CHS should broaden standards of Distinguished Grad to better represent everyone

HiLite Staff

Unlike most high schools, CHS uses the Distinguished Grad program to recognize its top seniors each year. The system, which started more than ten years ago, allows students to  accumulate points and recognizes multiple, well-rounded seniors, instead of appointing the singular title of valedictorian. In addition to GPA, the program also includes points for a variety of involvement activities from performing arts to athletics to certain co-curricular groups. The Distinguished Grad—the student with the most points—has the opportunity to speak at graduation, while a number of additional students also earn recognition.

While we applaud the school’s choice to look past GPA as the sole factor for recognition, there are some flaws that need to be addressed.

First, there exists an element of bias in the point values for certain activities.

According to Melinda Stephan, College Career Programming and Resources Coordinator, rather than ranking students, the Distinguished Grad attempts to identify and commend seniors who are involved in multiple aspects of being an above-average American high school student.  However, the categories themselves center on what the school’s administration has deemed as characteristics of a well-rounded student. Rather than applying multiple perspectives to what a student worthy of the Distinguished Grad title would look like, the list focuses heavily on athletics and performing arts. Club involvements receive credit if they have community-based or competition opportunities for hours, yet many clubs don’t count even though their members put the same amount of time and effort into creating a lasting impact in the community.

Second, the Distinguished Grad program emphasizes breadth of involvement rather than depth.

According to Assistant Principal Amy Skeens-Benton, the Distinguished Grad program’s purpose is to celebrate the student who does many activities. She said a committee of students, parents and faculty members created the list and administrators amend and update the list each year as needed. To get more points, a student must participate in many undertakings; participation in only one or two activities over many years does not garner the same point value.

Despite these concerns, the Distinguished Grad program is not broken, and the school can make some fairly easy changes to recognize a wider variety of students. In order to focus on the time and effort of the students rather than the number of activities they participate in to meet the requirement, submitting hours per activity would provide a more narrow sense of how dedicated a student is in different components of the program’s requirements. This way, students could better focus on what they want to do and still get points rather than what they have to do to be considered a distinguished student.

Read an online column about class rankings by Edward Dong here.