‘You do not walk alone’: Edmonds eLearning Academy students receive diplomas

Receiving her diploma from Principal Kim Hunter, graduate Wuhibti Haileslassie will be attending the University of Washington to pursue a degree in criminology.

Graduating seniors from the Edmonds eLearning Academy accepted their diplomas Wednesday evening during a commencement ceremony at the Edmonds School District Stadium. Edmonds eLearning Academy offers a mastery-based program where students earn credit by demonstrating their understanding of a specific subject. This flexible approach allows students to complete their courses more quickly, potentially finishing a second course within the same semester.

“Class of 2024, as we stand on the threshold of this new chapter in our lives, know that you do not walk alone,” eLearning Academy Principal Kim Hunter said. “The road ahead may be long and winding, but with each step you take, you move close to realizing your hopes and dreams. Congratulations, graduates! The best is yet to come.”

Principal Kim Hunter speaks to the graduates. To her left are Edmonds School District administrators and school staff.

The eLearning Academy was founded by Sam Gladstein in 2007 with “two teachers and just a handful of students,” school counselor Jamie Regis said. “His vision was for all students to have a place to learn in a way that would work for them.”

Gladstein was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012 and died in 2015. “He did not get to see the amazing school we have created since then,” Regis said. “I am grateful to have the honor of carrying on his vision for online learning in the Edmonds School District today.”

Andrew Caldreon receives a $500 scholarship from school counselor Jamie Regis.

As a tribute to Gladstein, Regis and her family pledge a $500 scholarship each year to one student. This year Regis awarded the scholarship to Andrew Calderon, who has been attending eLearning Academy for three years and plans to become an electrician after high school. 

“He has repeatedly shown how important his family is and truly embodies an Edmonds eLearning Academy student,” Regis said.

Roque Rubio Rodriguez receives the Washington State Seal of Biliteracy from Principal Kim Hunter.

Hunter awarded the Washington State Seal of Biliteracy to Roque Rubio Rodriguez. Recipients of this award demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening in more than one language.

Edmonds eLearning Academy was established to provide an alternative, flexible learning environment for students. It offers a comprehensive online curriculum that allows students to progress at their own pace, ensuring they can master each subject thoroughly before moving on. 

Students await their turn to be called to receive their diploma.
Rana Sayof plans to study dental hygiene.

For some parents, eLearning Academy’s location and online format were primary reasons why they enrolled their children in the school. “The school was very close to where he lives,” said Nabil Alsalkini, who spoke for student Rana Sayof’s father and is a family friend. “Sometimes they ask the kids to take some tests [on campus].”

Sayof said that she plans to become a dental hygienist after high school.

Israel Ruiz (holding diploma) with his family and friends.

Student Israel Ruiz said that his last two years at eLearning Academy had offered him more support than his in-person sophomore year at a regular high school. He had spent his freshman year online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When I was struggling with a class, there was more opportunity to talk to teachers if anything,” Ruiz said. “I got to see my teacher in my in-person school in person, but it just feels like the responses weren’t that genuine or as helpful as the teachers here.”

Ruiz’s mother said that her son had so much help that he was able to complete his necessary courses within the school year. “I notice that [Ruiz] doesn’t have as much distractions at [eLearning], and I felt that he was more comfortable reaching out to teachers one on one instead of a whole group,” she said. “It’s something I’m really satisfied with.”

Ruiz said that he will be going to a trade school for an apprentice to become an electrician. “I want to help my family out financially,” he said, adding that his only work experience is helping his girlfriend’s father to do yard work. “I definitely want to see what opportunities I got out there.”

Edmonds eLearning Academy will be moving to the district’s Woodway Campus at 23200 100th Avenue West before the 2024–2025 academic year.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

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