The Student News Site of Renton High School

RHS Hawk Eye

The Student News Site of Renton High School

RHS Hawk Eye

The Student News Site of Renton High School

RHS Hawk Eye

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7 RHS Staff Members Shared their Thoughts on High School Graduation

During my interview process at Renton High School, I had the privilege of speaking with 7 staff members. They have made a significant impact on many students throughout the year because they truly love their job. I had the chance to observe their confidence and reactions in different situations, comparing them to the academic experiences and abilities of other students in high school. It’s a fact that people often face difficult circumstances, as not every experience is positive. However, life often throws challenges at us to test our determination for what we truly desire. The purpose of this interview process was to understand their experiences with students who had challenging journeys during high school. Here are the responses and valuable insights they shared during our interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. How many years have you been working as a staff/member employee? 

 

Ms. Tunis (Teacher)

“I have been teaching for 31 years (whoa!), but a few of them were not in public school.”

 

Mr. Winmill (Teacher)

“I have been teaching for 28 years, since fall of 1996.” 

 

Ms. Sptiznas (Teacher)

“I have been teaching for 24 years, Since around 2000.” 

 

Mr. Okimoto (Teacher)

“I have been teaching for 21 years since in the fall of 2003, June will bring the end of my 21st year at Renton High School.”

 

Mr. Powell ( Dean of Students – Principal )

“I have been the Dean of students for 10 years (2012 – 2023).. At the end of this school year, 2023 – 2024, it will be my first year as an assistant principal at Renton High School.” 

 

Ms. Mccullough (Teacher)

“I have been teaching for 6 years now at the Renton School District”

 

Ms. Kallis (Teacher)

“I have been teaching for 2 years at RHS and before that I worked with teens for over 20 years, in and outside of the school setting.”  

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2. What significance does high school graduation hold for students?

 

Ms. Tunis

“A milestone in their journey. Graduating high school can open up opportunities – for further education or for entering the workforce. I think it also has personal, emotional value for many students. It’s the celebration of completing 13 years of education. Recognizing this accomplishment can be very powerful!”

 

Mr. Winmil

“More opportunities for future employment and/or education. = higher potential earnings”

 

Ms. Sptiznas

“For most students and their families, it represents a milestone in their lives. It often is a new beginning that is both exciting and scary.”

 

Mr. Okimoto

“Graduation represents a transition from childhood to adulthood. Most students will never see their friends from high school again because seniors go to college or a job of some kind.”

 

Mr. Powell 

“I believe the significance of high school graduation varies from student to student.”

-For some students, graduation can signify an accomplishment.

-For some students, graduation can signify the beginning of the next chapter in their lives. 

-For some students, graduation can signify the ability to have options of what to do with their future. 

-For some students, graduation does not signify anything. 

 

Ms. Mccullough

“It’s a ceremonial milestone that indicates the ending of secondary education; this is also a lesson in building skills that prepare you for work and career.”

 

Ms. Kallis

“High school graduation is important because it allows students to access a variety of professional opportunities they may be excluded from without a high school diploma.  In addition, completing high school is a celebration of 12 years of hard work and dedication, boosting students’ confidence in their ability to accomplish difficult tasks.  Graduating high school shows future employers a person’s ability to commit to a goal and complete steps toward achieving that goal. In addition, students who have completed high school can access more and better paying jobs than students who have not graduated.”

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3. How would you feel inside if you heard that a student dropped out of high school? What do you think will happen to him/her in the future? 

 

Ms. Tunis

“Every student has their own journey. High school graduation is the path that most students follow. When students drop out, it makes me think that something about that traditional path wasn’t working for them. That could be a hundred different things, not all of them in a student’s control. Physical or mental health struggles for the student or a loved one, educational struggles, the need to work to help provide for the family, experiencing a trauma… these are just a few examples of things that may cause a student to not complete their high school education and make it to graduation.”

 

Mr. Winmil

“Bad … I’d be thinking about what we need to do at our school to ensure students feel belonging and that the courses offer something meaningful to their lives and future.”

 

Ms. Sptiznas

“There are often many factors and life circumstances that lead up to the decision to drop out of high school. While a High School Diploma is a strong indicator of financial stability, there are many pathways to earn a Diploma that many students use that are not “typical High School”.  I believe that having alternatives is important and has led to the success of many Renton School District graduates for which the normal 4-year high school program did not work out.”

 

Mr. Okimoto

“I would feel sad about them giving up on high school. Then, I’d hope that they immediately get a job to learn how life might be without many choices. A diploma is just the first step of many to find a career that will lead to higher paying jobs. Without a diploma, they are more likely to get stuck in a thankless job.”

 

Mr. Powell 

“I would feel sad to hear about a student dropping out of high school. I am not sure what exactly would happen to a student who drops out of high school? However, their chances of getting employment and being a productive member of society becomes more difficult without a high school diploma.”

 

Ms. Mccullough

“I would hope that any student thinking about dropping out would have a conversation with me prior; I have a son who dropped out of high school and still has an amazing future – but he talked to me and with the help of his stepdad and myself, we put a plan together.”

 

Ms. Kallis 

“Hearing that a student has dropped out of high school makes me worry for them because I know that they are facing a more challenging and limiting future. Whether we like it or not, people (including employers, friends, family, etc) will judge others based on their level of education.  Knowing that those who don’t complete high school will likely face this kind of judgment makes me sad for them because I know that grades do not indicate a person’s potential.  I have worked with so many amazing teens and young adults who can offer so much to our community. It would be a shame to miss out on those impactful contributions because people aren’t willing to give them a chance. In addition, living independently and supporting a comfortable and fulfilling lifestyle is not easy. Because so much of our adult lives are spent working, young people should be able to pursue their passions and live to their fullest potential, without limitations that result from not having a diploma.?”

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4. If you don’t have kids, assume that you have 1 or 2 kids, and they’re in high school.  Assume that they’re struggling and planning to drop-out and quit high school and you are concerned about them because you care about them.  What’s your opinion? What options will you have for your kids? 

 

Ms. Tunis

“It would be an adjustment for sure, because high school graduation is the expectation for most kids.  If my child was considering dropping out, I would try to work with them to determine what the obstacles were, and see if there was anything we could do to make graduation achievable. I think I would feel disappointed and worried – but I would try to reassure myself and my child that high school graduation is not the only way to get an education. Alternate pathways are more and more available, and as legitimate as a high school diploma.”

 

Mr. Winmil

“Very concerned about them.  I’d adjust my schedule to make sure I’m even more available to assist them with school work and see the importance of it.  One option would be to get a GED and/or try running start (depending on year in school).  I would definitely do everything I could to get them across the finish line of receiving a high school diploma because it’s going to be vital to future success.”

 

Ms Sptiznas

“Everyone experiences challenges growing up.  With my own children, we communicate regularly about how they are feeling, and talk about how to overcome the struggles they are facing at school.  As a parent, I believe that it is important to listen to and support your child through hardships.  We always explore all options and alternatives before making decisions and also know to re-evaluate our choices to make sure we don’t keep going down the wrong path.”

 

Mr Okimoto

“Graduating high school is what I would want for them, so I would have them ask for help from school staff first, and then I would sit down with them to figure out the best path forward. “

 

Mr. Powell

“I would encourage them and provide them the support they need to at least graduate high school. I know and understand that graduating from high school will give them options for their future.”

 

Ms. Mccullough

I would have a discussion on what the struggles are and if there are fixes or alternatives.  If “regular” school is not a viable option, then plan to get the GED and find training in their interests.

 

Ms. Kallis

“I would strongly encourage my child to stay in school. Of course, I would support them in any way I could, but there is a limit to what parents can do for their children. There is a time when young people want to be independent and in charge of their own lives.  As someone who struggled in high school, I know making it to graduation feels impossible at the time.  High school is hard and students often aren’t given enough credit for just managing the day-to-day stress coming from peers, teachers, and families.   Personally, I was so distracted by my toxic family, that school was less of a priority. I was unable to see the opportunities ahead until I got away from all of that and figured out what I really wanted. Once I was on my own, working two jobs and living with roommates I hated, I realized that college was my path to the life I wanted.  Had I not graduated, I fully believe that I would have been stuck in that life, because the burden of finishing high school would have prevented me from making that change and pursuing college.  If I was a parent, I would never want my child to feel trapped in a job or living situation they hate because they feel too many obstacles prevent them from taking the next step.  Knowing what it was like for me, I would do everything in my power to keep them in school, so they could have as many options as possible available to them.”

