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Pioneer Achievement Day kicks off fifth year at NVHS

Pioneer Achievement Day turns a normal Nooksack Valley High School day into something unique. It is a day where students may start learning about computer animation, cinematography or psychology. Students may head to the local auto body shop for a crash-course internship. Some students tutor the youngest students in the district. And plenty of other students receive directed support from teachers in core classes.

Pioneer Achievement Day certainly provides a fresh perspective at Nooksack Valley High School.

In its fifth year of existence, the day serves to give students at or above standards in four core classes the opportunity for enrichment, while offering those students not yet at standard a bit of concentrated support. “It has grown each year and the program is designed to benefit all students,” says first-year coordinator Kelli Veening.

The 2018-19 edition kicked off on Nov. 6 and covers all six periods of the day, happening eight Tuesdays throughout the semester. A student at or above standard in a core class gets released from that class to attend a Pioneer Achievement Day class. For some students, that means four PA classes to try. Others maybe get released for just one. For those students who don’t get released from the core class, the smaller class size allows for more directed instruction.

“The benefits to the kids who might not be released is the small class,” Veening says. “When you take some of the kids who always answer the question out of the picture, other kids might feel more comfortable in a smaller environment and get more one-on-one help. It is a program designed to benefit kids to challenge themselves, but also for kids who may be struggling or need to make up assignments or get more help.”

The numbers show that about 60 percent of students get released from at least one core subject, equating to about 270 students released. With that many students heading into PA classes, there comes a need for plenty of offerings.

Technology always serves as a growing interest area. This year, a computer animation course was added to the mix, an online offering from Kahn Academy in partnership with Pixar and Disney. New girls soccer coach Konner Van Rijswijck offered four sessions of intro to film — a popular new offering. Students can sign up to tutor, whether peers or, if they get released for multiple classes in a row, at one of the elementary schools or middle school. “The kids have really enjoyed that, preparing to help other students and see the younger kids,” Veening says. “It works out for the whole district that way.”

Local businesses have stepped in to offer mini-internships for students who have enough time in the day to get released for more than one class. Nooksack’s Service Pro has taken on three interns at its auto body shop. “They bring in students and let them observe them, talk about what course they want to take in life if they are looking at being a mechanic and really embrace the kids and encourage them to learn something,” Veening says.

Really, the offerings run the gamut. A student-teacher is offering Psychology 101 and then there is a philosophy of basketball course taught by the high school coach. The Spanish teacher has a crash-course on travel Spanish. Expect to find college search and SAT prep options. There are student-led classes, such as a small class on calligraphy taught by a junior who took the time to plan the course herself. “She wants to go into education after high school and wants to build her own teaching skills,” Veening says. “She came up with that proposal and outlined the course herself. There are a lot of benefits to challenging the kids exceeding standard in their classes.”

Veening says she is always looking for more ways for the community to get involved, whether someone willing to offer eight Tuesdays or even trying to package career-focused classes that bring in eight different speakers over the eight-session effort. There are also less-structured classes that allow community members to come in and play board games, for example, with students to work on strategy games while interacting socially.

For those interested in learning more about helping at Pioneer Achievement Day, Veening asks they call Nooksack Valley High School.