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Freshmen Encouraged In Passport Program
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Freshmen students put their signatures on an Oakdale High School graduation gown as a commitment to graduate with their class in 2014 during the school’s recent “Passport To Success” program for the new high school students. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader
After seven weeks, many Oakdale High School freshmen are still making adjustments to life on the high school campus and the increased academic rigor. Recently, the students participated in an intervention-type program called Passport To Success to get “grounded” and focus on their academics.
OHS College Counselor Denise Hitch came up with the idea and implemented the program. She said that Passport to Success “was designed to inspire the freshman class early, prior to the posting of first quarter grading period and show them how to ‘do high school right.’”
The students were given “passports” to have stamped at each of four stations on campus, which they rotated through, learning about the challenges of high school and being encouraged by older students and staff about making the most of high school. Each group was made up of approximately 90 students.
OHS Vice Principal Dennis Hitch said that the program also reminds students that they will have homework every day, there is a strict dress code, and they are expected to be in class every day on time.
“The freshmen are encouraged to set lofty goals for themselves and try to work through those discouraging moments,” Vice Principal Hitch said. “As an adult, we will have difficult times, but have we have the experience and knowledge that we must work through them. Here, we are helping the student to accept the challenges and give them the tools to successfully complete their high school years.”
One session showed a short motivational video of famous people who overcame obstacles and failures when they were younger. Counselor Hitch then talked to the students about taking responsibility and Link Crew members spoke to them as well.
“They tell us what you need to strive for, the things to do in high school that are important,” said freshman Christina Cobarruvias.
She said the presentation was motivating and filled with information about doing your best, keeping up attendance, and managing time well.
Counselor Hitch told the students that approximately 50 percent of them received deficiency notices but that if they get on track, it’s not too late to improve their grades. She said that they have until Christmas to get their grades up and still be okay. She reminded them that due to budget cuts, they currently don’t have the luxury of catching up in summer school the way some of their older high school peers did.
“Your parents can want things for you, your teachers can want things for you, but it’s really up to you,” she told the students. “We are here to encourage you guys, you can do this.”
Each of the students then signed a red OHS graduation gown as their commitment to graduate with their class in 2014.
In another session, several upperclassmen told their high school “stories” and talked about their challenges and what they had to do to overcome those obstacles and get their high school careers back on track.
Cobarruvias said that it helped to see the older students speak about overcoming their obstacles and turning around their high school careers for the better.
Another session had teachers talking to students in different classrooms. Teachers Marty Fauria and Trent Merzon showed students a brief clip from one of the “Rocky” movies where Rocky talked to his teenage son about persevering and not letting others bring him down, to believe in himself and keep moving forward.
Fauria told the freshmen that life and school can be hard. He gave them a few points of advice. First, he told them to pick the people they hang around with carefully.
“I think that’s the most important advice for a teenager in the world,” Fauria said.
Second, he told them to find a trusted adult who they think has life figured out and turn to that person when they feel frustrated or confused. Next, Merzon helped the students define success and encouraged them to figure that out for themselves.
“Don’t let somebody else define what your success is to you,” Merzon said.
Finally, Fauria added that if he could, he would give students a strong dose of self-confidence. He said it’s not something that shows up in a photograph, it’s something inside and they shouldn’t give it up.