Senior Session pushes students across graduation finish line
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Senior José Ortiz said a week of seniors-only credit recovery helped propel him into summer school and on his way to graduating. Students work through online lessons with teachers available to help explain subjects. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
Milwaukie High School senior José Ortiz pointed to a notebook page of math equations.
“That’s my diploma right there,” he told Aeylin Summers, North Clackamas’ summer school director.
It was only the third day of summer school, but Ortiz was well on his way to finishing his classes, thanks to the school district’s Senior Session.
In the North Clackamas School District this year, seniors’ school year finished June 7 but the last day of school wasn’t until June 18. The district had facilities open and teachers available on contract, so it created a week of credit recovery just for seniors June 10-14.
Nearly 50 students, most recommended by counselors, showed up, and 14 were able to finish their credit requirements in time to be eligible for commencement. The rest got a running start at summer school, and a handful finished up within days of summer school starting, including Milwaukie High School senior Anthony Paepcke.
“I’m still class of 2019,” Paepcke said. He said it felt good to finish in the same year as his friends.
Paepcke said he will be the first in his family to earn a high school diploma. He plans to go to college to be a pharmacist.
During Senior Session, North Clackamas opened two classrooms from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for seniors from all the district’s high schools. Students worked through online lessons with four teachers present to help with any stumbling blocks. One classroom was for math, and one was for everything else. The district also provided lunch.
Paepcke said he appreciated the personal attention and the ability to finish up and get on with his summer.
History teacher Natalie Labossiere said she enjoyed the one-on-one work with students. She said there was an extra level of motivation during the session as the students saw their peers preparing for graduation.
Summers, who coordinated the Senior Session, said one of the advantages of Senior Session is it kept seniors connected to school. During the lag between the end of seniors’ classes and the start of summer school, students sometimes get out of the school mindset, make other plans and drift away without finishing.
With Senior Session, students were making progress and staff were staying connected with them about summer school.
“I love that the district was able to say, ‘Let’s try something,’” Summers said. She said the first year was more successful than they had expected and the program should continue. Summers said the program has also generated discussions about other ways to help students catch up during the school year.
Summers said students don’t come for credit recovery unless they want to succeed. She tries to fill the rooms with excitement and passion for students’ achievements.
“We do a lot of hugging, a lot of jumping up and down when they come in and say, ‘I finished,’” she said.
Ortiz liked that the Senior Session was just seniors facing the same situation. He said he didn’t really want to go to summer school but Senior Session made it easier and gave him confidence.
Ortiz plans to go to Portland Community College to study auto repair and social work but first he must finish Algebra II and English.