Jonathan Pulver had a close call but worked hard to graduate with his classmates. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Sprinkled among the hundreds of Maricopa High School students who graduated May 23 were those who completed their coursework through the school’s Ram Academy.

This was the second full year for the credit-recovery program.

I worked and worked and worked.

“If it hadn’t been for Ram Academy, my son wouldn’t have graduated,” Ray Pulver said.

Students have various reasons for falling behind on their school credits. For Jonathan Pulver, 17, it was a matter of transfer. He had attended district and charter schools growing up and spent his freshman year and half of his sophomore year in homeschool. He enrolled in MHS mid-year, but the homeschool credits did not transfer.

His grade point average had been 3.5 as a sophomore and 3.0 as a junior, but his credits still trailed.

After his junior year, it became clear he was 13.5 credits behind his classmates, the equivalent of a year and a half, which seemed almost insurmountable at the time. When other options failed, his best chance of graduating with his friends appeared to be Ram Academy.

“I was not happy to be there,” Jonathan Pulver said. “Then I realized I could get through classes pretty quickly. I finished my first class in two weeks.”

“Jonathan completed not only his senior year at Ram Academy but also made up his freshman and sophomore year credits all in one year,” Ray Pulver said.

An Eagle scout who is the oldest of five Pulver children, he completed 24 classes through Ram Academy and three more through Brigham Young University Independent Studies. Without the BYU classes, he still would have been short of credits. He said he completed his final course the day before graduation.

It took a combined effort of teachers and parents to keep him motivated.

“I worked and worked and worked,” Jonathan said. “The teachers were great. They would tell me, ‘You can do it,’ and ‘Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.’”

A typical day was spending 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. working on online classes at home and 2-8 p.m. on campus. When he lost focus and discipline, teachers and Assistant Principal Steve Ybarra were there to clamp down.

“I have great teachers at the Ram Academy who are seasoned, connect with students and care about them as individuals,” Ybarra said. “I have an assistant who treats the students as her own children, and we hold them accountable, we place them on contracts as needed but allow them to earn back any freedoms they have lost.”

Jonathan Pulver said there was some knowledge overlap from homeschool classes in biology and some math that aided his crusade. His mother Rachel helped at home, and his father helped with math classes after work.

Another chance to get on track is a motivating factor for many Ram Academy students.

“Some have left us, but many times they return to allow us to guide and help them get their high school diplomas,” Ybarra said.

Pulver found students got out of Ram Academy what they put into it.

“I like the teachers because if I respected them I would get respect back,” he said.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the credit-recovery program is part of MUSD’s options “offering multiple paths to graduation” for those struggling in traditional school settings.

“The flexibility of Ram Academy offers non-traditional learners the options and support they need to earn their diplomas,” Lopeman said. “It is truly a second chance at a bright future, and I’m thrilled with the program’s success.”

For Pulver, who turns 18 in July, that diploma put him right back on track with his future. The grandson of a dentist, he said he intends to study dentistry at BYU-Idaho after serving a mission for his church.

“We thank Ram Academy for making it possible,” his father said.

 

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