Like many of their high school counterparts, South Park Academy’s 2021 graduating class battled the challenges of learning in the time of Covid-19.
But they faced additional obstacles, such as incarcerated students.
And yet, in a multipurpose room inside the Promontory housing facility at the Utah State Prison, they gathered recently to celebrate overcoming any and all obstructions to achieve a goal.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment,” said Jessie Mayorga. “It’s also motivated me to continue in the construction management field.”
Mayorga was one of the 19 graduates from Promontory, which made up nearly half of the 40 students graduating from South Park this year. That number is lower than previous years, but Principal Todd Bird called it a win.
“Considering this year, I feel really good about it,” he said. “We’re way above the average for a correctional institution.”
He noted that while the pandemic forced other high schools online, that was not an option inside a prison.
“There was a lot less direct teaching, more independent study,” he said. “It was mainly packets. Usually, they’re the supplement. But we were grateful we were still able to do that.”
It was the penultimate graduating class for South Park, which first started teaching courses at USP in 1952 and was accredited in 1956. After the 2022 year, the Utah Department of Corrections will close USP and move to the new Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City. Just like typical students who move from one city to another, incarcerated students will be changing schools.
That was not on the minds of this year’s graduates, however. In addition to the ceremony, they were treated to breakfast from Davis Technical College’s culinary class. Waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns added taste to the satisfaction of finishing high school.
“This year should have been super hard and super tough with Covid,” teacher Leah Sharitt told her students during breakfast, “and it wasn’t, thanks to you.”
Communications office, June 25, 2021