2016-06-10 / Schools

Class of 2016 will leave a spirited legacy

Graduates were first to go through Simi Valley High’s MAP program
By Hector Gonzalez

PIONEER PRIDE—Seniors get in SVHS formation for a class picture. 
Courtesy of Jennifer Christman PIONEER PRIDE—Seniors get in SVHS formation for a class picture. Courtesy of Jennifer Christman The story of Simi Valley High School’s Class of 2016 is best summed up in a 31-minute, student-produced video that can be found on YouTube.

Featuring sophisticated computer graphics and a soundtrack provided by Lukas Graham’s “Seven Years,” the video, titled “SVHS Senior Rally 2016” begins as a parody. It shows teachers putting on a mock pep rally for the senior class.

The educators lip sync, don crazy wigs and generally “make complete fools” of themselves, said Jennifer Christman, math teacher and leadership adviser at SVHS.

Then the video takes a serious turn as teachers give the class some final advice. Photos of the 512 graduates flash on the screen, first as freshmen, then as they look now.

It’s a telling visual record of the unique bond between Simi Valley High’s teaching staff and this year’s graduating seniors, a connection that began as soon as the teens walked onto the campus four years ago, Christman said.

“One thing that stands out about the Class of 2016 is their connection with SVHS spirit and staff. They are the first graduating class to have gone through a program called MAP,” she said.

Short for motivation, attendance and participation, the MAP program was created from scratch four years ago by SVHS teachers, Christman said.

A group of teachers, including Christman, developed MAP in 2012 for incoming ninth-graders after reviewing data that showed a majority of freshmen enter high school with big hopes and dreams but lose much of their enthusiasm in subsequent years.

Correspondingly, their academic progress wanes after their first year of high school, the data showed.

As ninth-graders, the Class of 2016 attended a weekly MAP class, “where they got to really know who they were and what they wanted,” Christman said.

Students were asked to imagine what their lives would be like 10 years in the future. Then they had to create a road map of sorts on how they would accomplish their goals.

“The course involved creating a realistic budget, examining costs in the adult world and planning for college and beyond,” the teacher said.

Senior Maddie Wheatley, 18, said her freshman year MAP class took the sting off entering a new school with thousands of students.

“It’s absolutely scary going to high school for the first time,” she said. “As freshmen, we didn’t know much about the school. The teacher helped build our confidence. My MAP teacher told us she was a ‘MAP mom’ and that she would always be there for us, no matter what, even after we graduate.”

In Maddie’s case, one exercise for her MAP class proved prophetic. Her teacher had the freshmen write a letter to their future selves, outlining their goals and plans for the next decade. Students were asked to write their addresses on the letters.

Maddie said she was shocked when she received her letter in the mail recently.

“I completely forgot about it,” she said.

In her letter, she’d described how she planned to become a professional dancer.

“I just got accepted to a professional dance program,” she said.

Over the summer, Maddie will attend the Mather Dance Company’s Bridge Into the Industry program, one of 12 high schoolers accepted.

She believes the yearlong program will provide her with a critical foot in the door for a future career in professional dance.

“It’s something I’ve been passionate about since I was 12, and now it’s coming true.”

At the end of Simi Valley High’s Class of 2016 video on YouTube, all 512 seniors walk through a “tunnel of staff” as they exit the school’s gym for the final time.

The line of seniors is seen slowly moving through the tunnel of teachers. There’s plenty of crying, hugging and applauding.

“It is quite a moving experience and leaves the graduates with a great final family feeling from their high school,” Christman said.

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