Grads prepare for ‘real world’

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sixty more students will be earning their diplomas this year from Austin High School than in 2008, principal Brad Bergstrom said.

The freshmen through senior classes are all larger nearly 300 students, which Bergstrom calls just the “ebb and flow” of enrollment at AHS.

Grades 5-8, however, are lower in enrollment, while kindergarten through third grade are almost 400 students, a result of the implementation of all-day everyday kindergarten.

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More students are taking college courses — Post Secondary Enrollment Options — at Riverland Community College while at AHS, Bergstrom reported, but the numbers of students taking those classes on the high school campus is increasing.

“The number of kids who are taking kids full-time at the college has been dwindling,” Bergstrom said. “I really feel that the high school experience is very important, and it’s valuable.”

Another trend with upperclassmen has been where they choose to attend college. More students are opting for out-state institutions, including Ivy League and prestigious east and west coast universities.

“We have kids that are branching out,” the principal said, linking that trend to the “access of information” available.

“I think parents are becoming more knowledgeable,” Bergstrom said. “I think the district has increased the academic rigor.

“I think our reputation around the country … you take a look at the people inducted into the high school music hall of fame, for instance,” he said.

Despite so many young people entering the workplace and college environment during the recession, Bergstrom said he has heard little concern or fears about career placement. However, he said, students are pursing financial aid harder to offset the climbing cost of college tuition.

“I do know that as of last Friday, the class of 2009 — in scholarships, financial aid, etc. — it’s over $1 million,” Bergstrom said. “They’re obviously out there beating the bushes trying to find scholarship opportunities.”

Bergstrom said he has a soft spot for this graduating class.

“This has really been a unique group,” he said. “This group came as freshmen when I started (at AHS) — we started together.”

Austin High School’s 133rd commencement will be held at Riverside Arena on Friday, June 5 at 7 p.m. with the doors opening to the public at 6:30 p.m.

Interim superintendent Bruce Anderson, High Distinction students and Bergstrom will be speakers for the ceremony.