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Petoskey Seniors Barred from Commencement Ceremony Speak Out

Aria Jesiek, a senior at Petoskey High School, said she was devastated when she found out just a few months ago that she wasn’t going to earn the credits needed to graduate.

“It shattered me. And it’s really weighing on my heart because of how hard I have worked to get to this moment,” said Jesiek.

Jesiek said she’s been doing the best she can, but with a learning disability and the COVID lockdown, it was hard to keep up.


“I’ve been asking teachers for extra help, anything to get my grades up. ... I have dyslexia, but they don’t really help you when you ask for that help. They kind of just they tell you what to do and then they just they just let you off,” said Jesiek.

Even with an individualized educational program, or IEP, many students with learning disabilities need help to navigate school, and she said she didn’t feel supported.

“It was just information that has already been told to me over the years, and it’s just repeated information and not helping,” said Jesiek.

Jesiek said the district shares responsibility, and she knows she’s not the only one.


Many of them are just a few credits shy of the requirements needed to earn a high school diploma. They each said they plan to go to summer school to make up the credits they need, but for now, they just want to be able to walk with their peers at graduation.

Richard Diesenrolth, who also has dyslexia, transferred to another school a few years ago after struggling at Petoskey schools.

“I couldn’t do any of my work. I tried to ask teachers for help. They denied it. I tried to reach out to people so I can get help. I couldn’t. And I was getting sick of it. So I switched schools and now I am graduating,” said Diesenrolth, who is set to graduate this weekend.

Which is something one Petoskey mom, Jackie Morley, said she wishes her senior would get the chance to do. She said her son also has a learning disability and has been on an IEP since elementary school. He’s in a similar situation to Jesiek, shy just three credits.


“I feel bad for him because, you know, this is a one chance in a lifetime thing. You know, it is the end of his school career, and should get to walk with all the rest of his friends,” said Morley.

Dr. Jeffrey Leslie, the superintendent for Public Schools of Petoskey, said they can’t talk about kid’s cases individually because of privacy concerns but said they have plenty of supports available and they do what they can to support kids.

“We have a great number of students with IEPs that are successfully earning high school diplomas. We’re not 100%. We’d like to be 100%. We know that we’re not there yet,” said Leslie.

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