One of the great pleasures of serving on this board is meeting the students of St. Helena High School, who have consistently impressed us with their maturity, intelligence, manners, and college readiness.
The four seniors we interviewed last week – Karen Martinez, Oswaldo Moya, Sami Rabin and Mitchell Wilms – were no exception. Counselor Laura Jorgensen selected them for us because they each have different college plans.
Their career plans vary widely, but they were all bright, charming and – coming from a generation too often maligned as a bunch of socially inept screen addicts – extremely well-spoken. We fully expect them to excel in college and beyond.
Martinez lives in Angwin and transferred to St. Helena High during her sophomore year. She said challenging classes and smart peers inspired her to step up her game academically. Her favorite class was anatomy, and she plans to study biology at UC-Santa Barbara.
Moya has attended St. Helena schools since kindergarten. He’s tried a little bit of everything: ag classes, sports, tutoring, and even a summer at a boarding school in Utah. His favorite classes were culinary and floral design. He plans to spend two years at Sonoma State University and then transfer to UC-Davis for its wine program.
Rabin has also attended St. Helena schools since kindergarten. She’s taken a lot of AP classes, which have prepared her for the academic rigors of college. Her favorite class was anatomy. She plans to study the life sciences – maybe biology – at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Wilms transferred from Pope Valley in sixth grade. He’s taken full advantage of St. Helena High’s ag program, with classes like ag mechanics, AutoCAD, advanced ag mechanics, and ag science. He built a blue oak slab table that received the highest bid ($5,500) at this year’s FFA Rib Feed. He plans to attend Santa Rosa Junior College for two years and then transfer to UC-Davis for a degree in wildlife biology.
St. Helena High offers a plethora of career paths and optional programs like ag mechanics, animal husbandry, viticulture, floral design, sports, drama, band, choir, peer tutoring, AP classes, ACT/SAT prep, and the AVID program for first-generation college-bound students. The students appreciated the range and quality of those programs, which are especially impressive for a relatively small school.
We threw some hard questions at the students.
Vaping? Primarily a problem among this year’s freshman class, especially early in the school year, but an effective response from the school has put a damper on it.
Bullying? The students didn’t report anything too malicious, just the usual playful ribbing among friends. If students do see a problem, they can anonymously report it through an app.
Suggestions for improvement? Surprisingly few – solar panels at the high school, further enhancements to a tutoring program that’s already gotten a lot better, more advertising for the school lunch program, a grass athletic field instead of turf (this from the soccer-loving Wilms, who was too modest to mention that he was named all-league).
This is the first class where all of the graduates have been born in the tech-dominated 21st century, so we also asked about the effects of technology and social media. Interestingly, the students said it was the local schools' reliance on computers and digital media which led them to rely increasingly on their own devices. They were self-aware enough to acknowledge that they rely on their devices more than they should, but none of them came across as full-blown social media addicts.
And in case you’re wondering whether four college-bound students are representative of the entire class, Jorgensen said 93 percent of graduating seniors will be attending college, 3.5 percent will enlist in the military, and 3.5 percent will pursue work or take a gap year.
Overall, these four students seemed thoroughly satisfied with the education they’ve received. We were impressed with it too – we couldn’t help but smile when Martinez stopped mid-sentence to correct her own grammar, and we loved hearing Moya talk about helping students who hadn’t mastered English integrate into the campus’ social life.
To the parents and faculty members who produced such fine students, bravo.
And to Karen, Oswaldo, Sami, Mitchell and the rest of the Class of 2019: We wish you all the best and we’re sure you will continue to make St. Helena proud.