Students from Atascadero's Del Rio, West Mall schools celebrate graduation

Wednesday was graduation day for 82 students from Del Rio Continuation High School and eight from West Mall Alternative School in Atascadero.

They came together for a joint graduation ceremony at the Colony Park Community Center in Atascadero.

Chris Balogh, in his first year as principal of the two schools, described the graduates as “a great group of kids.”

“They are all very unique, and they’ve all got their own paths,” Balogh said, adding that at least half of the 2014 class plans to attend Cuesta College. “It was a great experience for me to be with them and see them through.”

According to Balogh, the alternative school experience can can be beneficial for many.

“Parents (often) say, ‘If it wasn’t for your two schools, my kids wouldn’t have a diploma,’” said Balogh, who previously spent eight years as principal of San Gabriel Elementary School in Atascadero. “That brings a lot of joy to me (to know) that they feel like they’re learning and what they’re doing is meaningful.”

Del Rio Continuation High and West Mall do not select valedictorians or salutatorians, but Del Rio graduate Alexandra Hargrove and West Mall graduate Alondra Hernandez-Lugo served as commencement speakers.

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