DeLaSalle Education Center

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ stop at a tiny private school in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood earlier this year became a flashpoint in a national conversation about transgender rights.

The education department’s rollback of Obama-era protections for transgender students quickly overshadowed DeVos’ purported reasons for visiting Kansas City Academy – an innovative fine arts curriculum and farm-to-table culinary program.

Elle Moxley / 89.3

The halls of DeLaSalle Education Center are quiet – for now.

“It’s a silence that will go away in about two weeks – and that’s a good thing,” Mark Williamson, the school’s executive director, says.

DeLaSalle, a charter school at 3737 Troost Avenue, only serves kids at risk of dropping out.

“If you’re on grade level, if you’re well-adjusted – or as well-adjusted as a teenager can be – this isn’t the place for you,” Williamson says bluntly.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

This year on Central Standard, we'll be following three teenagers through their senior year of high school, from the beginning of the year through graduation in May, 2015.

Harold Burgos: High school and college at the same time

Age: 17

School: Ruskin High School, Hickman Mills School District, Kansas City, Mo.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

It’s graduation season, and across the metro, high school valedictorians and senior speakers are putting the finishing touches on their commencement addresses. At DeLaSalle Education Center, Sandra Perez is excited, and a little nervous, to give the speech she wrote, which was selected out of the graduating class of 52 to be part of the commencement celebration.

“It’s a speech that’s going to be remembered at least by someone. I want it to be a speech that could impact at least one person,” says Sandra.