New program may be more appropriate for large student body

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By: Amy Flis <aflis@hilite.org>

Prior to the spring musical, the backstage area is filled with back-less wood houses, half-painted trees and buckets of various colors of paint. Among all this scenery paraphernalia, junior Andrew Paramore spends hours painting and putting together sets. Paramore said that during production season, his involvement in technical theater (tech crew) overshadows the rest of his activities.

“Instead of finding time to do (tech crew), you find time to do other stuff,” Paramore said.
Besides tech crew, Paramore said he is involved in other performing arts, including choir and drama, and said that his involvement could earn him enough points to become a Distinguished Graduate but that he honestly isn’t sure.

Despite the confusion and, at times, resistance that the new program has met this year, senior Hena Ahmed said that she looks at the program, not as a
replacement for valedictorian, but as a way to be fair to the students of a school with such a large student body.

“I feel like it’s just a different way of recognizing students,” Ahmed said. “It’s not a replacement of the valedictorian system. It’s a way to recognize more people within a school this big. I can understand with a smaller school, there would be one student that was really great and really involved in everything, but in just our Senior Class there are nearly a thousand kids; I could name 25 people off the top of my head who I’m inspired by and who are amazing.”

According to Assistant Principal Amy Skeens-Benton, the purpose of the program is “to honor and distinguish our top students.” In addition, the program stresses the importance of a “well-rounded” student who focuses not just on academics but is also involved in extracurricular activities.

“I think the students that focus solely on academics are missing out on such opportunities and a chance to learn in other ways, and maybe this will push them out of their comfort zone and let them experience the rest that Carmel
High School has to offer,” Skeens-Benton said.

The program recognizes participation in a wide variety of activities; however, it does not require a specific type of student. “I think (the program) does
encourage (more participation in school), but honestly, I think it’s more of a reward for participating in these,” Skeens-Benton said.

Ahmed, who said she is a commended graduate this year, said she agrees with Skeens-Benton that the program recognizes students already involved.

“If you are a student who could be a potential Distinguished Grad, you are probably doing everything right to begin with,” Ahmed said. “I feel like the Distinguished Grad program doesn’t make you have to conform to anything.”

Despite this variety, some clubs or groups may argue that they are under-counted. However, Skeens-Benton said that the committee that created the rubric tried to be fair.

“A committee met, made up of parents, teachers, administrators and students, and came up with what we thought was a fair, across-the-board rubric for points,” Skeens-Benton said. “And we wanted to again focus mainly on academics because that is the number-one goal but then to balance the other things with that.”

The committee met again after this first year with the program to discuss necessary changes to the rubric and made adjustments based on various recommendations. “We had to make sure that we’re fair and balanced, but we did make adjustments based on those suggestions,” Skeens-Benton said.

Ahmed was one student who met with members of the committee and made suggestions for adjustments to the rubric for next year. She said she answered
questions about each portion of the rubric as to the fairness and general opinion of each portion of the rubric.

“They definitely listened to what I had to say,” Ahmed said. “I was basically there to express the ideas of a lot of different students; it wasn’t much of my own views.”

Despite these efforts, Paramore said that complete balance and fairness is impossible.

“I don’t think it could be completely fair because different people put different value on activities,” Paramore said. “Whether they realize it or not,
there’s going to be a bias. I mean, performing arts is great, but then we just won (a) State football (championship).”

The list of recognized clubs is one example of something that some people may want to change. Ahmed said, “There’s so many clubs that do a lot of work, and I
feel like (the administrators) might need to add them to the list. Just because you aren’t a writer for yearbook or HiLite doesn’t mean you don’t work hard.”

Skeens-Benton said, “(The program) will always be adaptable.” According to Skeens-Benton, the committee will meet again after next year’s Distinguished
Graduates are selected and will make further adjustments. Skeens-Benton said, “It’s a constant work.”

Besides these minor changes, Ahmed said that she does like the program in general. “I honestly think it’s a fair way to recognize the seniors and all their accomplishments, just because there are so many students in our grade and they’re all so great at so many different things,” she said. “So I feel like it’s so hard to pick one specific person, and overall, I think it’s a really
good idea to look at everything someone has done and recognize a lot of students at once.”

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