also provides opportunities for more one to one learning opportunities and guidance.

We approached Principal Rinda Bartley to gain her insights into this year’s graduating class. As you have been the Principal at Valley High School for a number of years, how would you characterize these seniors?

Valley High School Principal Rinda BartleyRinda Bartley: “The class is playful, kind and very close. We have had a large number of them enrolled with us since their sophomore year and it’s going to be very different not to have them here. There is a lot of talent and skill there that they are still in the midst of discovering. We are thrilled to see them graduate and step up to their next challenges and opportunities – but we will miss them.” We were fortunate to report on Challenge Day earlier this spring. Were there other events that stood out this year at Valley?

Bartley: “We sent students to assist with the Special Olympics events at Dublin High earlier in the year. They really enjoyed lending a hand and talking with the special Olympians as they participated in the events. In the last couple of weeks, the seniors have participated in a morning-long panel by several members of Dublin agencies and city government – which included the City Manager, Police and Fire chiefs, engineers, the Recreation Department and many more. This panel was focused on career opportunities in local government.”

As with any commencement ceremony, there were encouraging words and awards to bestow. DUSD Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke took to the podium and offered a very simple message. After briefly sharing his personal journey, he asked the graduates to take away three concepts. One, embrace and express gratitude to anyone that has helped them achieve their goals – be it family, friends, neighbors or a teacher. Two, always possess a “can-do” attitude. Many of these students have overcome a myriad of obstacles and yet they had made it across the finish line. Finally, be prepared to always ask yourself – what’s next? What will be my next goal on the ladder of success? The message was relevant as the awards presented spanned from Journalism to Perseverance and onto Integrity in Action. However, the highest available award is the Dragon Award. According to Principal Bartley, it means that the recipient exemplifies the spirit of the dragon – a benevolent dragon. This person has often shown great growth over his/her time at Valley and has risen to be a leader for the school. They also tend to have a strong moral compass and not only conduct themselves in ethical and caring ways, but will notice when something in the community is amiss and will speak up against injustice or harmful actions or words.

This description leads us to this year’s recipient of the Dragon Award – Ms. Georgia Richey. We sat down with Georgia on the last day of school to discuss the impact of receiving this honor and to reflect upon her last three years at Valley High School. Make no mistake, this has not been an easy road for her and her family. We thank Georgia for her candor and willingness to share her story.

Valley High School Dragon Award Recipient Georgia RicheyThough she was born in Walnut Creek, Ms. Richey has lived the entirety of her life in Dublin. Until recently, her family has lived on a sprawling property in the northeastern portion of town. It is about the closest to a rural setting in this vicinity – perhaps five miles away from the nearest storefront. She and her two siblings matriculated through the Dublin Unified School system. Georgia promoted up through Dougherty Elementary and then Fallon Middle School. However, upon her arrival at Dublin High, a series of events seemed to derail her. The environment at the comprehensive high school was clearly not a “fit” for her. Her interest in school began to fade and her anxiety about being on campus increased. It ultimately led to her to simply not attending school at all. The family agreed to have her enroll in the California Virtual Academy. It turned out to be less than sufficient and it also lacked the element of inter-personal contact. To compound matters, Georgia was the victim of a completely freak accident at Emerald Glen park. An unsecured tree branch struck her and caused a rotator cuff injury. Additionally, another impact of the incident affected the vision in her right eye. What should not be lost in all of this was the passing of her grandmother – her closest friend and confidante. Her world was closing upon her and staying at home seemed to be the safest option. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end here.

After she rehabilitated from her injuries, she turned to an old friend – one that she had established years ago through her church. Seth Frazier had differing, but related motives for pursuing his diploma at Valley High – and he was thriving. Armed with this reference, Georgia begged her family to allow her to enroll at VHS. While her parents initially resisted, they ultimately relented. This was to be her sophomore year in high school. While she may have been a bit nervous on her first day, all of that apprehension quickly evaporated. For the first time, she felt that people were looking out for her. She quickly gained lunch partners, phone numbers were exchanged and her nervousness turned into excitement.

Ms. Richie began to thrive in this new environment. While it was far from perfect, she began to understand how to navigate her studies and interpersonal relationships. We offered these questions to her. Receipt of the Dragon Award is highest available to a graduating senior. One of the primary tenets is to exemplify leadership. Do you consider yourself a leader?

Georgia Richey: “Well, I’ve always tried my best. When Ms. Sbranti was out on medical leave, it left a void for our leadership class. When the substitute teacher stepped in, I wanted her to feel welcome and to keep all of the students motivated. I understand how it feels to be the new person. So, because I stepped up, I do feel like I was being a role model.” Your journey has been a long one and perhaps not the easiest. What would you like to say to your teachers and your fellow students? And what is your next step?

Richey: “I would just want to thank everyone for all that they have done for me. Valley High is my second home – and it is also my FAMILY. We’ll always stand behind and by each other. My next step? On September 9, I will be enrolling at Carrington College in San Leandro. Looking back at your lowest point, did the diploma mean that much to you?

Richey: “At the time, I thought why did I need a piece of paper with someone else’s signature on it? Where did I belong? What helped to carry me through was a passage from Anne Frank’s: The Diary of a Young Girl.

“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world!” would like to thank Georgia Richey for the courage to share her story. There are countless stories at Valley High that mirror this experience. We celebrate the students and staff at VHS for another successful year in guiding these young people across this finish line. So Georgia, the Dragon has mystical and spiritual powers. We ask you now: What’s next?

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