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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF Graduates toss their caps Saturday during commencement for the inaugural graduating class of Don Tyson School of Innovation held at Springdale High School's Walker Theater. The graduating class of 117 included five students who also earned an associate's degree from Northwest Arkansas Community College.

SPRINGDALE -- The seniors at Don Tyson School of Innovation made history Saturday when they became the school's first graduating class.

The Class of 2019 accepted their diplomas at a ceremony at Springdale High School's Pat Walker Theater, with all 117 students of the class graduating.

"I am very proud of the courage and ambition shown by these students and the commitment of their moms and dads, as well as the DTSOI staff," said Jim Rollins, Springdale School District superintendent. "This is a great step forward and confirms our district's personalization of learning for all of our students."

The achievements of the students aren't limited to graduation, said ceremony keynote speaker Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who chose Tyson School of Innovation to be the only high school graduation ceremony he spoke at this school year.

"The state of Arkansas is proud of your achievements and the difference you have made," Hutchinson said, noting the graduates collectively received $2.8 million in scholarships, earned 976 total college credit hours, volunteered about 6,500 service hours and earned five associate degrees from Northwest Arkansas Community College.

Cesar Moradel, 18, of Springdale was one of the first students to attend the school when it began with just an eighth grade at The Jones Center for the 2014-15 school year. He was also one of the five graduates who received his associate degree May 11 through NWACC.

"They have established a high standard of what future students can truly achieve while in high school," said Kellie Reynolds, NWACC High School Relations, in an email. "These students have worked really hard to achieve this goal they set for themselves in the ninth grade."

Moradel said he would never have experienced such success in school had he not made the decision to attend the Tyson School of Innovation.

"If I didn't make that decision, I wouldn't have the opportunities I have today," he said, explaining he'll be attending the University of Arkansas to study business and marketing.

Moradel isn't the only graduate who knows what his next steps are, though, as Assistant Principal Kelly Boortz said every graduating senior has been placed on a path following graduation. Some of the pursuits students chose include attending college, beginning jobs, going to trade school, joining the military or starting internships.

"The opportunities are offered through this school, but without community partners, some of these dreams wouldn't become a reality," Boortz said, to include students graduating with associates degrees and no college debt.

Community partnerships are an integral part of the school's and the students' success, Boortz said. While a relationship with NWACC helped students get degrees, a scholarship program through the Arconic Foundation has ensured the students only had to pay for their books to attend college.

"It's just so exciting," Boortz said. "These students really embarked on a journey, a lot of them starting school in eighth grade with Don Tyson School of Innovation at The Jones Center."

There's still more success and change to come to the school, though, as Rollins said the next expansion of the school is planned to open in 2020.

He said the school has about 1,100 sixth- through 12th-graders enrolled but will have the capacity to serve 2,000 students.

Rollins said the success of its students speaks to a singular truth.

"There's never been another one, not one, which says to me that our district, our region, our state, our country is hungry for a new delivery system that better connects every learner to the learning," Rollins said of the school and its teaching model.

"That's Springdale for you," he said. "That's what we do."

Flexibility, focus

The students that will be successful in the Don Tyson School of Innovation are those who want or need flexibility and focus in their learning.

Characteristics of Successful School of Innovation Students

Self motivated — Students who can direct their own learning environment, fulfill course requirements and achieve individual academic success.

Independent learner — The online environment enables students to learn at their own pace, whether its traditional, extended or accelerated, relieving the stress of feeling rushed or pressured and providing enjoyment in the learning process.

• Computer literate — Although it’s not necessary to have advanced computer skills, students should possess a working knowledge of e-mail, the Internet and basic keyboarding skills.

• Time management — Students must be able to organize and plan their own best “time to learn”. There’s no one best time for everyone, but the key to learning is committing to having the time to learn.

• Effective writing skills — Students must use e-mail to communicate with their peers, as well as their instructors. The ability to write clearly in order to communicate ideas and assignments is very important to student success, as well as a means to inform instructors of any concerns or problems.

• Personal commitment — Since there are no bells that begin and end classes, students must have a strong desire to learn and achieve knowledge and skills via online courses. Making a commitment to learn in this manner is a very personal decision and requires a strong commitment to participate in order to achieve academic success.

• Seek help when needed — Often students give up when faced with an assignment or activity they’re struggling with. It’s essential that students develop a habit of seeking help when stuck with a difficult task.

• Take responsibility for one’s own education — Too often, education is something done to students and not something they are committed to. Taking responsibility for one’s own education requires a significant mind shift for some students but is especially important in an online environment.

• Balance school and personal life — An online education, like a traditional education, requires students to balance the many demands and responsibilities they have in their lives. This requires the student to plan for time needed to be a successful learner as well as time to be a healthy human being.

Call (479) 750-8780 for more information on the Don Tyson School of Innovation.

NW News on 05/19/2019

Print Headline: Springdale school graduates historic senior class

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