Jason Hodge, 17, will graduate next month from Riverside Achievement Center, the alternative program through Riverside School District.
His dreams are close to home. And possibly on the back of a rodeo bull.
Hodge said things really weren’t working for him in the traditional high school setting. He was working hard with friends on their land, and it was difficult to make time for school.
The Achievement Center worked out for him, because he could still work while studying on his own time.
Living in Elk, Hodge has many opportunities to do what he loves. He and his buddies often hunt – deer, elk, wild turkeys, even bear.
“You usually make sausage out of it,” he said of the greasy bear meat.
He has his own recipe for wild turkey. He marinates it for a long time before cooking it.
“I like it on the barbecue,” he said. He also makes turkey jerky.
Just last month, Hodge got his first taste of bull riding – something he has wanted to do since he saw “8 Seconds,” a movie that chronicles the life of professional bull rider Lane Frost.
He was helping friend Ryan Dixon set up bucking chutes, when he asked if he could give it a try. He held on for three seconds the first two times, and five seconds the third time.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said.
One day, he would like to be a professional bull rider.
“I’m a crazy kid,” he said. “I’m a bull-riding crazy country kid.”
Dixon agreed. He said Hodge has a caring character and likes to help people, but he does get wild at times.
His principal, Janet Kemp, said the nontraditional environment really suited Hodge.
“He overcame obstacles to graduate,” she said. Hodge started the school year a little behind in his class work and Kemp worried that leaving his lifelong friends at the high school would be hard for him. But he flourished at the Achievement Center.
“I think he did a great turnaround,” Kemp said.
She knew Hodge’s family would understand what an alternative school does for students because Hodge’s father, Jeremy Lucatorta, also attended Riverside Achievement Center.
He has a large extended family – he counts step-siblings and half-siblings to make up a family of 10 brothers and sisters.
He’s lived in the area all his life and hopes to stay close to home. He said he gets homesick even when he goes on vacation.
“I plan to stay,” he said. “It’ll be hard to leave home.
“I would have never guessed I’d make it this far,” he said. He’s proud he can finally say he’s made it through school.
“Last year was tough,” he said. “Everything is starting to pay off.”