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Graduation Process Proposal

Back at the last assembly meeting, I committed to hold a series of discussions with kids–and open to parents–to elucidate a graduation process. The goal was to have a proposal ready for the the next assembly meeting (tomorrow), where it could be amended and [hopefully] approved so it can be presented officially in September.

The first meeting was reasonably well attended. It got so much done that only a handful of people showed up for a second meeting…which was predictably short.

The process we came up with draws from the suggestions of the kids, the Colloquium process at NYU Gallatin (which I went through as an undergrad.), and the mission of this ALC (supporting independent learners in intentionally creating their lives).



A student wishing to graduate from ALC-NYC needs to notify the school of this intention at least 6 months in advance. The intended graduate communicates that they have identified their Next Step, are beginning preparations to take it, and request community support in beginning the graduation process.

At this time, the school community chooses 2 of its members to support the student in preparing to graduate and to sit on the student’s Colloquium panel. The student chooses 2 additional community members to request the same support and panel membership from. Finally, the school community and student collaborate to find an individual whose experience or position is related the the student’s intended Next Step. The student invites this person to also join their Colloquium panel.

In the months leading up to graduation, the student works to prepare for their Next Step. They compile documentation of their preparation process into a portfolio, and this portfolio becomes what they present to the panel at their graduation. The panel members will review the portfolio and engage the student in a conversation, with the aim of determining whether the student is ready to graduate. After an hour of portfolio review and discussion, the student will step out and the panel will get clear on whether or not the student is ready to move on. When they have decided, they will relay their decision to the student.

Graduating students are also encouraged to throw themselves a party. They plan the kind of party that they want, and the school community gathers after their Colloquium to celebrate with them.



I expect the numbers of the members of the panel to change as the school grows in upcoming years. Personally, I like that the proposal addresses what I felt to be the two weak points of the Gallatin Colloquium process–the focus on ground covered rather than steps forward, as well as the lack of a reintegration phase of the ritual.

Thoughts? I’m presenting this to the assembly tomorrow…

From the mouths of Agile Learners: Graduation ideas

Out of curiosity, I went around and asked all our students “What would/should a graduation process for ALC look like?”

Here are the answers I got:

  • There should be a test to see how long you can play Minecraft.
  • There should be a test to see if you can survive after drinking a 5-hour energy drink.
  • There should be a test to see what you’ve learned. You take it when you turn 18, because that’s when other schools graduate people. Or maybe you just graduate when you turn 18. Or maybe you graduate when you turn 25, so more of your brain is developed.
  • There is a student chairman who decides whether someone is ready to graduate or not. The student chairman is @douglasawesome until he graduates. His successor is determined by an all-student competition measuring efficacy at the game Werewolves.
  • There is a ceremony where the graduating students wears a tuxedo and walks across a stage. They shake Abby and @ryanshollenberger’s hands, kiss @tomis’s hand, and then receive an ALC tattoo on their forehead, from Ryan. This is after they have blogged every week for their final month.
  • The student designs and constructs a custom hat. A panel of 3 facilitators judges the hat to decide if the student is ready to graduate.
  • The student decides what kind of graduation party they want, plans it, and throws it for themselves, with the community’s support.

I hope you laughed reading these 🙂

I also hope you re-read them and pick up on some exciting depth and potential. Hear the distinction between approaches where the student graduates versus the ones in which the student is graduated by community members? Notice the recurring proposal of an obstacle/task/project that the graduate takes on as they prepare for their transition?

We decided yesterday to convene a graduation group to start creating a process. We’ll meet twice a month, with the goal of bringing a proposal to the assembly meeting in May. We’ll talk about graduation versus moving on//leaving//transferring, a process leading up to graduation (How does a student declare their intention to graduate? How far in advance? What kind of personal challenge//vision quest should they take on?), and the graduation ritual itself (Who are our gatekeepers, deciding who does and doesn’t become a ‘graduate’ of ALC? What does the send-off ceremony+celebration of a person taking a new step in their life look like?). We’ve already discussed doing more independent brainstorming about a relevant ritual, reading some Victor Turner, researching various coming-of-age and identity-transitioning rituals, and learning what various free schools//unschooling groups//intentional communities that incorporate young people have developed over time.

Should be interesting…I’ll keep you posted!