Student defends reputation of Phoenix High

By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
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Phoenix High School students Ronnie Ridens, Austin Gomez and Rudy Brito heard rumors about how bad the district’s continuation high school was, but their experience has taught them nothing could be further from the truth.

Each of the boys is on track to graduate and embark on their next path in life.

Ridens, 17, is so passionate about the undeserved reputation of the school he wrote a persuasive essay for an English assignment. His English teacher Jennifer Nelson told him it was so good he could turn the assignment into a letter to the editor for the Lincoln News Messenger. Fellow students Gomez and Brito helped Ridens finish crafting the letter. The three signed the letter along with 13 other Phoenix High students. That letter appears in this issue.

In his letter, Ronnie said he knows many students from conventional high schools hold the belief that students who go to Phoenix, the continuation high school, are “screw ups.” He said he wrote the letter to let the community know “what this school is really like.”

The truth for the three boys is each is there to catch up on the credits each needs to graduate high school and move on to the next stage of their lives. All three boys are on track to meet that goal.

The first day they attended the continuation school, though, they were scared because of what they had heard.

“I heard that bad things happen at Phoenix,” Ridens said, a former Lincoln High School student. “Those who were talking bad about the school made it seem like I was going to prison, I would become addicted to hard core drugs and end up going to prison for 25 years to life.”

Gomez said he heard a pretty far fetched rumor.

“I heard in the first couple of days I’d be stabbed,” Gomez said.

Nothing that they were told would happen materialized.

“I was scared the first day but I knew a couple of people here,” Gomez said. “I was able to talk and get around easily. It’s like a normal school.”
Brito said he appreciates his friendship with Gomez.

“We had the same first day. We are the same age. We are in the same year,” Brito said. “I recognized him because at Lincoln High School we both hung out in Mr. Dan Williams’ computer lab. I didn’t have a class with him before I went to Phoenix. I know Ronnie because we both road on the bus.”

Each boy took a different path to get to Phoenix, but all of them appreciate the one on one help they receive from the school’s teachers and achieving at their own pace.

“I came into high school partying and chasing girls,” Ridens, a 17-year-old senior. “I didn’t care about school. I came to play football and made enough credits to do that. I decided to go to Phoenix because I was pretty far behind in credits.”

At Phoenix, Ridens is focused on his goal to graduate May 31, 2013, and plans to join the military. He said he did well on his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). While in the military, he wants to go to college and work toward becoming a police officer.

“I’m earning 4.3 credits per week,” Ridens said. “I need 1.8 credits a week to graduate on time. I kicked things up this year.”

He said he likes being able to “get more work done at my own pace.”

“I like the online classes,” Ridens said. “You take a preliminary test. If you know the material, you get the credit. Then you can focus on what you don’t know and earn credits faster.”  

Gomez, 18, also fell behind in credits. This is his second senior year.

“I’m down to my last 10 credits,” Gomez said. “I should be done in a few weeks. At most schools, teachers go the teacher’s pace. Here all the teachers help every student go at their own pace.”

After graduation, Gomez plans to attend Sierra College in the spring. He wants to work toward a degree in mathematics and architecture and become a civil engineer.

Brito, 18, said he has three math credits to finish. He needs 40 credits total to graduate.

“I moved to Kansas with my mom from Lincoln last year. She got a better job and it was cheaper to live there, but the school there didn’t give me credit for some of the classes I’d already taken. Austin’s mom graciously offered to let me stay here to finish high school. I’ll probably be finished in a month or two.”

After Brito graduates, he plans to go to Bridgewater University outside Boston, Mass., to study computer science. He has already started the scholarship process.

“These guys came in just missing credits,” Nelson said. “We have to meet them where they are. Imagine 35 students in a classroom. In this environment, we slow down to help kids and get to know each individual.”

Nelson said the school has between 68 and 74 students enrolled.

“The population is transient,” Nelson said.