Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ojai's Nordhoff Graduates 231 Students

By Misty Volaski

With an abundance of youthful exuberance, Eric Luna, left, and Taylor Magill high five each other down the aisle to the stage at Nordhoff's June 15 graduation

The Nordhoff High School Class of 2007 had — well, class. Principal Dan Musick waxed sentimental about a group of kids he called “a very big-hearted, great group of students.”
Although Ojai Valley Community Stadium was rowdy as usual at last Friday’s commencement ceremonies, the group was remarkably respectful during performances. “Beach balls, balloons, that always seems to be a part of it,” said Musick. “However, any time there was someone speaking or singing, or when we gave diplomas, it all stopped. During the transitions it was silly and wild and festive, but as soon as someone got up there it just stopped! They had great manners.”
That respect continued as the Class of ‘07 handed out not one or two thank-yous, but a whopping 17 — more than any other class has done, said Musick. Thank-yous went to teachers, of course, but also administrators and community members. “You always hear about how kids are different these days, how they’re not how they used to be,” said Musick. “But these kids are so thankful and appreciative and they let us know that.”
Academically, the class is stronger than in years past; over 95 percent of NHS seniors are going on to a college (two- or four-year or trade schools) this year, up from around 25 percent just five years ago. And 45 percent of those kids are going to four-year universities.
That’s pretty significant. Musick credits the school’s AVID and college prep programs for getting kids involved and showing them the path to college.
“Research shows that college prep is preparing them for college and the real world,” said Musick. More Latino students are finding their way to colleges through the AVID program. AVID, Musick went on, “… is for first-generation college-goers. We have a class for each grade level. The kids have risen to the challenge more and more, and I’m really proud of that.”
But the class, he said, has just as much heart and determination as it does smarts.
That combination of traits can be found in seniors Brandon Shirck, Kelsey Hersch and Brittany Chisum, in particular. Shirck, whose name is no stranger to the OVN Sports page, maintained good grades while competing in both football and cross country — at the same time. After a few hectic seasons, he decided to focus on running. It paid off; most recently, Shirck went to the CIF finals this year and took sixth place in the statewide 1600-meter race with his personal best time.
“He’s an amazing runner,” said Musick. “Even though he’s the star, the name in the paper, he’s so easy to work with. He’s very compliant and open, very popular, not at all aloof. He’s just a hard-working guy.”
Chisum, too, has a full schedule, but makes time for others. As valedictorian of the Class of 2007, she led academically, but always made time to let people know she appreciated their help.
“To me, she just personifies this class,” said Musick. “She’s just a really good kid, who really cares.” Chisum will attend Pepperdine on a full-ride scholarship this fall, he added.
Hersch is the same way. As salutatorian, she, like Chisum, was dedicated to her studies, but was also the drum major for the marching band. She also had the lead in the school play, “Anything Goes.”
“She’s a sweet young lady,” said Musick, “very strong in the music program.”
These three, he added, are great examples of a class of which he was particularly proud. “I talked about this at graduation. This class is strong in academics, yes, but their work ethic was great. They were really fun to work with; they have a great sense of humor, were willing to work with us, to keep lines of communication open. They’re just awesome.”

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