Class Of 2025: Follow Students From 1st Grade To Graduation

After more than 10 years, the Class of 2025 starts final climb to graduation

By Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
Sept. 12, 2023 1 p.m.

As the Class of 2025 students start their junior year of high school, a look back on the ambitious long-term project.

The Class of 2025 started school in 2012 at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Southeast Portland. OPB has been there from the beginning.

Words surround students in Ms. Koblasa's kindergarten classroom at Earl Boyles Elementary School (file photo).

In this file photo from 2013, students participate in activities in Ms. Koblasa's kindergarten classroom at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Portland.

Michael Clapp / OPB

Over the years, some families moved away from Earl Boyles and sometimes far from the David Douglas School District. The Class of 2025 was in the middle of 7th grade when COVID-19 prompted school closures across Oregon and the country.

Students spent most of 8th grade online, before starting their freshman year of high school in person. Some schools required masks. About half of the Class of 2025 went from learning from their bedrooms and kitchen tables to attending ninth grade at the largest school in the state, David Douglas High.

As the students in the Class of 2025 embark on their last two years of high school, OPB is revisiting the project’s goals, students and ambitions — with a focus on its core questions about graduation and what Oregon’s 100% graduation goal really means.

The past

OPB’s Class of 2025 project started with a lofty goal: to follow a group of children all the way from kindergarten to the end of high school. It mirrored an even more aspirational effort from the state of Oregon to dramatically improve education levels, referred to as “40-40-20.”

“Basically, it came from Oregon setting this goal that, starting with the Class of 2025, that 100% of kids were going to finish high school,” recalled OPB editor Rob Manning on OPB’s “Class of 2025″ podcast.

At the time, Oregon’s four-year high school graduation rate was one of the lowest in the country, at 68%. OPB’s project begins from the premise that behind those statistics and efforts to improve that grad rate are actual students — thousands of them across the state.

“At the time, [the Class of 2025] were just about to enter kindergarten,” he said. “So, I was talking to my editor, and I was like, ‘You know, somebody should actually get a hold of these kids and see how they’re going to do, are they actually going to finish high school?’”

Related: Change is never easy, especially when you’re in first grade

So he did. Along with other OPB staff (namely Amanda Peacher, who has since left OPB), Manning met a group of kindergarteners and their parents at Earl Boyles Elementary. OPB connected with families at home and visited the school several times each year, getting to know the staff as well as the Class of 2025 students.

Class of 2025 student, Anna, at the end of 10th grade.

Class of 2025 student, Anna, at the end of 10th grade.

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

As the Class of 2025 went through school, making friends and learning how to read. They borrowed books from the Earl Boyles library, playing outside during recess or PE.

“What do you have fun doing?” Rob asked Class of 2025 student Anna in first grade.

“Art!” she replied.

In 1st grade, Kaylie’s favorite parts of school were the “learning and the reading.”

But students also had to deal with challenges both inside and outside of the classroom. From discovering learning disabilities and changing schools to dealing with illness, homelessness and trauma.

Related: Music provides place to belong in middle school

As students moved on to middle school, academics got tougher and friendships became more important.

Middle school meant switching classes throughout the day and in 6th grade, outdoor school.

“We get to experience new things, especially since we just came from sixth grade,” Kaylie said at the beginning of 7th grade.

It also meant higher expectations.

“You know that you’re supposed to be in class at a certain time, and you know that you have to get your work done and stuff, so it’s a little bit more challenging,” she said.

Class of 2025 student, Kaylie, in the summer after sophomore year.

Class of 2025 student, Kaylie, in the summer after sophomore year.

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

But halfway through the year, COVID-19 shut down schools. Most of the Class of 2025 celebrated the end of middle school with a COVID-cautious drive-thru parade. Typical metrics to track how students were doing — from standardized test scores to daily attendance — were almost nonexistent, making it that much harder for educators and news organizations like OPB to keep track of how students were doing.

Freshman year marked the beginning of high school and the countdown to graduation, with expectations rising once again, though students did receive more support due to the pandemic and being in a new school. Teachers would say, only half-joking, that they were offering so much extra support to incoming freshmen, that they were running “David Douglas Middle School” for them.


As sophomores, the extra help was less available. Students learned more about themselves, what they enjoy doing and what it’ll take to reach their goals.

The present

The Class of 2025 started their junior year of high school this month, which means they have only two school years left until high school graduation.

But that still seems pretty far away for the students in the Class of 2025.

“Graduation feels like it’s almost not real like I’m not going to get there even though I know I will,” said student Austin C.

Class of 2025 student, Austin C., at the end of 10th grade.

Class of 2025 student, Austin C., at the end of 10th grade.

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

After wrapping up freshman year online, Austin attended David Douglas High School for 10th grade.

“I don’t miss anything about being online,” he said.

Being back in person gave him a chance to reconnect with friends from elementary and middle school. “I got to hang out with them throughout the year and [they] really gave me a good reason to go to school.”

With graduation so far from reality, the focus for most of the Class of 2025 remains on friends, family and for some, learning to drive or getting a job.

At the same time, students are learning more about themselves.

Both Dude and Austin N. got into new sports sophomore year, making new friends in the process.

“It’s not that hard if I just try,” Dude said. He got involved with wrestling this past year. “If I just talk to people, it’s not that hard to make friends.”

Class of 2025 student, Dude, at the end of 10th grade.

Class of 2025 student, Dude, at the end of 10th grade.

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

“I’m definitely more open-minded to things now,” Austin N., who joined the baseball team last spring, said. “I was super scared of talking to people freshman year…I’ve found out a lot of people, they’re truly not out to get you, they’re just people.”

Anna still loves art, but she’s also been able to take a sign language class she really enjoys. However, school has also been stressful.

“I learned that I have really bad habits I need to break — I need to stop procrastinating,” she said. She recalled finishing a biology project she’d been assigned four months to do in one night.

“That was one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing nights of my life.”

The future

Over the next two years, OPB will be focused on the Class of 2025, as well as the broader goals that inspired the project.

Oregon’s most recent graduation rate was 81.3%, far from 100% but a double-digit improvement from 2012.

As for the students in OPB’s Class of 2025 project, some have credits to make up before they are considered “on track” to graduate. At least one student is starting the school year in a new school. Some are already wondering if the time and effort to finish school is worth it.

And while graduation feels far away now, planning for the future is underway.

Austin N., at the end of 10th grade.

Austin N., at the end of 10th grade.

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

Every year, OPB tries to ask each Class of 2025 student what they want to be when they grow up. Over time, the answers have changed. Some students who didn’t know at 6 still don’t know at 16, which is OK. Other students have narrowed down their answers to specific companies they want to work for someday.

Anna is interested in something art-related, like graphic design or animation. Kaylie is thinking about being a teacher and how her own high school experience could help her motivate future students to come to school. Austin C. is interested in being a radiologist. Dude wants to be a firefighter. And Austin N. wants to work with airplanes as an aerospace engineer.

Austin N. also has some advice for younger kids heading into high school.

“Don’t try to fit in, don’t force yourself to fit in — just try and be yourself,” he said.

If you have questions or story ideas for the Class of 2025, reach out to Elizabeth Miller at