MESA – John Gomez is one of about 2,000 Scottsdale students who donned a cap and gown earlier this week, ready to bid goodbye to his high school years.
But two things stand out about Gomez: The Saguaro High School junior is one of 14 Scottsdale students earning a diploma early this year. And he’s doing it so he can travel with his band, leaving for a nearly three-month tour 48 hours after graduation.
While a relatively small number of Scottsdale students graduated early each year, and the reasons vary from student to student, they all seem to share one thing: They’re focused more on their dream jobs early on, said Corrine Benjamin, head counselor at Saguaro.
“They are highly motivated and focused students who have defined career goals,” Benjamin said. “The incredible focus really isn’t on their high school career, but is on their future career.”
That’s the case for Gomez, who has been passionate about music since elementary school. He’s played the violin for nine years and has sung in choir throughout high school.
The band idea started when Gomez was in sixth grade. He and his older brother Stephen were listening to a Blink 182 album one afternoon and decided they wanted to learn to play instruments.
John ended up on guitar, Stephen on bass, and they played with several bands in subsequent years.
The fifth band was the charm. The Summer Set formed last April and was signed to the record label The Militia Group in April. The band generated a lot of buzz early on, Gomez said, so when he checked his credits last July, he decided to graduate early.
“If you get the chance, when your band gets big buzz in the industry, you’ve got to grab it,” he said.
He said it will be strange to come back from tour in the fall and find his friends in school, but he is not too torn up about the situation.
“High school kind of ‘was’ for me,” he said. “It just kind of ‘was.’ It wasn’t a big high in my life.”
Gomez’s mom, Jean, spent a lot of time communicating with John’s teachers and counselors to make sure everything worked out. While most of the credits were taken care of, he had to take two online classes to graduate, she said.
While she acknowledges that traveling with a band isn’t the normal path for students, she has full confidence her sons will end up with college degrees.
“School will always be there,” she said. “To me, it’s kind of a reverse internship. This is the area that you like, music, but what do you like about it?”
She hopes her son will find the answer to that question before he heads to college. And college is definitely in John Gomez’s plans.
He’s got the grades – he’s graduating with a 3.7 GPA – and is thinking about studying the business aspects of either the music or culinary industries.
Other students are skipping their high school graduation and going straight to college. Arcadia High School sophomore Alexandra Smith is starting this fall at Bard College in Simons Rock, Mass., a school that only admits 16- and 17-year-olds.
Smith has taken several advanced classes, including a college class.
She wants to study astrophysics and teach.