CCA graduation celebrates student success, prepares them for next phase of life
More than 880 Commonwealth Charter Academy students will graduate and walk across stages this year.
Graduation at Commonwealth Charter Academy is special and unique.
Ceremonies are held on four consecutive days in four locations across the state. This year, graduation ceremonies will be held June 5-8 in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Lehighton and Philadelphia, respectively.
More than 880 Commonwealth Charter Academy students will graduate and walk across stages this year. But they won’t be walking alone. CCA’s guidance counselors ensured that these students were preparing for the next chapter before their first day of high school even began.
College- and career-planning courses start engaging students in conversations about the future in eighth grade. In high school, the curriculum shifts each year to meet students where they are, beginning with introducing them to different career paths and having them take interest surveys to match them with potential fields. These surveys are repeated each year to encourage students to consider a variety of ideas and to reinforce the need to start thinking about the future. By senior year, students are turning concept into practice.
The program is practical and hands-on, teaching skills that will translate into real opportunities, said Brian Comegna, manager of pupil services at CCA.
“As a school counselor, I’m here to monitor requirements for graduation and keep students motivated," he said. "I push them to succeed and field a lot of questions about what to expect for graduation and beyond.”
When students reach 12th grade, the curriculum splits into two paths: college and career. Students have the option to select the course that best meets their plans and receive the information most relevant to their path.
Students who opt for the college track receive guidance related to identifying schools and majors, applying to college, understanding financial aid and organizing their time effectively. According to Comegna, approximately 49 percent of CCA graduates attend a two- or four-year college.
The career track includes education about workplace norms and expectations, and training to develop skills with interviewing, applying for jobs and writing resumes and cover letters. CCA’s STEM and Arts and Humanities conservatories take career readiness a step further by coordinating job-shadowing and internship opportunities.
Students who are undecided about their future can follow both tracks. The virtual lessons are intentionally scheduled at different times.
Of course, not all students fall into these two camps, Comegna said. Some decide to pursue a future in the military. To meet their needs, CCA has a connection with a recruiter who is available to visit drop-in centers and meet with students to answer their questions.
A small percentage of students decide to take a gap year or travel on missions trips after graduating. Comegna said these students typically are encouraged to follow the college-preparation track and get their paperwork in line to apply after their gap year.
In addition to a large number of online college tours and various in-person college tours, CCA coordinates with college admissions counselors to come in to drop-in centers around the state.
Comegna, who has worked with CCA for more than eight years, said he has noticed trends indicating student success.
“Students can either work synchronously on track with other students or do it by themselves, but I have found that one key factor with successful students is that they’re 1) self-motivated but 2) really engaged and involved.”
Students who actively and independently search for their future options, and who are willing to communicate throughout the process with a teacher, counselor or classmate, often find the adjustment to post-graduate life much easier.
“I have gotten a lot of feedback from college admissions counselors saying that they really like how CCA is set up because of the self-motivation and organization aspects,” Comegna said. “A lot of college freshmen have to learn to adjust during their first year of college, but most of our grads come to college having already learned these skills.
"They’re used to the college model, where you might not meet in class every day but still have work to do every day. It’s very beneficial for the 49 percent of our students who choose that route.”