Seniors graduate despite turbulent year

NOW: Seniors graduate despite turbulent year

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. - Graduation is just weeks away but are students ready? ABC57 takes a look at if the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted graduation rates.

Despite how rocky this school year has been with schedules constantly switching from virtual to in-person learning, data shows graduation rates aren’t slowing down - and school officials are telling me the same thing.

It’s the moment many seniors look forward to.

“I am so excited," Emilee Kelly, a senior at St. Joseph High School in Michigan said.

That walk across the podium, the diploma in hand and the final shake from the principal guiding your education.

While this year has been far from normal, at least some ceremonies are staying intact.

"The magical day, finally get our diploma," Karenna Sohn, another Senior St. Joe High School said.

For many seniors, the next step is college. But there have been many challenges that came out of 2020 including bad grades, a lack of motivation, and a decrease in attendance rates in schools.

"Senioritis has been a huge component to my attitude this year. But I've had to definitely push through it and get past the obstacles, online learning personally is not my favorite," Maurissa Lagrow, a senior a Coloma High School said. "The teachers were really understanding it was just all about having that self-motivation and that self-drive to be able to get through those challenges of being at home all the time and not being able to see your friends and your, your teachers and stuff, so it was a huge challenge for me.”

"Yeah, it's been definitely different, a little bit inconsistent," Sohn said. "AP classes, definitely were a little bit tricky with the online schedule but we worked through it and now we're here in person full capacity, so we're just really thankful that we could get through our senior year, and not fail our AP.”

Lack of motivation is nothing new for St. Joe High School principal Greg Blomgren.

"In any typical year you would just call that senioritis right I mean, we would just define it that way but because of covid the pandemic it has, you know impacted the students, it's impacted the staff, it's impacted the parents and the community I mean it has not been easy," Blomgren said.

Even with the hardships, graduation rates haven’t changed all that much.

The Indiana and Michigan Departments of Education recently released 2020 graduation rates and you’d be surprised by the results.

In Indiana, the graduation rate actually increased by .40 percentage points from 2019 to 2020 and in Michigan, it increased as well by .66 percentage points.

This year, Blomgren is expecting something similar.

"We're not anticipating any difference in our graduation rates, and in a typical year we'd get 250 kids, we might have one or two kids that are gonna have to spend a little extra time with us after the last day of seniors and do some extra work or come back for summer school. But at this point, if I had to guess, every, every one of the 250 graduates will walk across the stage on June 6," he said.

Tana: Despite maybe some lower grade averages than normal right?

"Totally, yeah, you might see a little bit of that," he said. "And I think we've seen that across the board, just through our ninth through 12th grade we've had an increase in the number of students who have not passed classes who are going to need some additional support, maybe through the summer, or to retake a course, going into their next year so I think that would be very similar to what all school districts are seeing right now during this pandemic.”

"Just our first semester grades with being hybrid and online I was definitely a little bit worried about that," Sohn said. “I think colleges are definitely a lot more, you know, considerate that we haven't really been in school.”

At Coloma High School, the principal tells ABC57 the same thing. Both schools actually expanding their summer school programs to make way for the influx of students.

So by the time college comes around, these seniors will feel ready. But at this point - are they?

Tana: Do you think you're ready for that next step?

“I think I'm ready for college, I think it's taught me a lot of different skills that I wouldn't, per se, learn if I was in school full time, like if we were in school all year," Lagrow said.

"Yeah, for sure,” Sohn said.  “I think we're kind of used to having like that connection with our teachers. And so once we went online, we kind of like all freaked out and tried to teach ourselves how to learn everything by ourselves. I'm hoping that the online school kind of prepared me to be independent for college next year.”

“I'm a little nervous I definitely think for some of our classes we didn't get all the material that we were supposed to learn, but I also feel like I'm almost more prepared in other aspects as in like personal motivation and like time management skills," Kelly said.

For Emilee, the pandemic even brought her closer to the profession she wants to study - nursing.

"Just COVID has made me seen how much nursing and like doctors, we do need," she said.

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