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Newberg's alternative high school program sets new record with 52 graduates this year

After welcoming a new principal in Tim Graham, the Newberg School District Catalyst program celebrated a year of growth last week with a familiar and fitting keynote speaker: program founder Bill Rogers.

A year after retiring from the school district, Rogers returned to address 38 of Catalyst's 52 graduates, a new record, at the alternative high school program's graduation ceremonies June 7.

"Catalyst is very personable and even though we had a bigger group than normal, it still was very personable," Graham said. "The parents were very happy afterwards and Bill gave a great speech."

While some Catalyst students chose to walk in the Newberg High School ceremony Friday, Graham said it's not unusual for older students to pass on participating in graduation.

For instance, Graham said an out-of-state couple enrolled at Catalyst to complete their degrees, but were among the 14 graduating students who did not attend.

"They lived in Utah and were both short of their degree," Graham said. "They came for about nine weeks and got the credits they needed to graduate and then moved."

Rogers retired at the end of 2016-2017 school year and was succeeded by Graham, a former teacher in Newberg who had been leading a similar alternative high school program in Oregon City for the past nine years.

Graham credited a lot of this year's success to the work already done by Rogers, who has been his friend, colleague and mentor for about 20 years.

"I actually took a class from Bill 20 years ago, so I consider him a mentor," Graham said. "It's been fun to follow in his footsteps here."

Graham said enrollment in 2017-2018 was up 50 students from the year before and he expects the program will continue to grow in coming years.

"We had a good year," he said. "It was pretty easy to take over because Bill did such a good job. But we also want to be creative and grow not just our main program, but other programs that meet students' needs that aren't necessarily being met right now."

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