With a 100 percent graduation rate , 31 of 35 seniors qualifying for four-year colleges and five signing up for the military, the 2010-11 school year was an especially satisfying one for Summit Leadership Academy.


"It's really been an awesome year," director Phil Dotson said before the ceremony. "I'm very proud of this group of kids."


During the graduation, Deputy Chief Lance Clark of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, borrowed from Abraham Lincoln.


"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other thing," said Chief Clark, a previous Summit board member who served as Hesperia Police Station commander before receiving a promotion.


Demonstrating his own resolve is graduate Joseph Luce, who shared the salutatorian title with Lonnie Von Oesen.


"I've got my entire life planned out," Luce, who will study computer science at UC San Diego, said during rehearsals Tuesday night.


Upon graduating from college, he plans on going into the Air Force. After 20 years of service, he will "retire with a pension."


Then, at the age of 40, he will start a second career again perhaps in the computer science field or politics and retire a second time two decades later at the age of 60.


"Then I'll start doing a bucket list."


While Luce uses logic to plot his next steps, some things are beyond his control. A product of a divorce, the self described "nerd and geek" has been the man of the house, helping his mother and sister (an older sister lives elsewhere) to handle life's challenges.


Life threw a giant curveball last Christmas when he was visiting his father in Tennessee. His father, who had been battling lung cancer, died when Luce was by his bedside.


"It was hard," he said. "But you push on through it."


Once again, the affable Luce was a pillar, holding it together while his step-mother and others were emotionally collapsing.


"I stayed strong through it until the funeral."


Luce says he learned to accept responsibilities by attending the disciplined learning environment at Summit Leadership Academy.


"I see how everybody's treated here," Luce said. "You learn to grow up faster. That probably wouldn't happen in a public school."


The appreciate goes both ways.


"He's become the man of the house," said principal Phil Dotson. "He's one of the best kids I've had the pleasure to work with."


Dotson also singled out four others for their accomplishments.


Valedictorian Erica Romo has always been good at school. But when he mother told her she wanted her to go to a school where students where uniforms, she wasn't happy.


"I wanted to leave at first," Romo said.


She kept to herself her freshman year. Then she blossomed.


Finishing with a 4.0 GPA, Romo will attend the Cal State San Bernardino nursing program.


"I'm all about helping other people," she said. "There's something about that field."


Another Cal State San Bernardino-bound student, Amanda Awad, also wasn't sure about Summit Leadership at first. But her father and brother, who both are in law enforcement, spoke about the charter school's virtues.


"At first I didn't want to listen to him," Awad said about her brother, who also graduated from Summit Leadership.


But she took his words to heart.


"I want to make my family proud and walk in those shoes," Awad said.


The ASB and Senior Class president graduated with the third highest GPA and will study criminal justice and forensics at college.


Jaime Zepeda plans on being a political science major at Cal State Bakersfield and then becoming a history teacher. But college wasn't on his radar when he was in middle school. In fact, Zepeda was more accustomed to earning C's and D's, even occasional F grades.


If he hadn't chosen Summit Leadership his future might not have been as promising.


"I would have kept that bad kid side," he said. "I probably wouldn't have graduated."


Lonnie Von Oesen, who shares salutatorian honors with Luce, is headed for UC Merced, about an hour away from Yosemite. He plans on studying civil engineering and going into the Air Force and later becoming a firefighter, like his father.


"I'm an outdoors person," he said. "I like to fish."


After attending Ranchero Middle School, his family said they might send him to boarding school.


"So I guess I chose Summit Leadership Academy."


At first he tried to rebel.


"My parents always had to push me. I had hair as long as I could."


But something happened along the way.


"It was a big transition for me," Van Oesen said. "I love it there now."


Summit LeadershipAcademy Class of 2011:


Amanda Awad, Marlene Bocanegra, Aimaiti Bomaliyamu, Yoselin Cardenas, Cindy Carrillo, Dillon Cox, Andrew Diaz, Joseph Elizondo, Yesenia Favela, Krisna Fretwell, Jake Hanson, Christopher Hunter, Mayra Jacinto, Jennifer Lara, "Angie" Sun-Min Lee, Monique Leyba, Joseph Luce, Andria Maldonado, Jessica Mendoza, Brian Monks, Jessica Munoz, Justin Olmos, Jose Luis Padilla, Jose Paredes, Daniel Pena, Ashley Pendarvis, Natalie Jordan Perez, Erika Romo, Joshua Tevis, Isaac Vega, Lonnie Von Oesen, "Coral" Shan Wang, Eric Wernergreen, Richard Wilson and Jaime Zepeda.