New class of Hybrid High graduates turns excellence into a tradition

June 13, 2017

Following in the footsteps of the last year’s inaugural class, all of this year’s seniors earned admittance to college

By Matthew Kredell

Dean Karen Symms Gallagher and USC Hybrid High principal Mide ‘Mac’ Macaulay stand with the USC Hybrid High class of 2017. Photo credit: Margaret Molloy for USC Rossier

At the graduation ceremony for USC Hybrid High School, held at USC’s Bovard Auditorium on Saturday, the announcement of each graduate’s name was paired with the college they will be attending.

Ninety-seven names, 97 colleges. The school’s second graduating class embraced the challenge laid out by last year’s inaugural group by matching its remarkable 100 percent graduation rate with a 100 percent college-acceptance rate.

“[Last year’s class] may have been the first, but you all represent the continuation of a tradition,” said USC Rossier School of Education Dean Karen Symms Gallagher, chair of the Ednovate board of directors.

USC Rossier launched USC Hybrid High in 2012, creating a model focused on meeting the personalized needs of each child through technology and teacher involvement, and established Ednovate as a charter management organization to handle day-to-day operations.

The graduates from the downtown Los Angeles school’s 2017 class received 547 combined acceptances to four-year colleges with more than $5 million in combined grants and scholarships. Seven graduates will attend USC this fall: Mayra Blas, Axel Garcia, salutatorian Leslie Hernandez, Astrid Kayembe, Reo Kobayashi, Danielle Mares and Ariana Torres.

(See related: Hard work and dedication leads to USC for a student with special needs)

Students embrace after graduating from USC Hybrid High School. All seniors graduated and were accepted into at least one four-year college. Photo credit: Margaret Molloy for USC Rossier


Despite multiple pleas to save their cheers until the end of the proceedings, enthusiastic family and friends in the audience couldn’t help but voice their support when each graduate’s name was announced. After all, there was a lot to celebrate.

Class speaker Kavembe reminded her fellow graduates that they—like their brand new school—had started out timidly, adjusting to a new model of learning.

“Hybrid High taught us how to be deliberate in all of our actions and become the best versions of ourselves,” she said. “Hybrid High is an extraordinary school, and wanted us to be extraordinary students. The struggle to becoming our best selves was not always an easy one, but it was most definitely a rewarding one.”

Senior Ailen Salazar spoke about the challenges she faced as an undocumented immigrant who ultimately became valedictorian. Salazar will be attending Cornell University.

“It really wasn’t my intelligence but rather my work ethic and my grit that got me where I am today,” she said. “I was dedicated and passionate, and unwilling to let my status get in the way of my education.”

And Oliver Sicat ’01, CEO of Ednovate, noted that every graduate has a story of overcoming adversity through support from family, teachers, advisors, donors and a board of directors that all work to see them succeed.

“After you graduate from college, you will have some privilege, and it’s our hope that you will use your privilege to do the same for others who are in need, that you will pay it forward and take your talent in math, science, creativity, humor, art—whatever you’re passionate about—and use it to make this world a better place,” Sicat said.

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