Their time in high school may have just begun, but freshmen in Marquette, Michigan are setting their eyes on graduation.
The start of freshmen year is a big day for anyone transitioning into high school. The new beginning brings nervousness about getting lost in a new environment and dealing with upperclassmen. But Tuesday was also a time for all freshmen at Marquette Senior High School to think carefully about the next four years.
The students participated in a mock graduation ceremony, complete with a handshake from the principal. They also signed a gown, saying that they will graduate in four years, said student, Rachel Shawhan.
"We're pretty much making a promise to say that we want to graduate high school and give us the best life we can," said Shawhan.
Teacher Holly Warchock explained, "They signed their own commitment that they are willing to make some sacrifices so that in four years, they are able to walk across the stage with their peers."
Warchock believes establishing clear goals on day one is critical because high schoolers often wait to set them.
"With the new state graduation requirements, they have to start thinking about them now," she said. "They don't have enough time to say, 'Oh, I can make that up when I'm a sophomore.' They need to have everything in place if they want to be able to compete globally when they are 23, 24, 25 years old."
Marquette teachers picked up the mock graduation idea from a conference they attended over the summer. Dropout rates in Marquette aren't higher than average, but teachers are being proactive from the beginning.
Students began Tuesday's class by writing down their own career goals, said student Jillian Frye.
"We were talking about how much we could make if we stay in school or if we drop out of high school," said Frye.
Money aside, teachers want their students to keep their graduation commitment at the front of their minds.
"Having the kids actually sign the gown is probably the most important part," Warchock said. "The paper might not make it through to their graduation year, but that gown is something, they've put their name on it now."
"It makes us commit to ourselves that we are going to finish high school," Frye said.
The Class of 2016 signed three gowns which will be on display in the school hallways for the next four years. They will be raffled off after graduation at their all-night party.