By Aleeha Shah | staff writer
All juniors and seniors have the opportunity to graduate under the distinguished graduation plan. In order to be recognized as a distinguished graduate, however, there are certain requirements that a student must meet.
“The distinguished plan has two main parts to it. The first requirement is that a student have three years of the same foreign language,” lead counselor Courtney Tarbox said. “Then the other factors that are required to graduate as a distinguished graduate would be four advanced measures.”
Students can earn advanced measures in several different ways. This can include taking dual credit courses and/or AP classes, or meeting the qualifications in another way.
“Students can earn an advanced measure by earning a three or better on any AP exam, so if they take an AP exam and they make a three or better, that’s one advanced measure. Students can also earn an advanced measure by making an 80 or better on a dual credit course, and that means for each semester of the college course,” Tarbox said. “The other ways to earn an advanced measure is having some type of recognition through national merit on their PSAT, and then finally, one that we don’t see very often, is doing a special independent research project.”
Although only a small portion of students graduate as a distinguished graduate, students can still be recognized as candidates. This means they have the potential to graduate on the distinguished plan.
“Approximately 20% of our graduates are graduating with the distinguished grad plan. We do have more students than that that will be candidates. So we do honor and recognize students that have those three years of a foreign language and have maybe taken enough AP or dual credit courses that may be candidates, to where at the end of their senior year they potentially could be distinguished grads,” Tarbox said.
Among that portion of distinguished graduates is senior Jessica Lee. Lee did not plan to graduate distinguished at first, however she did plan to take a foreign language for four years, and when she found out about the plan, she went for it.
“I had already set up that I wanted to take french all my high school years, but then the AP, at the beginning like freshman and sophomore year I didn’t really care about them and then I found out about the AP measures so that’s when I took off for junior and senior year,” Lee said.
While some students, like Lee, realized later on that they met some of the requirements, others, like senior Santiago Aguilar, planned in advance to graduate on the distinguished plan.
“People around me could look up to me. My little siblings could look up to me, and I could stand out [among] my family members,” Aguilar said. “Also, colleges could see that I did a good job and I tried in my career.”
Some students choose not to graduate on this plan, however, which means they will graduate on the recommended plan.
“The recommended plan still requires 26 credit hours. Students can graduate on the recommended plan and still have many rigorous courses with many Pre-AP and AP level courses and still have a great, stellar transcript with rigorous courses,” Tarbox said. “but they may not be a distinguished graduate because they may have only taken two years of a foreign language or two different foreign languages and didn’t have that third year.”
It is important that students are aware of all their graduation options so they can choose what they want to do.
“It is important because we want students to have every opportunity to earn honors and recognition, and so we do cover that every year when we meet with students and have our parents meetings,” Tarbox said.
Both the recommended plan and the distinguished plan are viable options, however there is a distinct recognition that comes with being a distinguished graduate.
“The distinguished plan offers one more way for a student to be recognized for their diligence in their classes. It shows that they made that commitment to do a third year of a foreign language, and it also shows that they went the extra mile to earn those advanced measures,” Tarbox said. “It is definitely not a make it or break it as far as when you look at college applications, but it definitely is one more honor for a student in recognition for them.”