Olympic High School Graduation

There were speeches by students and educators, caps flung into the air and flowers cradled against gowns. There was a feeling of joy and a sense of curiosity about what’s ahead. There was even some cash awarded.

Olympic High School held its graduation ceremony outdoors on its campus earlier this month, when principal Anthony Fuller and other officials celebrated the accomplishments of the 24 students who finished their work at the Santa Monica-Malibu school district’s continuation school.

Those students made up less than half of the whole 59-member Olympic graduating Class of 2016, which also included 28 students from the Adult Education Center, four students from the off-campus learning center and three who completed their General Educational Development requirements.

Olympic students received a total of more than $21,000 in scholarships, according to SMMUSD spokeswoman Gail Pinsker.

That figure includes $16,500 from the Assistance League of Santa Monica, which raises money primarily through its 15th Street thrift shop to support a variety of community programs, including educational scholarships. The local chapter of the national charity organization has awarded more than $830,000 in scholarships to more than 140 recipients since 2001, according to its website.

Other organizations contributing money towards scholarships for Olympic students included the Association of California School Administrators; the California Continuation Education Association; the district PTA and administrator association; Edison Language Academy; and the Rotary Club of Santa Monica. Los Angeles-based artist and educator Karen Koblitz and former Grant Elementary School principal Alan Friedenberg donated as well.

The June 1 graduation ceremony wrapped up a year of transition, triumph and tragedy at Olympic.

It was the first year of principal work for Fuller, who replaced Janie Gates at the helm following her retirement from the district last year. Fuller has been on staff at the continuation school since 2002. He joined the district’s new advisory committee on career technical education to weigh in on employment opportunities for students.

Olympic this year was a beneficiary of Gwyneth Paltrow’s donation to Santa Monica schools, which was part of a coordinated effort by entertainers and other celebrities to fund teacher projects. The actress’ donation in March was expected to pay for a 3-D printer at Olympic, where science teacher Christa Hollis has worked with students to design small objects using sophisticated software.

“It’s one thing to conceptualize an idea, it’s another to be able to actually hold your own prototype,” Hollis said at the time.

The Olympic community in April mourned the loss of Mark Suminski, a teacher there since 2007 who died at age 60 after a long battle with cancer.

“He was a big man on our campus,” Fuller said, “and he will be truly missed.”

The campus is undergoing major renovations following the school board’s approval last month of a $5.6-million contract with Chatsworth-based Novus Construction. Officials have said they hope the project is complete before the start of the 2017-18 school year.

jeff@www.smdp.com