PA Cyber senior gets one-of-a-kind graduation ceremony
Clad in a bright blue cap and gown, Chelsea Villella of Moon Township, Pa., one of the final graduating members of the Class of 2010, got a standing ovation from teachers at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School on Oct. 28 as she received her high school diploma from Dr. Nick Trombetta in an impromptu commencement ceremony.
The unusual moment came about as a result of the Villella family asking for a cap and gown after Chelsea completed all her graduation requirements. Kirk Ketchum, the young woman’s instructional supervisor, and Academy Leader Mary Crapis arranged an appointment with Dr. Trombetta, PA Cyber’s CEO, so he could personally present Chelsea’s diploma.
Upon meeting Chelsea and family members – her parents, an aunt and a grandfather – Dr. Trombetta decided that the moment should also be celebrated by members of the instructional staff. He escorted the family into the large open office area of the school’s headquarters building and announced that a student was receiving her diploma in a special ceremony.
Ninety teachers and administrators stood up at their desks to witness the event, applauding as Dr. Trombetta presented the diploma and congratulated Chelsea. Hugs, handshakes and photos followed, and more than a few eyes got misty.
In the emotion of the moment, her father Carl Villella later said that he forgot to thank the instructional staff for helping his daughter get to graduation. Villella, a Moon Township, Pa., municipal and commercial equipment finance broker, said later, “I should have told them what a difference they are making not only in the lives of their students but the lives of their families. Her teachers were fantastic. They gave her a lot of encouragement and a lot of help. It made a huge difference for Chelsea.”
Dressed in a suit for the occasion, Ketchum said Chelsea worked hard to overcome personal obstacles to achieve her diploma. She now plans to enroll at Community College of Beaver County.
Chelsea gave hugs and thank-you cards to Ketchum, Crapis, and her previous instructional supervisor Roxanne Leone.
“Kids like Chelsea who finish after graduation ceremonies in June, who do not get the ceremony and excitement of a graduation, are missing an important part of their efforts. This excitement alone can propel them to the next step. I think this will happen for Chelsea as a result of the efforts by Dr. Trombetta, Mary, Kirk and Roxanne,” said Carl Villella.
He said PA Cyber’s flexibility gives students such as his daughter more time to complete their coursework.
“A time schedule that suited her is something you don’t get in a brick-and-mortar school,” he said. “Some people in Chelsea’s situation would be left by the wayside if this option were not available.”
Dr. Trombetta said Chelsea’s achievement illustrates the schools’ focus on helping students to reach graduation, the flexibility of the cyber program, and the close, caring connection between PA Cyber students and the instructional staff. In PA Cyber’s system, he said each child is assigned an instructional supervisor who acts as a guide, mentor and liaison between the family and the school throughout the years of enrollment.
Also accompanying Chelsea during her unique graduation experience were her mother Michele, aunt Renee Carnevali Palsha, and grandfather Ray Carnevali.
Chelsea joins more than 1,000 graduating students in the PA Cyber Class of 2010, the school’s largest ever. Official graduation ceremonies were held in June at Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.