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Serenity High Celebrates Hope at January Graduation Ceremony

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Thursday, March 1, 2018
  • The January 2018 graduating class of Serenity High.
  • Neil Sperry welcomes the families and guests of the Serenity High graduates.
  • In an emotional address, Liz K., whose daughter sat a few feet away in cap and gown, thanked the staff of Serenity for helping them restore their relationship and find hope for the road ahead.
  • MISD Board Members Lynn Sperry and Kenneth Ussery flank Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel as he waits to present a 2018 Serenity graduate with her diploma.
  • MISD Board Member Kenneth Ussery congratulates a 2018 Serenity graduate.
  • Serenity Principal Stephen Issa leads the graduates in the traditional turning of the tassel.
  • Johnny, a 2018 graduate of Serenity High, smiles with his family after the ceremony.

McKinney, Texas – Sometimes kids lose their way.

They follow twists and turns along their journey and look up to find themselves well off the intended path, mired in circumstances neither they nor their parents envisioned. Too often, alcohol and drug addiction is the bog they find themselves sinking into. And, they need somebody to throw them a lifeline, to help them find their way back.

That’s where Serenity High offers hope.

On January 26, 2018, eleven Serenity High students crossed the stage to shake the hand of McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel and Serenity High Principal Stephen Issa and
receive their high school diplomas. Some were hometown kids. Others found their way to Serenity from surrounding districts.

Graduate smiles holding diploma in front of him with family on either side

Johnny, a 2018 graduate of Serenity High, smiles with his family after the ceremony.

For all of them, the short walk from one side of that stage to the other represented a long journey back—and one that might have turned out very differently if not for a place like Serenity.

“There are so very, very many things in this district to be proud of,” McDaniel said, addressing the audience. “I’m here to say to the staff, to the parents, to Mr. Issa and all of McKinney, there is nothing in this district that I am more proud of than Serenity High School.”

Turning toward the graduates, McDaniel added, “This is not your first step, and it is certainly not your last, but I have the distinct honor of representing the thousands of people that live in McKinney — and the surrounding area for that matter—in congratulating you for a job well done. … It’s something that you can be proud of for a very, very long time.”

Serenity High opened its doors in 1999 and is one of the few—and longest-tenured—public recovery schools in the country. To qualify for admission, students are required to have completed a recognized treatment program. For students in those circumstances, Serenity offers a safe, recovery-focused environment in which to complete high school requirements.

Liz at podium speaking

In an emotional address, Liz K., whose daughter sat a few feet away in cap and gown, thanked the staff of Serenity for helping them restore their relationship and find hope for the road ahead.

They identify three core values at Serenity: Integrity (a responsible approach to recovery), Humility (reaching out for help when help is needed) and Commitment (an obligation to sobriety).

For Issa, everything they do comes together at graduation. “My two favorite days of the school year are in January and May because that’s when we hold our graduations here at Serenity.” Issa said. “They’re personal because we’re smaller…and it’s just a result of getting to know the kids and building relationships with them. It’s all part of what makes us a recovery school—helping them stay sober, helping them graduate high school and being there for them after they leave.”

If the path that led them to Serenity was marked by darkness and struggle, this day was full of hope.

“Serenity was a one of a kind school that really helped me push through it,” said one graduate named Johnny, as he smiled for photos with his arms draped over the shoulders of family members. “I would like to thank all of the teachers and especially the principal who always got my back. I really would like to thank the school board for supporting this school and making this happen. So, thank you very much!”

It was difficult for one mom to get through the remarks she shared during the ceremony about her daughter, Liz—who sat on the stage a few feet from her—without succumbing to emotion. And, the same was true afterward, as she hugged her daughter.

“Well, actually Serenity…,” she said fighting back tears. “I wish I could just say that it was only my daughter getting a diploma, but it means a lot more than that,” she confided. “For me, it saved my baby…they saved my baby. Thanks to them, I have her back. We still have a long way to go. [But,] I’m so happy, and I want to thank them. I will never be able to thank them enough.”

For students out there who are still hurting, who have lost their way and are searching for a way back, Serenity awaits. And, the staff there understand. They know how hard the road is. And, it is one that each must walk for himself or herself. But, Serenity is ready to come alongside—and help light the way.

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If you need additional assistance with the content on this page, please contact MISD Communications Department team member Shane Mauldin by phone at 469-302-4007 or by email here .

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