Struggles with Staying Afloat

          Summer is approaching. June is only days away. All seniors can think about is graduation, senior trip, summer, and graduation some more. After completing a much anticipated senior year, seniors are done. They are done before school is even over, but that is just how it is.

          This exhaustion creates a fork in the road for some. They are faced with making the decision of getting it together and graduating or falling victim to senioritis and dropping out. The choice is theirs.

          California’s number of dropouts for the 2016-2017 school year was 47,249. Of those students, 25,641 were high school seniors. Ninety-two of those twenty-five thousand were in Yolo county, to look even closer, the number for the Washington Unified School District is sixteen. At River City, the number drops to two. But how many students ended up repeating senior year? 25.

          With numbers like these, it raises another question. How many seniors were struggling to graduate but rose above?

          Nicholas Welday shared, “I see some seniors struggling and I feel bad for them. It’s your senior year, just try and relax and get through this year.” Welday says that junior year prepared him for senior year, “I just wasn’t ready for the year to start and it’s gone by ridiculously fast.”

          The struggle that seniors are facing is what some would call senioritis. Mr. O’Donnell, English 12 and journalism teacher, expressed, “I see it like: students have been doing this for twelve years now, and the end is finally in sight and it is hard to realize that it is not the end until it is the end. And to me there is kind of two moments that really kinda sap students will, and that’s spring break and prom. Once spring break happens students come back and they’re like ‘I’m done. I don’t have anything else to do.’ And then prom is the other big one. It is kind of the signifier that it’s the end, you know. And this year, both of those things were incredibly early. We had prom at the beginning of April, and spring break was the end of March. Students were getting these signals that ‘Hey we’re done, it’s over! You’ve gone to prom, senior year is ending,’ but there’s still two months left at that point. So, I think that caused a lot of problems for people this year in terms of their willingness to engage in class and that kind of thing.”

          Senioritis is when at the end of the year seniors start to slack off and become forgetful because it’s so close to the end. “A lot of seniors are overwhelmed. They have many items they are juggling outside of the classroom curriculum. They need to take SATs, ACTs, completed the FAFSA, Apply for college and scholarships; often they have jobs, etc. So it is about teaching them balance and how to handle a stressful situation,” shared Mrs. Spivey, one of the Building Foundations For Success teachers.

          Other students agree that some students are simply done trying. Parker Henderson expressed, “I have seen other seniors struggling with doing their work. They are just kind of done. Some people I know just stopped going. I was warned about senioritis and about doing everything to get ready for college. And I should have taken the college preparation more seriously because I am a little behind on that.”

          Henderson went on to talk about how senior year is mostly electives, “I wish I would have graduated early. Because now, I just have classes I do not need. Not having to take these classes would have given me more time to work.”

          Senior year is the year where everyone has to face the music that they are about to have a choice in what they do during the time they would usually spend in school. Mark Boltz explained, “Senior year has given me much more responsibility over my life, and I’m not sure how to feel about that yet. I would say my academic career has turned around. Before I wasn’t sure how my life would turn out, but now I’m going to Sac State in the Fall to get a music degree.”

          Every senior has to think about how adulthood is looming over their heads. Christina Ogawa shared, “My senior year has been different from my other years because I have to worry about setting an example for the younger kids and having to adult soon.”

          To rise above the hard times, students need support from friends and family. Welday had just that, “My girlfriend Shelby, she’s helped me stay on top of my work. And my mom has helped me in 17,000 different ways from helping me with homework to driving me all over for jazz band and orchestra gigs. I’m very blessed to have these 2 people.”

          For some seniors, the struggle was in the past three years rather than this year. Welday shared his struggles, “Sophomore year, I stopped messing around and was serious about my schooling. Since then I’ve done my best to stay on top of my schooling. I didn’t care about school or my grades, I stopped trying. My freshman year I tried and had pretty good attendance. When I got a letter in the mail my sophomore year saying I missed 15 days was when I recognized I wasn’t trying hard enough. After that I studied and asked questions, got help, and just actually started trying again.” Welday’s struggle is relatable for some students.

          “Freshman year I failed four classes and then the next year I realized I should try and change. So, I started actually doing my homework and tried more and since then I been doing good. I failed because I just didn’t care but I thought about graduating and going to college after so I wanted to do better,” expressed Henderson. Sometimes academic struggles stem from other issues in a student’s life.

          Ogawa shared, “My junior year, because I was going through depression, I gave up, but I saw a counselor and I had my closest friends who helped me get out of that mindset and now I’m graduating.” Seeking help is a great way to attempt to pull yourself up.

          Teachers are extremely willing to help struggling students. Mrs. Spivey expressed, “I help seniors like I would help any other student – and yes, all are welcome! I do, however, remind seniors that they are almost adults… so they have to start adulting… which means – taking care of business. Often I find students want to do well, they just haven’t figured out how to do well yet.”

          Mrs. Spivey’s approach to helping seniors is very hands on. “Every year there is a list of seniors who are borderline and I am afraid they will not graduate. I usually speak with the student first. If that doesn’t work, I schedule a parent meeting immediately and get the teachers and parents to communicate. I usually use GPAs at progress reports but also find struggling students by asking teachers who have seniors,” shared Mrs. Spivey.

          Other teachers have a laid back approach. Mr. O’Donnell’s approach is to be available for students, “I’m around after school. I help students. We do a lot of prep for writing, so they are familiar with what they are supposed to do. This year we did kind of an extra essay for students who were a little behind on their points so they would have the opportunity to get some of those points back. Any way that I can help is what I try to do, except, just like, give them points for nothing. That’s kind of what I am against.”

          Some students don’t even think to ask for help. Henderson expressed, “No teachers really helped me specifically get my grades up because I never really asked for help, but I kinda wish I did because maybe it would have been easier.”

          Others received help without asking. Welday shared, “Senorita Rodriguez pulled me aside and told me that I need to work harder and she offered after school help with all of my classes. Her reaching out to me kind of gave me that kick start to do better.”

          Seniors have advice for all other current students and future students of RCHS. Henderson advised, “Do your homework and ask for help if you really need it or else you will never do better.”

          Welday has another approach. He expressed, “Talk to the teachers, RC has amazing teachers who actually care, if you need help with anything you can go to them.”