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SALT LAKE COMMUNITY HIGH: GRADUATES AT `ALTERNATIVE' SCHOOL PERSISTED, ACHIEVED

There were no traditional caps and gowns this graduation night. Then again, Salt Lake Community High School is not a traditional high school either.

Among the nearly 250 students who graduated Wednesday night were adults who never finished high school the first time, teenage mothers trying to raise kids, immigrants who have struggled to learn English and kids who just didn't fit into traditional high school settings.They call it an alternative high school. But there is no alternative to the graduation diplomas they received - some after many years of personal struggle.

Like Paola Munoz, who came to the school three years ago as a 15-year-old expectant mother who was "very frightened and naive." She had struggled through adversities to graduate in 1989, but failed.

"A few years ago, my goal was to show people that I could do it, that I could earn my high school diploma," she told her fellow 1990 graduates. "Now I am proving it to myself. This is what really counts. In our school, Salt Lake Community High, people have a choice: They can quit school or they can choose to go on. I chose to go on and today I am ready to move ahead."

Munoz's struggle to graduate is not unusual at Salt Lake Community High, where the theme for the 1990 commencement was "To persist is to achieve."

"Many of us have found obstacles placed in the way of our quest for an education that seemed impossible to overcome. But with persistence it can be achieved," said Tiffanie L. Thomas, also a graduation speaker.

"Sometimes there is no one there to encourage us on the steps we take to reach our goal. But with each step we take, even though it might seem small or even worthless, we receive knowledge and the experience to broaden our horizons and expand our dreams."

And the dreams of these graduates are no different than those of thousands of other graduates around the state.

"I am not done yet," said Patricia Marietta Maez. "I want to reach forward even more because I know that reaching forward will get me the fine things out of life, and knowing what lies ahead and wanting it is the fist step for you and me in reaching forward to get it."

Added Maez, "there are no best ways. Only alternatives."