State education leader meets students, praises Mac schools
“I only go to places where good things happen,” she told a group of eight McMinnville High School students, explaining that she can’t make it to every one of the nearly 200 districts in the state. “You’re in a sensational district.”
What makes it sensational? she asked them, seeking the teens’ advice on programs that encourage students to stay in school, graduate and go on to additional education.
Career pathways that let students focus on their areas of interest; science, technology, engineering math experiences and programs; and a community atmosphere that encourages upperclassmen to work with and help younger students all contribute to success, the Mac High panel told her.
They also noted the ASPIRE program, which matches MHS students with volunteer mentors from the community, has been important to many. Senior Jacob Porter said his mentor has helped him figure out which classes will be important for his career interests and how to prepare for college.
And much of the success enjoyed by Mac High students “goes back to the staff,” added Nathan Lausmann, a senior who is student body president this year. “We have great teachers who communicate with us; who are really dedicated. They target what kids find interesting and are available to help them.”
Another sensational part of the McMinnville district, students and educators said, is the College Credit Now program at McMinnville High School.
While they’re still in eighth-grade, students said, they learn that they can earn high school and college credits at the same time. As they become freshmen and upperclassmen, they realize how beneficial this can be: many graduate with enough credits to skip some of the basics and go on to more specialized learning.
“It’s pretty cool to go into college as a sophomore,” said Efren Plancarte, a senior who has earned 49 credits so far.
Mac High students earned more than 9,200 college credits last year, said Tony Vicknair, director of secondary programs. That’s far more than the number earned at any other high school in the state. More than 30 MHS teachers are qualified to teach dual credit courses in an array of subjects, including math, science, social studies and language arts.
“We’re trying not just to earn credits, but to earn them with a purpose,” Vicknair said.
Porter’s 64 credits will let him start his mechanical engineering studies as a sophomore, a status which will allow him to have a room to himself. Angela Hernandez’s 29 credits will give her a boost when she studies accounting, first at Chemeketa Community College, then at Linfield College. Maggie Ng has racked up 62 credits, which will take care of some of the basics as she studies math and business management at Portland State University.
And Plancarte said his College Credit Now experience will benefit not only himself, but also his younger siblings. ‘My learning is also for future generations,” he said. “That feels amazing.”
Golden noted that McMinnville’s programs are designed purposefully, not just to make students successful, but to move them toward a goal.
“You guys are awesome,” Golden told the students before moving on to meet with other McMinnville educators and community members.