“I love this place so much. It’s the greatest place.” Constance Fincher gets kind of emotional when she talks about “her” school.
“This place literally saves people. The idea of individual education plans for each student… That is just so possible here,” she says. “This school not only motivated me to graduate high school but now I’ll graduate in December with my bachelor’s degree because our Principal Mr. Leach and some of the teachers here like Mr. Williams and Mr. Boswell told me I was capable of more than what I’m doing at the moment.”
It’s not the first time Constance has gotten that motivational message from North Heights Alternative School. The first time, she was a student there, graduating in 2001. Now she’s a clerk at the school, finishing up a bachelor’s degree and keeping her fingers crossed for a North Heights classroom of her own to lead at some point in the future.
Constance will tell you North Heights can have that effect on a person. “I hope to return the favor and do for these students what this place did for me,” she says. “That’s my big dream.”
“This place literally saves people. The idea of individual education plans for each student… That is just so possible here.”
At North Heights, dreams come true almost daily. Most North Heights graduates go on to walk across the stage with their “home” campus in May. But when a student completes the academic requirements for graduation, effectively finishing their high school career, a ceremony of sorts happens right then and there in the halls of North Heights. An announcement is made on the intercom. Faculty and students step out into the hallway, clapping and cheering. The graduate gives a little speech.
Constance is always there with a camera, front and center for every moment.
She documents each milestone on social media. There are 78 such photos so far this year, with more stacking up on Constance’s camera roll. Each one, carefully curated with the student’s name, graduation date and future career or college goals. “It’s just really nice motivation for other students to see their friends do this and know they can do it too,” says Constance. “That’s why we do the celebrations. The students who aren’t finished yet might not be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and this lets them know that it does come.”
For students struggling to see that light, Constance says the best thing about North Heights is the educators who will walk every step with them, from making a plan– “Mr. Williams really helps them take what they want to do in life and helps them think outside the box when it comes to how they can actually do that,” says Constance – to following through with that plan. “After we take that celebration picture, I turn them around and I’m like ‘This is Gina Law. She’s our career and college counselor.’ And if they have not already filled out their applications for college or started the FAFSA process, Gina will take them directly to her office and get that process going.”
Bottom line, says Constance, North Heights exhibits AISD’s mission to graduate every student prepared for success as much as any school can. “North Heights is inclusive. It’s for everyone. We really do believe in that and we really are no excuses. It’s so awesome to see a student literally be the phoenix and rise from the ashes into something so beautiful. Some of them come here torn and distraught. This may be their last chance, and it ends up being something that totally transforms them. “