The relationships between students and teachers at Van Horn High School was evident Sunday during the school’s commencement exercises. Only the second under the Independence School District banner, teachers lined the aisle as graduates walked in. They gave each student a hug and note of congratulations.

The relationships between students and teachers at Van Horn High School was evident Sunday during the school’s commencement exercises. Only the second under the Independence School District banner, teachers lined the aisle as graduates walked in. They gave each student a hug and note of congratulations.

“I think the connection between the teachers and students is really unique,” said graduate Charles Hernandez. “They really care about the students. They helped me learn and get through all of my classes without failing. That was awesome.”

The 118 graduates of Van Horn receiving their diplomas at the Community of Christ Auditorium have been through significant change during their high school careers. Only two years ago, the school was taken out of the Kansas City School District and placed, with six other schools, in the Independence School District.

Since then, graduation rates have soared from 68 percent to almost 95 percent and test scores of increased, 300 percent in the case of communication arts on the Missouri Assessment Program exams.

The environment has changed from stressful to one of a school united, which was the main message that rang through commencement.

“It seems like only yesterday, we walked through the doors of Van Horn for the first time,” said Autumn Isbell. “But now, we have teachers who want to teach us. They have gotten us through the rough spots. We have come together as the class of 2010. The school is so much better now.”

Four students received the Independence Board of Education Scholars Awards, given to the top-one percent of the senior class. Students receiving the award were – Kaila Huddleston, Autumn Isbell, Shelby West and Elena Sanders. Thirteen received the George Washington Carver Certificate and 13 graduated with honors. These students earned and maintained at least a 3.5 grade point average during their time at Van Horn.

West said the last 13 years have been a walk toward graduation and now, life is about to change. But with the huge transition and change the class of 2010 has already gone through the last two years, she said they will be ready for it.

“No longer are we young high school kids,” she said. “We are adults stepping into the world without the protection of our parents. We have all learned that we have nothing to fear. The best times of our lives is ready to begin. Our lives change tonight.”

Graduate Carla Rodriguez said she has waited her whole life for the chance to graduate high school. She plans to attend MCC-Blue River to begin studying graphic design.

“I will miss the teachers because they have supported me so much,” she said. “The attention they pay to everyone is fantastic. It was like a whole new start when Van Horn became a part of the Independence district.”

Graduate Heather McPherson said she is excited and ready for high school to be over.

“I am going to miss my friends a lot since we won’t be seeing each other every day anymore,” she said. “I just have to say for those left at Van Horn, enjoy school. Become active in school because if you are not, it won’t be any fun.”