As the 2014 school year ends and plans are made for the 2015 school year, C2G strategies play an important role in the culture of any school. If you are a high school principal and use none of the strategies I am about to share, please consider these or similar strategies. The impact they make on the lives of students and the community will be profound!
One strategy is the 9th Grade pinning or commitment to graduate ceremony each fall. Community and education leaders are all invited to participate. During the ceremony only two people speak. I share statistics with students in an effort to help them understand the value (monetary) of getting a high school diploma as well as post graduate degrees. Students usually brighten up when you ask them if they want to earn a million dollars. If they graduate from high school and work 30 to 40 years, it will become a reality. I also let them know they will probably live in poverty if they choose not to graduate form high school. The other speaker is usually a motivational speaker with a strong message to encourage and inspire students.
After we share with students, the pinning part of the ceremony begins. Every student meets each community leader sharing their future goals. I ask the leaders to show support by telling the students they will be great at that or anything else you choose to do. The emphasis or goal is to let the students know we support them. I am the last person in line so I can present each student with a pin (see picture). I ask the students to place the pin in a highly visible place as a constant reminder of the commitment made to graduate on time with their class. Another visible reminder of their commitment to graduate is the graduation gown each student signs during the ceremony. The gowns are hanging in a highly visible location at the school as a reminder every time they pass by and see it (see picture). Parents are always invited to attend the ceremony because they are part of the TEAM.
Another strategy is our Senior Tour and Walkout each spring. Seniors wear caps and gowns and we bus them to each of our schools to visit with the students and teachers. The younger students are encouraged to graduate in the future as they observe the Seniors in their graduation dress. The Seniors get applause and hugs. I encourage the Seniors to give high fives and encourage the future Seniors. The teachers at the feeder schools are part of the education process (TEAM) since education is a K-12 process. These former teachers get to see students they taught years before. Its a very emotional event.
Once we finish our district tour, we have an assembly in the gym with the 8th grade students as our guests. The purpose of the assembly is more of a “right of passage” thing. When we have pep rallies or assemblies in the gym, each grade has traditional seating. At the beginning of the ceremony, the 8th graders are standing on the gym floor and all other students are in the traditional spots. On behalf of the students and teachers of our school, the rising 9th graders are welcomed to the school. At that point, all students shift seating positions to where they will be the next school year. Seniors move down on the gym floor replacing the rising 9th graders. I share a few personal and encouraging thoughts with the Seniors. Now its time for the actual walk out. The faculty and staff stand around the gym floor. With music playing, the students walk down the line hugging and saying good bye to the faculty and staff. Once they get to the end of the line, they leave school. The next time we see them is at graduation practice and graduation itself. During the walkout, the Seniors actually start to realize the change they are experiencing. Many cry and/or become very emotional. So was I!
Jostens has been a great partner for our school. Resources, supplies and information are shared which are very helpful. Scott Jernigan (Jostens Rep.) has always been helpful and available when we need assistance of any kind. I appreciate Josten’s commitment to schools across the state and country.