Although they have just started their freshman year, ninth-graders at Westland High School already have graduation on their minds.
On Sept. 6 the students signed their names to a banner signifying their intention to "Commit to Graduate."
Westland is participating for the third year in "Commit to Graduate," an initiative sponsored by Josten's which encourages freshman students to start early in their journey toward graduation day.
"We hang the banner in our commons area as a daily reminder to the students about the promise they've made to stay in school and earn their diploma," Westland Principal John Rathburn said.
"The goal is to not only encourage students to graduate, but to graduate at the highest level they can," Rathburn said.
For many freshmen, their senior year and graduation might seem to be a long time off, he said.
"One of the messages we're trying to tell them is that their high school years are going to fly by and they need to start thinking now about what they'll need to do in order to graduate," Rathburn said.
Students are encouraged to "begin with the end in mind," he said.
At the assembly, Rathburn, assistant principal Brian Verde and Josten's representative Mike Dillon spoke to the freshmen class on the importance of graduating from high school.
Their remarks included a presentation of local and national data trends and video-taped interviews with older students offering tips on how to make the most of high school.
"The freshman year is the most difficult year in high school," Rathburn said. "Ninth-graders have the lowest grade-point average and the highest number of discipline referrals. It's a difficult transition into high school."
Students heard data indicating that on average, a person with a high school diploma earns $14,000 more per year than one who did not graduate.
Following the assembly, students signed the banner and were able to have their picture taken wearing a cap and gown.
The students will be able to keep their pictures in their locker as an incentive to work toward earning their diploma, Rathburn said.
The banner that hangs in the school's commons is another motivator, he said.
"Over the past two years we've been doing this program, I've often seen students look up at the banner," Rathburn said. "They can see their own names and the names of their former classmates who signed the banner, but ended up dropping out of school."