For Class of 2025 student Dude, the end of another pandemic school year brought something he’d never had before: a report card full of A’s.
“It’s usually A’s and B’s,” Dude said.
Dude’s mom, Debra Rabedeau, sits next to him outside of Ron Russell Middle School in southeast Portland.
“We’re really proud of him. He did it, all on his own, with this crazy year,” Rabedeau said.
This crazy school year has come to an end for students, and for OPB’s Class of 2025, it’s the end of middle school. The school celebrated the milestone with a parade, where teachers and staff cheered on the students as their parents dropped them off at the front of the school. Students picked up gift bags and T-shirts welcoming the Class of 2025 to David Douglas High School, while music blared over the speakers. Students took pictures at a selfie station, or with their favorite teachers.
It was the first time some students had seen their teachers in person. For a full year, from March 2020 up until April 2021, all of the students were learning at home. Even after the school opened in April in a hybrid model, many Ron Russell students decided to stay home.
Dude ended up returning to school, as did classmates Josh and Ava.
Looking back on the year, Ava said it could have been worse.
“It’s been really trippy and I honestly did not imagine 8th grade being like this,” she said. “But I adjusted quickly, and it’s not as bad as I first thought it would be.”
Ava arrived at the parade with her family — her mother, father, brother and grandmother.
“I feel really proud ... she’s done a good job, and she’s really caring about her peers, and her teachers, and I think she’ll continue that on, bring it to high school as well,” said April Shattuck, Ava’s mother.
2025 student Josh showed up to the parade with his two sisters, his mother, and his dog. He said 8th grade was a year of improvement — turning in more assignments, and becoming more mature.
“I’ve learned every year that middle school is just getting ready for high school,” Josh said. “I gotta be ready.”
“This is just the beginning, now it’s showtime!” said Josh’s mother, Sharnissa Secrett.
Other 2025 students stayed home in distance learning the whole year, like Vivianna. She walked through the parade with her little brother.
“It’s weird to be back, but it’s OK,” Vivianna said.
With the end of 8th grade, the Class of 2025 is one year closer to graduation. But first, they’ll have to get through high school.
High school means new opportunities, from cool electives like jewelry making and theater, to participating in high school sports. Several Class of 2025 students are moving onto David Douglas High, the largest high school in the state. High school also means more rigorous academics, meeting credit requirements and applying for college.
Some students will get a high school head start with Ninth Grade Counts, an in-person, four-week course for some incoming freshmen. The program helps students prepare for high school with time spent on both academics and an elective. Students who finish the program get a high school credit. Participating in the program results in higher graduation rates and better school attendance, according to research from Portland-area nonprofit All Hands Raised.
High school also means a new environment. After more than a year of having her student at home, Secrett said she wonders how her son Josh will navigate situations like fights, or other social situations.
“Everything is on another scale,” she said.
“He’s a feeler ... he is super sensitive, so it’s going to be super important as far as being able to maintain that, maintain his identity, but also deal with any social anxiety,” Secrett said.
Josh told his mother he plans to stay away from any of that, and be the best student he can be.
Academically, she’s said it’s difficult to know if Josh and his peers are ready for high school.
“I’m going to stay positive, and just know that we’ll have work to do,” Secrett said. “It depends on the student and the families.”
She asked Josh what he thought.
“Well, I’ve always been told to just work my hardest in everything, don’t give up even if it’s tough,” he said. “So I think I’m ready to just … work.”
The idea for the OPB’s Class of 2025 project came out of a pledge by former Gov. John Kitzhaber, that by 2025, 100% of Oregon students would graduate high school.
So as a state, Oregon is getting closer to a 100% graduation rate.
But for the Class of 2025 and their families, getting to graduation is a personal goal too.
As Ava and her peers finished 8th grade this year, Ava’s brother Jaden, finished high school. He graduated from David Douglas High School in a drive-through ceremony the week before Ron Russell’s 8th grade parade.
For Ava, she said watching her brother graduate was inspiring, but a little strange.
“That’s the school that I’m going to go to, so it was kind of like future nostalgia,” Ava said.
Like his sister, Jaden was able to spend some of the year on campus and see his friends, a bright end to the last year and a half of ups and downs.
“It was so scary last year, we had no idea what was really going to happen, how we were going to do it all,” Jaden said.
But despite a global pandemic, they made it to the end.
“Considering everything you guys had to go through with this pandemic learning curve for everybody, and you guys still made it through,” said Chris Shattuck.