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Concord’s Second Start graduates never gave up on a future

  • Cheyenne Martin accepts her diploma and graduates from Second Start on June 8, 2018, at Concord High school. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Cheyenne Martin smiles after graduation from Second Start school Friday at Concord High School. Maddie Vanderpool / Monitor file

  • Cheyenne Martin greeted by friends having just graduated from Second Start on June 8, 2018, at Concord High School. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Cheyenne Martin along with her eight other classmates pose for a graduation photo from Second Start on June 8, 2018, at Concord High School. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Cheyenne Martin walking from the stage after accepting her diploma from Second Start on June 8, 2018, at Concord High School. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Cheyenne Martin along with her eight other classmates graduates from Second Start on June 8, 2018, at Concord High School. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Cheyenne Martin sits amoung her eight other classmates at their graduation from Second Start on June 8, 2018, at Concord High School. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor



Monitor staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

Once, Cheyenne Martin, angry, rebellious and confused from a difficult childhood, wanted no part of high school.

But Friday night, at the Second Start graduation ceremony, Martin cried, saying she didn’t want to leave.

“It’s like a family,” said Martin, 20. “I’ll miss everyone so much.”

When you cover the Second Start graduation, held annually at the Concord High School auditorium, there’s never a shortage of compelling, rise-from-the-ashes storylines.

Even when there’s only nine graduates.

Second Start is an alternative to Concord High and its mainstream approach to education. These kids, who will walk with Concord High students on Saturday, had hard-edged upbringings. Some simply suffered from anxiety caused by Concord High’s monstrous size. Or some couldn’t handle the structure of a public school.

Whatever the reason, they didn’t fit in there, yet they never gave up on earning a diploma.

“The environment they were raised in was not good,” said Bill Mealey, the Second Start director. “The diploma was a side effect and they’re trying to get ready for the world they are going into, not the one the public schools prepare them for.”

The lineup included James Martin (no relation to Cheyenne), Mackenzie Baum, Kadin Buchholz, Mason Emmons, Brianna Collins, Dillon Fogg, Jerome Hall and Nicholas Pinault.

All had their own unique set of circumstance that brought them to Second Start.

All now have a high school diploma.

Mealey said Cheyenne Martin had “A crazy backstory, and now she’s stepped into a full-time adult.”

She had a nose ring and wore ripped jeans. She patiently answered questions while her classmates and friends hugged and mingled.

She spoke about her background, about her mother, who now lives in Queens with her boyfriend and who Martin said “was the opposite of a good parent.”

Her mother had a drug problem. She got busted in Massachusetts and did time there, Martin said. She recalled a two-year sentence.

She got good grades, she said, at Concord High for a year or two, but then began cutting classes with her boyfriend and flunking classes.

Her junior and senior years were a disaster. She moved in with her boyfriend but they broke up. She flunked out of Concord High, a four-year period in her life with little to show for it.

Her mother was out of the picture by then. She moved back with her grandmother, setting up a shed behind the trailer, with a bed and a TV and lights.

“To chill,” Martin said.

As for Concord High, Martin said, “Not a great experience. The teachers were strict and I couldn’t handle that.”

With few options left, she enrolled in Second Start, saying those days were really “stressful and confusing, and I didn’t know what to do.”

Mealey remembered a girl full of doubt, unable to come to grips with her chaotic past, with a wall in front of her and a chip on her shoulder.

“Very, very angry,” Mealey said. “She was a whole different person. She’d get upset, and it was easily triggered.”

Since then, Martin has emerged from her cocoon, eventually spreading her wings. She graduated last January after two years at Second Start, yet she continued to go on field trips with her classmates.

She saved money from her job at the Holiday Inn and was one of three students who went to Hawaii in the spring, a trip led by Mealey.

They performed community service there, painting curbs red for school busses, weeding in a botanical garden and planting what the people there called sacred plants.

Now, her sense of humor comes out. She calls teacher Ray Burstein “princess,” telling him, “I’m manlier than you.”

They’re funny words coming from a petite young lady who loves turtles and is nicknamed “squirt” by her friend, Mercedes Johnson.

Martin plans on joining the National Guard. She want to become a nurse.

At graduation, one of her teachers, Sandy Benard, stood on stage and remembered the time recently when she told Martin, “I wish we had you longer.”

“Yeah, me too,” Martin answered.