Some people telecommute to work. The graduating class of IQ Academy have been telecommuting to school. But, more than half of the 171 seniors did have the chance to walk across the stage of Waukesha South High School, Sunday June 12, to accept their diplomas in front of family and friends who packed the auditorium.
It would have been terribly expensive for the student in Ghana to have flown in for the occasion. Others couldn’t travel to Waukesha either. Those who did come were not only from Waukesha and Milwaukee, but also from Appleton, Green Bay, Viroqua, Kenosha, and many other parts of Wisconsin.
Their studies have been under the supervision of the Waukesha School Board. Dana Monogue, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction made the formal declaration of graduation. The school even has a principle, Rick Nettesheim, who conducted the ceremony. Students generally are not sent to the principal’s office, except perhaps virtually. A student speaker made brief reference to the consequences of not getting assigned work done, so somehow, that still happens on line.
A few students at more conventional high schools still walk to classes every day, while many more catch a variety of buses, and not a few drive their own cars. There are ways to reduce the hundreds of thousands of gallons of imported oil this uses – one school bus line in Oconomowoc runs on hybrid motors, with batteries recharged by solar electric panels between the morning and afternoon runs. But logging in from home uses no gasoline at all.
Riley Cooper, a retiring teacher who was elected by his students to speak for the staff at the graduation program, said he looked around the assembled class of 2011 and thought to himself, “Who are you?” He was familiar with their email addresses, and names, their written (digital) classwork, but not their faces.
However, after the ceremony, students and families were engaged in the same cheerful hugs and group picture taking as any other high school graduates. How did they even recognize each other in person? Facebook. They had ways to keep in touch on line, and organize in-person group events now and then.
This means that leaving high school is not the sweet sorrow of parting, perhaps forever, that is often the downside of getting a diploma. The students of the IQ Academy Class of 2011 are still in just the same contact with each other that they have been during the past one or more school years.
Melissa Dembski-Sullivan, speaking for the graduates during the ceremony, said one of the moments of sadness or strangeness was removing the bookmark for the Illuminate web site from her computer. They’ve been using Illuminate to commute to school each day. And while they did not have snow days, she noted, they did have server days, when the web site was down.
The graduates of IQ academy are going in many directions. Some are seeking employment, some going into the military. Others have been accepted at a variety of schools, from UW Platteville to Moody Bible College to Brown University – where the current president is the daughter of Texas share croppers who told her MAYBE if she got a scholarship she could go to college.
Wherever they all commute to, the class of 2011 will feel like they are right next door to each other, perhaps for life. They can even arrange to meet in person when they feel like it.