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Olympic High Honors its 2011 Grads  

By Gene Williams
Lookout Staff

June 22, 2011 -- As hundreds of SAMOHI grads picked up their diplomas this week, it was easy to forget that there is another, smaller public high school in Santa Monica, a school for students who need a second chance.

Olympic High School and Adult Education Center, the city’s continuation school, honored its 2011 graduates Monday with a standing-room-only affair at Shutters on the Beach Hotel.

"We’re always delighted this time of year to have a celebration of our students who have really worked hard to overcome obstacles and succeed,” Dr. Janie Yuguchi Gates, the school’s principal, told The Lookout.

Fifty-four young people – about one-third of the school’s total student body – donned the traditional blue caps and gowns for the ceremony. Olympic High teachers said it was perhaps the largest graduating class in the school’s 45-year history.

The students told their stories of personal transformation and received some sage advice from elders, as a crowd of several hundred happy relatives, friends and local officials watched and listened.

The keynote speaker was Jackie Seabrooks, police chief of Inglewood and a former Santa Monica police officer. Seabrooks recalled how, when she was young, someone told her that she would never make it in law enforcement.

That was “the best and worst advice I ever received,” Seabrooks said. “It forced me to think, to think for myself. It forced me to be an independent thinker and make my own choices.”

Seabrooks emphasized the importance of hard work and leading a balanced life.

“Discipline is the extension of love you have for yourself,” Seabrooks told the graduates. “Exercise your mind, your body and your spirit.”

It was clear that many of the students have already learned that lesson.

“I first came to Olympic with high hopes,” Jasmine Franco said in her commencement speech. “It took me a long time to realize that something doesn’t come for nothing.”

Franco praised the school’s staff for their patience and support.

“Olympic isn’t just a school, it’s a community,” she said. “The things I’ve learned, I will take to whatever I do in my life.”

Benigno Franco was proud of his daughter.

“She’s a great girl. We love her, and we wish the best for her in the future,” Franco told The Lookout.

“She’s got the mind, so she can do a lot if she really wants to,” Franco said, adding that his daughter will go to Santa Monica College in the fall and has a strong desire for a career working with animals.

Located at 721 Ocean Park Boulevard, Olympic High School is an accredited high school and is recognized as a model continuation school by the state’s superintendent of education.

The school helps students who have fallen behind in credits or are failing classes by providing them with individualized programs, guidance and counseling in a small-school environment.

“I think Olympic meets the needs of students that aren’t met anywhere else, and I love working there” Harlan Tarbell, the school’s special education teacher, said.


“Discipline is the extension of love you have for yourself.” Jackie Seabrooks

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