by Phillip Manning ~ October 30th, 2013
Libby Reinert, Kelsey Olsen, Danna Hogan, Ayla Loper, and Grace Lund take school seriously, very seriously. Last May their transcripts showed each of them as having a 4.0 grade point average. That means they have gotten straight A’s in every single class they have taken since scoring began their freshman year at Susitna-Valley high school.
“It is a really strong senior class, and we’re proud of them.”
That was Jason Mabry, the school’s principal. He says it isn’t unusual to have more than one valedictorian but five would be unusual. He suspects the situation will work itself out as students continue their senior year with a rigorous course load. Some high school students are already taking college level courses like advanced placement (AP) calculus and AP U.S. government. AP courses are scored on a five-point scale and will likely have a few students graduating with a grade point average over 4.0.
There are no secrets among this small group. Principal Mabry says students have been strategizing on how to edge out their competitors.
“I’ve had multiple conversations where Unknown Senior A will come in and say, ‘What do I need to do to increase my GPA?’ And I go, ‘I just had the same conversation with Senior B,’ so I know that they’re having those conversations and looking at grade-point average. Those are good things. They’re challenging courses that they’re taking, and that’s good for them. They’re a strong, tight unit, and we’d love to have every grade level like that.”
Most of these students have known each other since grade school. It will be hard for them to split up next spring, but that is the plan for many who are looking to go on to college.
School counselor Joy Miller has been working closely with students to help them develop post graduation plans. She estimates most of this year’s class is looking into attending college. The application process is lengthy and demanding. Senior Libby Reinert says she is spending 6 hours a week on college applications, in addition to time spent on homework and traveling and training for athletics.
“Definitely more stressful, because last year was, ‘I wonder what I’m going to be doing in the next couple of years–kindof abstractly looking at it. Now, it’s like, ‘Great, now I have to figure I have to figure all of this out right now.’”
Classmate Ayla Loper talks about some of the challenges of applying to out-of-state schools.
“It’s hard to visit all the schools. It’s hard to contact everyone. There’s not interviews that you can do in Alaska a lot of times, because there’s not a lot of people up here. You’re disconnected a little bit, but I think it is an asset to getting into schools….It is unique, being from Alaska. There’s a lot of things that are different here, so they do value that.
But for all of the potential disadvantages of applying to colleges and universities from out-of-state, Ayla believes the small class atmosphere at Su-Valley has created a lot of opportunities students don’t get at many larger schools.
“While it doesn’t always offer a lot of different things like AP classes, different types of sports, different types of clubs if you really have one interests. It suits me because I have a wide range of interests, and I like being involved in a lot. The small school and small classroom definitely helps, because a lot of teachers and coaches will work with you.”
Su-Valley high school will be holding a “College and Career Night” November 6th but many of the seniors already have their college applications underway with first deadlines arriving mid-November. In January the seniors will have a second set of deadlines for scholarships and financial aid packages. Paying off a college education can be daunting- a lot like paying off a home. Although the state of Alaska is generous with financial aid and rewards for students attending schools in state- it can be hard for students like Libby and Ayla that are looking at schools out of state that offer programs more specific to their interests- like getting a degree in sports medicine and physical therapy.
There are at least 6 local scholarships for students with awards of up to $1000. Community members interested in helping support this special class financially with post secondary aspirations can contact Su Valley’s counselor Joy Miller at Susitna Valley high school.