20 students march to CSI diplomas

  • CSI Charter School coach Tracy Bricchi’s cap falls off as she embraces graduate Julia Burris following a joint graduation ceremony Thursday in Penacook. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Erin Fehlau of WMUR speaks during a joint graduation ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Lawrence Stone raises walks to the stage to receive his diploma during a joint graduation ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • CSI Charter High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation during a joint ceremony of CSI and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Madison Johnson holds her diploma at the conclusion of a joint graduation ceremony of CSI Charter High School and TEAMS Charter School in Penacook on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 6/9/2016 11:57:20 PM

It was the start of a blustery evening in Penacook as the 2016 graduates of CSI Charter School marched to their seats in the field behind the school Thursday to Pomp and Circumstance.

CSI Director James Gorman let out a chuckle as he took his place behind the lectern to make introductions.

“How about this wind?” he asked the crowd.

“Hang onto your hats, kids,” he said, straightening his own as a strong gust threatened to knock it off his head. “Your life is about to begin.”

CSI, a Penacook charter school established in 2007, is a school that aims to help students who may have difficulty thriving in and graduating from a traditional high school. The school offers a more intimate high school experience to students ages 17 through 21 throughout the greater Concord area who are looking for a smaller learning community and a flexible course schedule.

The school has a unique approach. At CSI, which stands for Competency, Skills, Interests, learning coaches replace teachers, and students work to achieve curriculum-based competencies instead of grades.

Tracy Bricchi has taught at CSI as a learning coach since 2008. Before that, Bricchi taught at Merrimack Valley High School. She has been an educator for more than 30 years. Bricchi said she believes schools like CSI offer students who struggle in traditional high school settings a healthy alternative.

“I have always said that school the way that we do it is not for everyone,” she said. “And so the fact that this exists for kids that need a different place to be is just wonderful.”

Ryan Brandt was also a teacher at Merrimack Valley before retiring and coming to CSI three years ago. He said he decided to continue his teaching career at CSI after leaving MV because the school’s role was one that he saw as extremely important.

“The mission the school had was one that really met a certain niche of kids – kids that had dropped out of school, or kids that just didn’t fit into a traditional classroom education that wanted to further their education and get a diploma,” he said.

When he was working at MV, Brandt said, “there wasn’t anything available for a lot of the kids that struggled in the classroom.”

The graduation ceremony was short – it lasted only around 30 minutes. But it was an important day in the lives of the 20 young people who can now go out into the world with their high school diplomas.

Graduate Madison Johnson was all smiles as she greeted her family after the ceremony.

“It’s been a long road,” she said. “This has been a long time coming.”

Johnson started high school at John Stark Regional High School in Weare before dropping out because of a family conflict. She didn’t know if she would be able to finish high school until two years ago, when she started at CSI.

“The teachers here are just phenomenal and they really care,” Johnson said. “I actually enjoyed coming here, which was hard for me because at the time I didn’t trust anybody in the school system because I had been let down in the past. But everyone here was amazing and they helped me to get past that.”

Johnson hopes to attend college in the future. Right now she’s considering attending culinary school.

“I definitely want to go to college,” she said. That’s my goal.”

Other graduates shared Johnson’s enthusiasm. Denise Turcotte’s daughter Jordan DeBrosky transferred to CSI three years ago after having difficulty in her first year at Raymond High School. Now DeBorsky aspires to go to school to be a trauma nurse. Turcotte said this was a very special day for both her and her daughter.

“I have no words,” she said. “This is my third baby graduating and she’s worked really, really hard. She deserves this more than anyone. I could not be more proud of her.”




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