It’s on to new experiences for Southside 8

Published 3:32 pm Saturday, May 29, 2004

By By JIM COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- After putting in years of work, eight Southside students have now graduated and are better prepared to face life beyond school.
On Friday afternoon, family, friends and staff gathered in the school's gymnasium for a commencement ceremony to wish them the best in their future endeavors.
Southside School, a special education facility that serves fourth grade students through 25-year-old adults, uses a pre-vocational program that prepares its students for self-supported living. Some of the important life lessons include job training and how to work with a personal budget.
Southside principal Bill Kennedy said most of the school's graduates go on to seek employment, enroll in community college or enlist in the military.
And because all of the students have different needs, many of them stay at the school for extended periods of time.
Niles Community Schools Superintendent Doug Law, who was on hand to watch the students graduate at Friday's ceremony, agreed this is always a special day because of the length of time that most of the students have put into the school.
One of the highlights of the commencement was a slideshow that tracked each student's journey into adulthood. The audience saw their progression from babies through the elementary and high school years. The presentation finished up with a triumphant picture of the graduates in their cap and gowns.
Each of the graduates then came up to the podium to share memories of their time at Southside. The students spoke about their teachers, classes, friends, favorite subjects and their future plans.
Michael Johnson, Jr. offered up some encouraging advice to the other Southside students in attendance.
Brandon Sisk, who plans to go to Southwestern Michigan College to obtain an associate's degree in computer technology, was happy that graduation had finally arrived.
Southside teacher Clint Shamo was very proud of the Class of 2004 and said they have a lot to look forward to. "They have worked very hard to get to this day," he said.
Lois Johnson, mother of Michael Johnson, Jr., said she was relieved that graduation day had finally arrived and thinks Southside prepared her son for a bright future.
The Southside School Class of 2004 is: Antoria Bass, Becky Albertson, Michael Johnson, Jr., David Jones, Clyde Towns, Jr., Craig Trautman, Brandon Sisk and Frank Rach.