“I know I’m a smart person. I know I can learn concepts and curriculum. And yet, at one of the best public high schools in the state, I failed miserably.”

So said one of the Fusion South Bay seniors recently at a high school graduation ceremony filled with laughter, tears, videos, and music. A packed house of friends, family, teachers, and staff had come together to honor the largest South Bay graduating class ever. This insightful student went on,

“Fusion allowed me to break free from ten years of seven-hour days full of stagnant routines and wasted time. It gave me a much shorter, but more effective class schedule, a personalized experience and an atmosphere that was definitely academic, but stress-free nonetheless. Fusion helped my grades, but how could it not; it reinvigorated my attitude toward school in general.”

This happened to be the final student speech of the day, but it was typical of the 15 that had preceded it. Fusion students shared their triumphs, their struggles, their gratitude. And unlike graduation ceremonies at typical high schools, every one of our Fusion graduates was given the opportunity to speak. One student barely spoke at all, but instead presented a riveting video he had created with his lead teacher that described his thoughts on what lies ahead as a citizen of this world. It was creative and thought-provoking, just like him.

None of these students could have succeeded without the help of our hard-working, fantastic teachers. And just as there were 16 student speeches, there were 16 teacher speeches as well. They spoke of our students’ strengths and struggles and how they not only taught them but learned from them as well. The one-to-one model is actually a two-way street, and hearing how our teachers are learning from the kids they work with was an inspiring experience.

One particular teacher speech that stood out wasn’t actually a speech at all. Alex Tauber, South Bay’s much-loved music and surf teacher, approached the stage, ukulele in hand, and told us,

“I’m not much of a talker and since Shayne and I share the same passion for music, I thought this would be a fun way to honor him.”

When was the last time you heard of a teacher writing and performing a song for a student at a high school graduation? My guess is never.

In fact, a lot of “nevers” happen at Fusion and that is what makes us unique. We treat each student as the individuals they are and we honor them at graduation the same way. From the moment they walk through our doors to the day they leave us wearing caps and gowns, we recognize their individuality. We respect it. We nurture it. We encourage it. We learn from it.

Congratulations to the Fusion South Bay Class of 2015. Thank you for everything you taught us.