AURORA, Colo. — At Vista PEAK Preparatory school in Aurora, students are encouraged to think about their post-high school future. But even for dedicated students, that reality may not set in until junior or senior year.
Unfortunately by then, many students are playing catch up, Principal Jason Maclin said.
“A lot of students when you talk to them, especially in that 11th and 12th grade year, a very common response is, I wish I would have taken ninth and tenth grade more seriously,” Maclin said.
So the school is trying something new to motivate ninth and tenth graders by acknowledging those who are working hard toward graduation. In April, Vista PEAK Preparatory will host a “half-cap” ceremony for sophomores who have met the requirements up to that point.
“A lot of the research shows that tenth grade is kind of the forgotten or invisible year of high school, and we just wanted to find a way to celebrate student progress as well as engage families,” Maclin said.
He got the idea from his time in Chicago schools where half-cap ceremonies are more common. This will be the first one in Aurora Public Schools. Vista PEAK Preparatory is an innovation school, which allowed it to devote resources to the unique ceremony.
Sophomore Maddie Dion-Childers is on track to participate in the half-cap ceremony. She said it’s great motivation since graduation can seem far away for ninth and tenth graders.
“You sometimes think you have all the time but it's better to start preparing earlier,” Dion-Childers said.
Sophomore Fatoumata Dioubata said it will also motivate juniors and seniors to stay focused.
“A lot of people drop out of high school, but this is a nice little reminder like, I got the half-cap, I’m almost there,” she said.
The half-cap ceremony is set for April 25, 2024. There will be a keynote speaker, performances and speeches from the top tenth grade students. Principal Maclin said they’re also hoping to have some type of graduation “cap” students can wear.
“We're going to make it a very big deal. And it should be fun,” he said.