Two days before commencement, graduating seniors from Hudson’s Bay High School walked the halls of Washington Elementary as students cheered loudly.
The annual tradition of grad walks is special for everyone. But for Lizbeth Ramirez, graduation marked a new beginning in more ways than one:
I’m first-generation to graduate, first person in my family to see graduation and walk on graduation day, so it’s awesome.
In recent years, more and more Bay seniors have earned the opportunity to wear their black-and-gold robes and proudly declare that they are now high school graduates. Bay has seen dramatic rises in its four-year graduation rates, jumping from 73.3 percent in 2014 to 87.4 percent in 2016.
The reason? Well, there’s not just one, but let’s start with Principal Val Seeley:
“I think it’s a lot about communication. I think I talk with my advocates and my counselors daily. ‘Hey, how’s so-and-so doing? Are they behind? What are they doing?’ Or, ‘Hey, so-and-so just lost their job or they’re homeless. What can we do?”
It’s those positive relationships that bolster students when their focus is lagging, or life intervenes in challenging ways, and lets them know that we want every one of them to be successful. Because every student is unique, the Bay staff approaches individual needs the same way, say student advocates and coaches Kory Kanekoa and Will Jones.
“Now it’s by name: ‘What’s going on with that junior? Why is he or she not passing?’ So it’s gotten a lot more specific.”
“We’ve really gotten to know each kid pretty well, and so just the relationship piece allows for kids to do more for you because they know that you care about them.”
The school’s strategy is comprehensive. The staff meticulously reviews every senior’s progress, calling in resources to keep each student on track. Juniors are invited to summer interventions that reverse credit deficiencies to prepare them for their senior year. Interventions also allow for access to Chelsea Unger, the school’s Family-Community Resource Center coordinator. During the school year, Success Academy provides alternative options to the six-period day for students with work and family commitments.
But support extends much farther at Bay through programs such as Successful Educational Transition, for freshmen; GEAR UP; AVID; Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports; attendance initiatives; and classes offered onsite through the Lieser Campus.
Everyone is committed to the work, Val says.
“It’s a family effort here at Bay that we all just know it’s our job to get them across the finish line.”
I believe that you can find that same spirit not only at Bay, but at each school and department in the district. I’m so proud of every single employee in Vancouver Public Schools. I’m proud of our students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, and all that they’ve accomplished this year. And I’m thankful to the families, volunteers and partners who give their time, efforts and resources to our schools. We wouldn’t be successful without them.
I wish you all a great summer!