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5. Assume that you’re a student in high school, and you’re struggling. Assume that you’re experiencing anxiety and depression from school.  What would you do if that was true for you? 

 

Ms. Tunis

“If I were struggling with anxiety and depression, I think I would feel worried that other people might notice and judge me, I might feel embarrassed or shameful of my struggle. This might be especially true if the people around me did not seem to be struggling at all. I think I would likely be hard on myself, and wonder why I couldn’t “get it together” and be like everyone else. If I had those circumstances I would likely isolate myself. I hope that I will not quit school. I hope that I will get support and find a way to complete school. I hope that a few people will reach out to me and help me through. But I can’t be sure, because it’s not an experience that I have had.”

 

Mr. Winmil

“Of course I’d feel overwhelmed.  However, I’d reach out to a school counselor or teacher to talk through my difficult circumstances and hope for perspective that could get me back on track.  I probably would need someone helping me create a stable routine and holding me accountable for keeping it up.”

 

Ms. Sptiznas

“As a high school student, it is difficult to ask for help. My advice to anyone feeling anxiety or depression is to seek help and support from a trusted adult.”

 

Mr. Okimoto

“If I was struggling and wanted to drop out because my lack of success in school caused me to feel anxious and depression circumstances, I would want to speak with a therapist first. Perhaps the feelings of anxiety and depression came first and were related to other issues, which then led to my struggles in school. Either way, a therapist could help me understand my feelings and figure out a path forward. Most people who are distressed need help to understand their feelings and why they feel what they feel. This is what I would want for anyone who is struggling and considering dropping out. What is the real underlying cause of the feelings? How can they get the help they need to graduate? What plan do they have for their future? What do they have to look forward to in life? Cultivating those plans might help me to see the benefit of school and how it can help me get what they want later in life.”

 

Mr. Powell 

“I would be anxious for sure. If I had those circumstances, I would share that information with a trusted adult and ask for resources and/or support to help me succeed. “

 

Ms. Mccullough

“These days, high schools have so many options and opportunities available – if I was a student and struggling, I would reach out to a trusted adult and/or counselor to talk about my anxiety and depression.  Additionally, I would also reach out to the AACs, Career Center, etc. There are more ways to find solutions.”

 

Ms. Kallis

“If I were in this position, I would do whatever it takes to reach the finish line.  I would reach out to a counselor or someone trusted to get support managing my anxiety and depression.  I would talk with teachers about my goals and ask for help coming up with a plan to get through to graduation. I would make a list of the things that help me cope and bring me joy, so that I can return to it when times are especially hard. I would also remind myself that I have already made it to high school, which is a huge accomplishment and that I am almost there – finishing now will be much easier than returning to finish in the future. Even now, when faced with what feels like an impossible task, I think about one of my favorite quotes by Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

 

In conclusion, this interview is for the students who are thinking about dropping out. I, myself, was struggling in high school and I wanted to drop out. It wasn’t until I talked to my teachers that I found the courage to conduct this interview. The staff at Renton High School that I interviewed shared their thoughts on how difficult high school can be and although this may be true, the benefits of graduating outweigh the struggle. They encourage students to manage their stress, so they’re not overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. The 7 teachers that I interviewed shared that graduation is a huge accomplishment and it paves the road to a bright future. Hearing about students dropping out is felt as a great loss. Many teachers feel that without a diploma these students would face hardship in the form of unemployment and difficulty in pursuing to change their circumstances. This interview can help students change their high school experience.

 

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About the Contributor
Liban Muhumed
Liban Muhumed, Journalist
It's my 11th grade year.  What I enjoy in my life is relaxing, taking naps, and enjoying beverages on the beach.