Seniors tackle graduation hurdles

Hundreds of professionally-dressed high school students spent part of their day last week meeting their latest requirement for graduation.

They stood in front of a panel of parents, teachers and community volunteers to give a presentation about how high school prepared them for life after graduation.

The class of 2008 comprises the first students who must meet such new requirements as the presentation, developing a "high school and beyond plan" and passing the reading and writing sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

The high school's darkened gym was lined with folding tables and laptop computers for students to give presentations in front of a panel of observers.

Career and Technical Education Director Sandee Oehring said the presentations went well and thanked the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce for their efforts recruiting volunteers to observe the presentations.

Students giving presentations thought the requirement was worth the effort.

"It's good to get out and show people what I'm doing," said Henry Aesoph after he finished speaking. During his presentation, which was viewed by his parents, his advisor and one resident, he performed a tune on his viola.

He is planning to attend art school in California after graduation and hopes to become a clothing designer.

Jonalynn LeBailly said the presentations are worthwhile but add a lot of additional work for busy seniors.

"It is a good way to get us focused on our goals, but it a adds a whole lot of stress on the end of the year," LeBailley said. She said students should be focused on their goals long before they give their senior presentations.

LeBailley is planning to attend Skagit Valley College and eventually transfer to Western Washington University. She hopes to major in marine biology.

For many nervous students, presentation week marked the first time they have spoken in front of a panel of observers.

Senior Michael Tucker, however, said the presentation was pretty easy thanks to the experience he had gained by giving speeches in a world communications class.

The senior presentations took place each morning from Monday through Thursday. Students generally gave a 10-minute talk and were told to treat the requirement as a job interview.

Not all seniors were able to give their presentations last week. Some were busy meeting another requirement, passing the reading and writing sections of the WASL. They will have a chance to give their presentations next month. This is their last chance to pass the WASL.

The Chamber of Commerce helped round up volunteers to view the presentations. On Wednesday, 21 residents participated. Overall, about 65 community members gave their time to the cause.

"They've been instrumental in helping use," said Martha Wallin, community resource coordinator for the school district, in commending the chamber's efforts.

Paul Neumiller, an attorney and chairman of the chamber's Partnership with Schools committee, said he was impressed with the students' work.

"They have exceeded expectation on many levels," said Neumiller, who attended three days of presentations.

The volunteers and parents were given feedback forms teachers will use in evaluating each student's presentation.

While the senior presentations are a requirement for the class of 2008 to graduate, there could be some changes in the future.

A school district graduation requirements committee is debating whether to change the student presentation and portfolio, which appears to currently go above and beyond current state requirements.

The individual presentations are pretty demanding logistically for the high school to undertake. Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon estimated that it cost the district approximately $500,000.

Its up to the Oak Harbor School Board to approve any changes in the high school's graduation requirements.

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