Homeschooled students from across the state will celebrate with two graduation ceremonies today. The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) is holding the ceremony.

Spokesperson Barb Hecki says it’s something they’ve been doing since the group was formed in 1992. Hecki says they’ve had from 98 to 126 graduates and this is the first year they are having two ceremonies, because of the number of people taking part. She says they have a very personalized ceremony for each graduate and their parents.

Hecki says the ceremony marks and educational milestone, and also allows them to showcase the homeschooled students. “You’ve got all the surveys showing excellent results over decades, but to actually see the students and their parents, and hear about what they’re doing, and just see their families on the stage…it’s just a very heartwarming ceremony,” Hecki says.

Graduates in public school ceremonies often cross the stage and receive their diploma from the superintendent and a school board member. Hecki says the students and the parents handle those duties in their ceremony. She says they come in from different sides of the stage and the graduate hands a rose to their mother, and the father hands a diploma to the student.

Hecki says they have a narrative playing that tells about the students while this is going on, and then they hug and leave the stage. “So it’s very, very nice.” Hecki says there are some 30,000 students who are homeschooled or attend non-state accredited private schools. She says this is one of various events that homeschooled students participate in.

Hecki says there are local support groups around the state that have from three to 100 students in them, and those groups often honor the students at the local level, and then they participate in this statewide ceremony as well. Hecki says they will have a special speaker at the ceremonies this year.

His name is Israel Wayne, and he was homeschooled by a single mom who had an eighth grade education. The first ceremony begins at 11 A.M., and the second begins at 3:30 p.m. Both are being held at the First Assembly of God Church in Des Moines.

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