2011 OASIS graduates turn their tassels

OASIS teacher Marta Branch receives a hug from new graduate Noah Sheppard.

After her high school graduation through the Orcas schools’ OASIS program, 18-year-old Camilla Lloyd plans to attend the University of St. Andrews, travel around Europe, study hard and “eat delicious things.”

Camilla and Breena [Benthin], our co-valedictorians, have both been full-time OASIS high school students for their entire high school careers,” said Marta Branch. “I am so proud of both of these exceptional students.”

Seven students graduated from the OASIS program this year, earning either their high school diploma or a GED.

Loyd, who lives on Waldron, studies in her garden at a little round table, spending hours each day reading, writing, and painting.

“I always have tens of source books open all over the place so sometimes it is quite a dash to get everything inside before it rains!” she says.

Her educational journey has been self-directed, based on her wide array of interests.

“I have so many interests, I think curiosity is one of my favorite sensations!” she says. “OASIS has given me a lot of freedom to study… Over the years I have worked on community and lab science projects with tiny children and magnificently friendly and informative adults, been mentored in French and cooking, worked at the elementary school, studied math with mentors and through Saxon textbooks, and history through more textbooks. I can safely say that I have loved all of this learning.”

As one of Waldron’s few teens – the school serves only K-8 – Loyd says she is deeply grateful to the many adults who have been willing to teach and mentor her.

“The help of those teachers willing to make subjects I might have found rather dull shine for me so brightly, and the freedom of the OASIS program, have made it possible for me to really funnel a lot of energy into these subjects,” she said.

Loyd says her true passions lie in English literature, psychology, and the fine arts. Branch says she creates “incredible, amazing artwork,” and recently painted the library on Waldron.

Branch says Loyd and Benthin are “both really interesting and creative and diligent students, each in

their own way,” and both very involved in reaching out to their communities.

“I’m just a worker,” said Benthin, who stopped attending traditional school after 7th grade. I’d rather work than sit in class all day…. I didn’t ever plan on going to high school; then the OASIS program started, and I could do it on my own.”

Benthin’s first job was in the dish pit at Vern’s, when she was almost 14. Since then, she’s worked at the Funhouse and is now at Frontline Call Center. She credits Branch with her graduation, saying, “She’s the one that really got me motivated; she’s awesome.” Benthin plans next to attend the one-year Paul Mitchell beauty school in Mt. Vernon to gain skills that will help her earn her way to a four year Human Services bachelor’s degree.

These two are just a sampling of the students who find oasis at OASIS each year.

“OASIS as a high school is for the kids that are going to be doing things differently,” said Branch. “Some are helping their families out, some are supporting themselves… at least a quarter of our kids have a medical condition that will cause them to miss school.”

She added, “A lot of times the kids that are in OASIS know where their passions lie… they’ re kind of on a direct route and don’ t want to get bogged down. The kids take charge – they are designing their own educations.” And contrary to rumor, Branch says, OASIS has the same high standards as traditional courses at the school. If anything, it’s tougher: “You are your own motivator; you are 100 percent driving the pace,” she said. “That is really difficult to be that self-motivating.”

2011 OASIS graduate Jared Grantham plans to learn carpentry and obtain his high school diploma at the Job Corps Center in Timber Lake, Oregon. Grantham says he enjoyed his high school woodshop classes so much, it seemed like a logical career step. He will also continue to play bass guitar with friends who have started bands.

Branch said graduate Yon Agnew is “a real intellectual who studies all kinds of things on his own.” She said graduate Emily Gincig “is another one who has a real joy in community service, especially with young children; she’ s spent a lot of her time doing that.” Branch calls graduate Noah Sheppard “an incredibly talented filmmaker and photographer” who is interested in attending trade school and working in film. Sam Prado also graduated.