Missoula Story of the Week: Willard Alternative School Graduation


With June just around the corner and the usual wet cold weather settling in on Memorial Day weekend, high school seniors are making the final preparations for graduation.

Graduation is the culmination of four years in which young adults persevere through personal and emotional hardships on the road to becoming adults. Often this road to adulthood becomes too difficult and fraught with obstacles for many teenagers to overcome.

Dropout rates in Missoula’s high schools reflect the difficulty in overcoming these challenges, down just slightly to 91 from 95 the previous year, according to a recent Missoulian article.

Missoula school officials, administrators, and teachers have worked hard and tirelessly to combat the somewhat staggering numbers.

Congrats to the 2012 Missoula graduates!

Thursday night’s graduation ceremony for the Willard Alternative High School highlighted the success these efforts have had on Missoula’s young adults who were dangerously close to adding to the city’s dropout statistics.

In front of a packed University of Montana auditorium, some eighty-eight students, who had persevered through enormous roadblocks, received their high school diplomas.

As teachers, students, and even the school’s custodian fought through tears while relating to the audience the difficult road these graduates had traveled in order to earn their diplomas, it became apparent that Missoula’s graduation rates can be increased through the love and support of the entire community.

By believing in these students, even when many others had sadly written them off, the staff of Willard was able to give them the self-confidence and tools that will aid them for the rest of their lives.

The graduates of Willard showed that even though life is often not fair, it is still possible to reach goals that at times seem unattainable. While Missoula’s high school graduation rates were somewhat disappointing this year, the staff and students at Willard are a shining example of how to lower high school dropout rates.


Each week, Tom Diddel recaps the week’s most talked-about story in Missoula. Visit the Make it Missoula News & Opinion section for more talk of the town.


Tom Diddel has lived in Missoula on and off for nearly thirty-eight years. He enjoys skiing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Montana and is currently working as a Freelance Writer and a Para-Educator.