DUHS freshmen recognized for good grades

Published 8:10 am Friday, November 15, 2013

Freshmen who made the honor roll at Dowagiac Union High School received certificates for a value meal at McDonalds. Leader Photo/TED YOAKUM

Freshmen who made the honor roll at Dowagiac Union High School received certificates for a value meal at McDonalds. Leader Photo/TED YOAKUM

For most teenagers, earning good grades in school can be a challenging endeavor, especially while trying to learn the intricacies of a high school freshman.

The administration of Dowagiac Union High School recognizes this, and they bestowed their top freshmen academic achievers with a prize nearly every young man or woman would be happy to put use: free burgers and fries.

Union educators honored the members of its freshmen class who earned A’s or B’s for all their classes during the first marking period, which ran from Sept. 3 to Nov. 1, at a special event Thursday morning. In addition to a certificate signifying the achievement, the 45 recipients were given a coupon for a free extra value meal from McDonald’s, courtesy of Ronda Sullivan, the manager of the Dowagiac location and member of the Dowagiac Union Schools board.

“As freshmen, you all have the opportunity to change the entire culture of this building,” Principal Pieter Hoekstra told the students after presenting them with their rewards. “You will have the next four years to determine what this building here is used for. And this group is the exact kind of group we’re looking for, to establish a culture of academic excellence.”

Thursday’s ceremony was the second time Union awarded its incoming freshmen for their scholastic prowess. The recognition ceremony is part of the school’s Youth Experiencing Success Program, a collaboration with the school and number of local businesses to reward the successes of the student body.

“These awards have to come from the community, to recognize our children and their achievements” Sullivan said.

While McDonald’s is the first such business to partner with Union, administrators are looking toward other local establishments for support. One of these is Pizza Hut, with whom the school will work with later this year to hand out personal pan pizzas to students who have made a positive impact on the community, said Doug Pearson, the high school’s student advocate.

For the school, recognizing and engaging its freshmen has become a bigger priority in recent months. The transition from middle school to high school can overwhelm many incoming students, setting them up for failure later in their academic careers, Principal Hoekstra said

“Last year, he had a big push for freshman success,” he said. “If we don’t catch our students as freshmen, we may never get to them.”

The school has hired additional educators to work with struggling freshmen, including Pearson. The former schoolteacher, who is referred to by students and staff as Colonel due to his service in the US Air Force, has been instrumental in the school’s outreach efforts.

“The students that struggle are the ones don’t have the right expectations for what high school is like,” he said.