After 13 years in school, seniors graduating from Merced High School are starting to see the benefits of their long hours of studying and homework.
“The payoff is here,” Principal Jon Schaefer said Wednesday. “It’s here in the form of options and opportunities.”
For the first time, Merced High had a National Signing Day ceremony during their lunch period on Wednesday. The ceremony celebrated students who are moving on to community colleges, four-year universities, trade schools, or joining the armed forces.
The ceremony was organized by Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, along with students and staff.
Students signed a graduation gown while their soon-to-be school’s fight song played in the background.
For “quite a while” high schools within the Merced Union High School District, including Merced High, have been helping students to focus on having a six-year plan instead of four-year plan, said Alan Peterson, superintendent of MUHSD.
“It’s basically to simply expose students to their future possibilities beyond high school,” Peterson told the Merced Sun-Star. “To think beyond high school. Give them foundational knowledge about what post-secondary options are available to them.”
Having a ceremony that acknowledges the achievements of Merced High seniors also has an effect on the younger classes, Schaefer said, “It’s a motivation for them.”
According to the California Department of Education, about 34 percent of students in MUHSD during 2015-16 graduated meeting the entrance requirements of California colleges and universities. Countywide, about 33 percent of all graduating students in Merced County met those same requirements.
About 32 percent of Merced County residents age 25 and older don’t have a high school diploma, which is more than 10 percent worse than national and state averages, according to the 2016 Community Health Assessment from the Merced County Department of Public Health.
Focusing on a six-year plan has “absolutely” helped more students continue their education after high school, Peterson said. The number of college-bound students has grown “dramatically,” he said, and about 75 percent of students go on to “some sort of post-secondary education.”
John Becerra, an 18-year-old senior at Merced High, plans to attend Fresno State in the fall as a psychology major. He said high school prepared him for the next step, especially the AVID program.
“This is a huge step and it’s helped me a lot,” Becerra said. “My teachers and coaches have been great role models and they’ve definitely helped me get prepared for college.”
Merced High senior, Dariana Lara, said she’s looking forward to attending UC Merced. She said she fell in love with school after touring the campus and speaking with the chancellor and professors.
Lara said she learned time management from her high school teachers, a skill she believes will come in handy in college. She wants to study the global arts or English literature, Lara said. She hopes to be a journalist some day.
“I chose to stay in Merced mainly because my family is here and it’s more affordable,” Lara, 18 said. “I hope I can make it.”
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486