High school graduation is one of the greatest achievements especially for the students at Fresno EOC School of Unlimited Learning (SOUL). Since COVID-19, students at SOUL have moved learning to their homes. However, graduating senior, Cassie Grabiola is finishing a year early, leaving with her fond memories of SOUL and ready to begin college.
“We are a big family at SOUL,” Grabiola said. “It’s not like a regular high school. We all love each other and know the teachers want us to succeed.”
While a student, she was involved in extracurricular activities such as, sports, SOUL’s Interact Club and Band, all while keeping perfect attendance and holding over a 3.0 grade point average. Grabiola also completed 121 hours of volunteer hours and received a scholarship in music class where she received a guitar, the donated musical instrument from the Cultural Arts Rotary Club of Fresno (CARC).
“Both my brother and sister also went to SOUL and it really helped them,” Grabiola said. “Then now I see them being successful and I’m glad I’m graduating from SOUL.”
Her hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by staff. Even though she’s only 16-years-old, staff know she’s ready to graduate. “We realized at the beginning of this school year she had enough credits and it didn’t make sense to slow her down,” said Rena Failla, SOUL Guidance Coordinator. “We felt because she is a go-getter and doesn’t give up, it seemed like a natural fit to do set some early goals to graduate.”
Failla works with students to ensure they are on track and get the credits they need to graduate. She also worked with Grabiola as her mentor at SOUL, encouraging her to finish and stay motivated.
Now due to COVID-19 Grabiola helps take care of her younger siblings during the day while her mom goes to work. In the afternoon she works on her school work and plays soccer. She has dreams of playing soccer in college, majoring in criminology and becoming a Police officer.
“I was planning to play soccer at Fresno City and join a soccer camp, but this year they aren’t doing the camp because of COVID-19,” Grabiola said. “I’m still trying to workout everyday to maintain my stamina, take care of my sisters and do my work. It gets stressful.”
However, SOUL’s modified graduation gets her excited for what’s to come. SOUL is allowing students time over a 3-day-period, to walk across the stage, receive their diploma and allow family members to be present. This was all planned with a purpose to keep students healthy and safe, while celebrating their accomplishments.
“I really give them credit for hanging in there and finishing,” Failla said. “We know how challenging it has been for us, even as adults, to stay motivated and connected, so I’m very impressed with how the students remained focused and positive until the very end.” Throughout this pandemic SOUL remains dedicated to the education of its students and their future. Learn more about SOUL and why it’s an excellent educational option for those seeking a small school alternative to a large, traditional high school.