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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Advice differs for students starting, ending high school

Steve Christilaw Correspondent

The Class of 2005 is ready to cross a stage, accept their diplomas and pass into the next phase of their life.

At the same time, the Class of 2006 is set to follow in their footsteps while the Class of 2009 prepares to enter high school for the first time.

For each class, the next year will be particularly formative.

Next year’s senior class will not only complete their high school studies, but also prepare for life beyond high school. They will decide on schools, potential fields of study and possible careers.

Next year’s freshman class take their first steps into one of the most memorable periods of their lives.

Kim Brunelle has looked at each of these transitional years from two vantage points. As a mother, she’s watched her sons advance through the East Valley school system. As a teacher and adviser, she’s watched and counseled hundreds in the Central Valley School District.

Those two perspectives allow her to offer some advice for each class.

“Where do you want me to start?” Brunelle said with a laugh.

Her first suggestion for next year’s senior class is to run a quick credits check as soon as possible.

“It’s fast and easy to do,” she said. “And it can head off so many problems later on. You don’t want to come down to the end and find out that a class you really need for graduation is missing.”

Secondly, Brunelle said, it’s never too early to start the application process for college.

“There are a lot of scholarships out there with September, October or November deadlines on them, and most of them have to be in no later than December,” she said. “You don’t want to get to Christmas vacation and suddenly realize you need to get everything together to make a deadline. That makes for a pretty hectic vacation that’s not a lot of fun.”

When it comes to making college plans, Brunelle said it’s always a good idea to have back-up plans.

“I see a lot of students lock in on a college because that’s where their friends are going to go,” she said. “That’s not a great idea. You will make new friends. Your college experience is too important. You need to think about your education first and your friends second.”

And when it comes to education, she said, it’s good to think about potential fields of study, but not necessary to lock in on a major this early.

“Majors change all the time,” Brunelle said. “You get into an area and something just clicks and you go in a different direction. It’s normal.

“And keep in mind that the world can change a lot in four years. Who knows what technology will bring around the next corner.”

For incoming freshman, those first days in high school can be a bit overwhelming. Students have been known to wander the halls with deer-in-the-headlights looks on their faces for the first few days.

“One thing I would tell the kids coming in would be to not be afraid to try everything,” Brunelle said. “If you don’t like something, you don’t have to keep doing it. But experiment and try things. Try out for band or debate. There’s DECA and drama. There are so many things out there for them that they can try.”

Brunelle also said ninth-graders should reach out to other students.

“I encourage kids to get to know people,” Brunelle said. “Connect with a teacher. They are there to do everything they can do to help you. Take advantage of that. Get to know older students as well – don’t just stick to kids in your own class. Learn from their experience.”

Two members of this year’s graduating class have a unique perspective on the high school experience. Charlene Van Belle graduates from West Valley with her senior class despite enduring chemotherapy for an astrocytoma tumor in her brain. Nathan Foster graduates from Central Valley despite missing his freshman year while being treated for acute myeloid leukemia.

Each has a similar message to anyone starting their high school experience.

“I would tell the students just starting out in high school not to get too worried about it all,” Van Belle said. “It’s just high school. Enjoy the experience and have fun.”

“I’ve never understood people who think high school is a life-and-death thing,” Foster said. “I just wish people could keep things in perspective.”

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