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Schools & Program Visits - May, 2001 Issue #81 

A Graduating Class Of One
Stepping Stones
Rich and Wendy Simpson

A Visit/Graduation Report on 3-31-01
By Linda Shaffer, M.A., 
Educational Consultant
Sandpoint, Idaho 

The educational consultant assists families and students in the consideration of a variety of roads to graduation. Stepping Stones, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho recently held a unique high school graduation and celebration for a class of one, meeting again the very personal educational needs of a student from the Midwest. This “beautiful, personal graduation,” was one that this consultant was very grateful for because their family was one of my clients this past year. 

Stepping Stones, a tutorial educational program for adolescents and young adults, operates from the cozy home base of Wendy and Rich Simpson, complete with the swing on the front porch, fruit trees in the side yard, flower-filled boxes under windows, and garden out back. Both Rich and Wendy have past and present experience in a variety of educational roles with CEDU Education in Northern Idaho. Three of those roles have been in the areas of English composition and poetry, music, and history. As part of their high school program for adolescents, the Simpsons are now conducting classes and tutoring sessions with the help of other teachers and mentors. 

The recent graduation I attended with a group of about 16 educators, friends and family members of the graduate, was an impressive testament to the importance of creative educators that are available to adolescents in this area. The graduation and celebration dinner was held at the Deep Creek Inn in the countryside just outside of town of Bonners Ferry. A wonderful dinner was served by the new owners, a French couple and much was tailored to the wishes and delights of the graduate and her family – including the raspberry sauce on the graduation cake. 

The graduation gathering honored the high school graduate with touching words and songs from her childhood and Bob Dylan’s Forever Young sung to her by her parents. Personal remembrances from the past year, poems written for the occasion, and a beautiful scrapbook, were offered to the graduate from Wendy Simpson, other teachers and “coaches”, neighbors and friends, and this consultant. Even the graduate was coaxed to let the group hear her beautiful operatic singing voice – some of which she acknowledges she has fortunately inherited from her parents – and grandparents who have sung with opera companies. 

Among the graduate’s gifts were very special heart-shaped earrings and ring from her father and personal items from the graduate’s mother that support her daughter’s artistic interests. Also among the gifts were items that reflect the graduate’s musical talent, along with gifts from northern Idaho, of course, such as the ever- important moose pin and the fish necklace. 

The graduate’s father thanked everyone for coming to his daughter’s high school graduation celebration and indicated that it does take a village to raise a child. He offered obvious heart felt thank yous' to Wendy and Rich Simpson and their family, and to Bonners Ferry and all present for being a part of their family’s “village” this past year. Off and on throughout the evening of balloons and streamers were lots of smiles, laughter, and blinking eyes of the guests holding back or wiping away some tears when touched by the moment. 

So, once again, northern Idaho – with its many special options in education for adolescents and young adults (with a couple of new ideas spawning as we speak) – has, in my view, lived up to its name – the “Gem State”. During my family’s 25 years in this region (after moving “Outwest” from the Midwest), I personally have found here many very dedicated, patient and exceptionally creative educators eager to work with the student who would benefit from a blended academic and emotional growth educational experience. This recent graduating class of one from Stepping Stones has also reminded me of the contributions made by northern Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains, lakes, rivers and wildlife in the educational and emotional growth of adolescents. We often say in this region, “Why would a teacher and parents try to take on the sole responsibility for educating children when the physical environment can also be such a major ally and contributor in the “getting on with life” process.”

This article copyright © 1999-2001, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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