New Vistas opens doors to opportunity
By Linda Lemond Post-Tribune correspondent August 17, 2012 2:44PM
Alyssa Robinson (left) and De'Sja'H Washington cut the ribbon during the opening of Neighbors' New Vistas High School in Portage on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 20, 2012 10:04AM
Dark skies and pouring rain could not extinguish the bright smiles at the Aug. 16 ribbon-cutting ceremony at Neighbors’ Educational Opportunities New Vistas High School in Portage.
New Vistas occupies the building that was originally Garyton Elementary School and then housed Portage Adult Education.
“We will have traditional ninth- through twelfth-grade students, students who for whatever reason dropped out of their traditional high school and students who just want a different learning environment and different choices,” principal Donald Knotts explained. “Students can work toward a high school diploma or a GED.
“We can be more flexible and tailor their education to their needs. We offer daycare, online courses and a smaller learning environment. Class size will average around 15 students. Right now our students’ ages go from 15 to 25 years.”
One of the unique aspects is community service required of the students.
NEO board president Sharon Mortensen welcomed attendees and introduced executive director Rebecca Reiner. Reiner spearheaded the effort to get the charter for New Vistas granted.
Reiner thanked the many individuals and organizations that helped make New Vistas a reality. She introduced members of the board and Georgia Davis, a representative from Ball State who provided support and guidance through the process of creating the charter school.
As rain pounded on the tent, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky said, “I think this is a perfect day to do this. ... You need sunshine, but sometimes you need a rainy day to make the grass grow. In a sense, that is what New Vistas is doing to make sure that we have every opportunity for every individual in Northwest Indiana to grow and fully develop their lives. It is a privilege to be here today to thank everyone connected with this program.
“The personification of what is going to take place here at New Vistas is represented by your registrar. Patricia (Munguia) started here in this building as a student some years ago and today she is the registrar of the high school.”
Visclosky presented the school with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol.
Reiner then introduced another guest, Barbara Woodruff, widow of Ken Woodruff. Ken Woodruff was the first director of Portage Adult Education. In 1962, Portage Township School offered a few night classes. Under Woodruff’s leadership it grew to be the second largest adult education program in the state with satellite sites serving much of Porter County. Reiner announced the establishment of a scholarship fund in Woodruff’s honor.
Barb Woodruff said, “Isn’t it amazing that 50 years ago the adult education program began first as a night school? It was then, as it is now, a place of learning, of caring, a place of second chances for the education and the betterment of society.
“[Ken] would be so thrilled to know that you are all here today to continue that learning and that caring. So, on to new heights and new vistas!”
The outdoor ceremony concluded with remarks from New Vistas seniors Alyssa Robinson and De’Sja’H Washington. They then led the assembly inside and cut the ribbon.
Folk group “Shades of Gray” played background music while attendees enjoyed refreshments and a tour of the building.
Washington summed up what the school means to her, “I love this place. It’s my new starting point. I’m getting a second chance.”
Visit www.neoadulted.org or call 850-4448 for more information.