SHARE graduation for home-schooled students celebrates individuality

BRADENTON -- The SHARE/HES graduation on Saturday looked different from typical high school graduations.

Seven students -- two young men and five young women -- sat on stage, rather than hundreds of students out in the audience. Multiple slide shows followed each of the students through their lives. One graduate sang gospel music in the small church, rather than a huge auditorium packed with people.

The ceremony at the First Church of the Nazarene in Bradenton was focused on the individual passions of the seven students, who had been home schooled for their high school careers.

"Home schooling is a big decision, but I think it's a good one," said Courtney Moody, class speaker. "Because we learn how to be individuals, and how to celebrate being unique."

Moody talked about her dreams to become a professional ballet dancer, while other graduates listed passions and life goals such as business administration, veterinary science, cosmetology and music ministry.

Home schooling provided an avenue for each student to pursue their calling, said Debbie Dykes, coordinator of Support Homeschool Activities Reaching Everyone. Horizon Educational Systems is a "non-traditional school designed for the home-educating family," according to the website.

"Some of them learned through textbooks, some online and some were self-taught -- the only true way to learn," Dykes told the group of about 50 people who sat in the church. "Some of them are almost through associate degrees, and some are already taking classes at Manatee Technical College."

Judge Paul Logan handed a diploma to Moody, Abigel Boyd, Scarlett Butler, Shawnna Thompson, Kyle Lopez, Johnathan Odaffer and Hannah Skorski.

Each graduate also received a Bible with his or her diploma.

Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055 at at kirby@bradenton.com. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby.