On June 2, when the graduating class of 67 Riverside High School students walks across the stage to receive their high school diplomas, a group of nine classmates will be looking forward to another milestone – their college graduation. A few days later on June 14th, these students will receive their Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degrees from Blue Mountain Community College.
The students are Ruby Barrera, Abby Hernandez, Kevin Madrigal, Misael Madrigal, Fabian Meza, Luis Olvera, Daniel Rodriguez, Brock Rosen and Andrew Sorensen.
These seven boys and two girls are a competitive group. Several of them have known each since they were toddlers; they have been pushing each other academically for the past few years. When one of them found out about earning college credit, they all jumped on the idea. When another one said he was going to earn his AAOT during high school, the others decided they would, too. “I had started taking college classes, but starting junior year, all my friends were doing more credits. I don’t like when others pass me by,” Luis said.
At Riverside, there are 15 college courses offered for a possible total of 55 credits that a high school student can earn. “Dual credit really opened the door for me – I could see what college is,” said Kevin. Through partnerships with BMCC’s Early College Credit department, the BMCC Workforce Training Center in Boardman and support of administrators and teachers, many Riverside students are earning college credits. This year, ninth through 12th graders at Riverside will earn 1,788 college credits, including 341 credits by seniors. Over the last four school years, the senior class of 2018 has earned 1,351 credits, translating into 15 of them who have earned more than one year’s worth of college credit.
But these are just numbers – when you meet the nine students who have worked so hard to get here, their drive, ambition and intellect shine through. For the majority, they will be the first in their family to graduate from high school and the first to attend college. “I would tell students to take advantage of this opportunity. I don’t’ know what I would be doing if I wasn’t taking advanced classes to get ahead, no one in my family has a college degree yet,” said Abby.
A few of their siblings took college credits and earned their AAOTs, which motivated them. “I knew it would save time and money, and my sister did this, too,” said Kevin. Andrew said he worked hard to get basic college courses completed. “I knew I could focus more on specialized classes for my major when I got to college,” Andrew said.>
Principal David Norton and Counselor Elizabeth Rosen have worked closely with them. “This is a pretty amazing group of students. They represent the student body president, athletic teams, theater, Key Club – they are involved in all aspects of our school,” Norton said.
Rosen said the cooperation between the school and BMCC has evolved and improved, making the process more streamlined. She also cites the great support of the Morrow County Education Foundation, which pays for the majority of college credits for Riverside students, totaling more than $100,000 for these seniors alone. “Now that I am more educated about the program, we are doing more individualized counseling targeted to students’ future plans, and this is a great benefit for all students,” Rosen said.
When asked what the hardest part about completing their AAOT while still in high school was, Ruby state it was time management and balancing the academic work with everything else. The others agreed. Coupled with high school and college courses, sports practices and games and other school activities, most of them have jobs, too. Misael said some of the college classes are by term and very fast-paced compared to high school, but “don’t be intimated by the workload, it’s hard but you can get through it.” Daniel said Ms. Rosen offered advice that if they were taking online classes, log in every day and don’t procrastinate. “As time went by, it just became second nature to do this,” Daniel said.
"They know these learned skills, like planning, time management and diligence, will benefit them in college. “I have done a lot of college work at my house. I am much more focused and I can concentrate on something for a long time now,” said Brock. Plus, some of them will be able to explore different courses. “Now that I have my AAOT, I want to take more college electives and more future career courses,” Fabian said.
The students agree they want to make their families proud and make all the effort their parents are putting into them worthwhile. “It goes back to your morals and what you want your life to be like out of high school. As a kid you have all this time to goof around, but then you become an adult and you have to figure out your stuff pretty quick,” Abby said.
Kevin said putting in hard work in high school sets you up for the future. “Work now, play later. Throughout your whole high school career, you can work on getting into college. You are more likely to get a job if you go to college, then you can have fun with what you are doing.”
Some of these students have hardships at home and some of their parents don’t really understand the importance of earning college credits. Counselor Rosen knows this. “That’s why I have fought to remove the roadblocks for all of our students who want to start thinking about college and taking these courses.”
Principal Norton and Rosen are proud of these students, and committed to making it happen for many more Riverside high schoolers.
“At the start of this college process, it was confusing,” said Luis. “I just followed everyone else, but these opportunities should be talked about in our classrooms. Students shouldn’t put us on a pedestal for accomplishing this -- anyone can do it.”
Here are the future plans of these nine students:
Ruby Barrera – Probably University of Portland, Business Management
Abby Hernandez – University of Oregon, Business Administration and Sports Marketing, wants to work at Nike
Kevin Madrigal – OSU, crop and soil science or electrical engineering
Misael Madrigal – University of Portland, civil engineering
Fabian Meza – Oregon Institute of Technology, software engineering technology degree
Luis Olvera – Western Oregon University, computer science
Daniel Rodriguez – University of Portland, Operations and Technical Management
Brock Rosen – Columbia Basin College , cyber security
Andrew Sorensen – Complete mission for church, earn bachelor’s degree in computer science at BYU or OSU