Rogers school celebrates first graduation

May 20, 2016
Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Hannah Katt told fellow graduates Thursday their experience at New Technology High School has prepared them to seek unique solutions to the world’s problems.

“We were not simply taught straight out of a textbook, so we approached things differently during our time at New Tech High,” Katt said. “I encourage you to take that aspect with you as you travel into adulthood, college and your future.”

It was standing room only at the John Q. Hammons Center as hundreds gathered to celebrate the school’s first graduation and watch 77 students receive their diplomas. Graduates wore maroon gowns with maroon and yellow tassels.

The School District opened New Technology High School in 2013, starting with freshmen and sophomores and adding a grade level each of the two following years.

The conversion charter school emphasizes a project-based learning approach to education. Students largely are in charge of their own education while teachers facilitate the process. Technology is integrated in the classroom.

Principal Lance Arbuckle called Thursday’s graduation a bittersweet moment because it marked the culmination of three years of work with the school’s class of 2016.

“You were that first class that accepted a challenge and helped us create the third high school in Rogers,” Arbuckle said.

Katt, one of three student speakers, read a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” It’s fine for people to take risks and fail, as long as they learn from their mistakes, Katt said.

Karina Garcia and August Patrick were the other two student speakers. Garcia recalled some specific memories from school, such as National Honor Society members duct taping Arbuckle to a wall. Patrick called her time at the school “unforgettable” and thanked fellow students for being part of the experience with her.

Janie Darr, the district’s superintendent, also noted the students’ courage to leave their traditional high schools and try something new.

“Your leap of faith shows you have a pioneer spirit and are not afraid to do something different,” Darr said. She quoted Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken and encouraged students not to lose their willingness to try an unusual path.

Darr also announced the school’s 77 graduates had earned a total of $1,057,800 in military, college and local scholarships. Two students — Hannah Vogel and Aaron Miller — graduated with distinguished honors, meaning they finished with at least a 4.0 grade point average and took at least four Advanced Placement courses.

The school’s senior class started sophomore year with 112 students. That dwindled largely because of students moving out of the district. The school doesn’t accept transfers in during students’ junior or senior years, Arbuckle said.

Fifty-three of the school’s graduates this year — about 69 percent — are heading to a two- or four-year college or university, according to Arbuckle. They include two students who will play sports at the collegiate level: Noah Madryga will play football at Luther College in Iowa, and Cole Cooper signed to play basketball at Central Baptist College in Conway.

New Technology High School doesn’t have an athletic program. Students who want to play sports play for either Rogers High or Heritage High school.

Other New Technology High graduates are headed for the University of Arkansas, University of Central Arkansas, University of Kansas and College of the Ozarks, Arbuckle said.