By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Eighth-graders hear about high school

“I’m looking forward to it, but I think it will be harder,” said Hannah Siepmann, a student at Duniway.

Her classmate, Collin Fox, said he’s looking forward to moving on from middle school as well. “I’m looking forward to all the classes and to meeting new people,” he said.

They both are eager to rejoin friends from their elementary school, Memorial. Some of them went to McMinnville’s other middle school, Patton, and they will be reunited at McMinnville High.

But Hannah said, “I’m nervous about how many people will be there.” With nearly 2,000 students, Mac High is more than three times the size of either of McMinnville’s middle schools.

She and Collin, along with their fellow eighth-graders, learned more about Mac High this week when representatives visited Duniway. MHS staff members also visited Patton, and will return to both schools several times this spring to help prepare soon-to-be freshman for the transition.

“We’ll provide you all you need to be successful,” assistant principal Mark Hinthorn told Duniway eighth-graders.

Counselors will work with eighth-graders as they choose classes for next year. Upperclassmen on the LINK crew will help them get acquainted with Mac High in the fall. Freshmen will be in small learning communities, one-fourth of the class in each; students in each learning community will remain with the same five teachers for history, math, biology, language arts and freshman seminar, a course that will teach them about their future options.

Sean Burke, assistant principal for curriculum, described some of the programs, requirements and opportunities the new freshmen will see at Mac High.

Oregon requires students to earn 27 credits to graduate, including four in language arts; three each in math, science, social studies, arts and career pathways; one each in health and P.E.; and six electives. Mac High offers a wide range of electives, such as foreign language, cooking, robotics, drama, band, psychology, welding and “know your car.”

To graduate, students also need to prove they can read, write and do math by achieving high enough scores on state tests. In addition, they must take part in activities to help them determine what they’ll do after high school, such as develop a résumé and do job shadows.

After their freshman year, Burke said, students can take Advanced Placement and College Credit Now courses, allowing them to earn college credits while still in high school. This can give them an early start on college and save their parents a lot of money, he said.

Career pathway classes also give students a chance to earn some scholarship money. And in addition to teaching specific skills, Burke said, they show students the range of jobs in various career areas.

Burke and Hinthorn urged the eighth graders to start thinking now about which electives and which career pathways interest them. And when they get to Mac High, Hinthorn said, they need to focus on three things: attending classes consistently, maintaining a strong academic performance and getting involved.

“Don’t fear high school,” he said. “Just get ready for it.”

After the presentation, both Hannah and Collin said they’re even more excited about what the next four years will bring. They’re looking forward to choosing electives and taking part in activities, although right now, their heads are swimming with all the possibilities.

Collin said he definitely plans to continue to play sports. In middle school, he’s played basketball, baseball and football.

Hannah, who’s now involved with the Mac Swim Club, plans to join the Mac High swim team.

They said they intend to balance athletics and other activities with academics. “We need to focus really hard and participate,” Hannah said.

And if they study hard and keep their grades up, she said, they’ll have more choices about what to take when they’re seniors.

She and Collin said they’re excited about all the career pathway classes, too. But which they’ll take — that’s still totally undecided.

“That’s going to take some more thinking,” Collin said.

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