Our Graduating Class of 2015(16?)

By Hannah Chorley

What grade are you in? A seemingly simple question with four simple possible answers: 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. Yet, for Avi Cahn — originally a member of the class of 2016 — this question takes a lot longer to explain. Is she a junior? Well, if she was a part of the class of 2016, that would make her a junior, right? But, unlike the rest of the original class of 2016, she doesn’t have a another year of high school; she has just under three months. So, isn’t she technically a senior?

On June 12, the class of 2015 will walk across Mead Theatre, hastily grab their diplomas, offer a handshake to Dr. Synard, and then throw their caps in the air, signifying their departure from Tam High. This year, three girls who started their high school careers with the class of 2016, will walk across that stage in their navy blue robes one year earlier than their former classmates. Cahn, Alexandra Deane, and Carli Alexander are graduating one year early, essentially skipping their senior year.

The decision to graduate early is often met with disbelief, and comments such as “Is that even possible?” and “That is way too good to be true.” According to counselor Grace Aviles, students can graduate early in three years instead of four, but “they must complete 220 credits for diploma just like all other graduates.” It is common practice for students to complete credits by taking class outside of Tam, but “the [administration] must approve credits done outside of Tam, and up to 20 can be completed upon pre-approval,” Aviles said.

For Cahn, there is no simple answer for why she decided to graduate early, but rather, her decision was the product of an accumulation of factors. “At the beginning of sophomore year, I realized that high school was not the place for me,” Cahn said. Part of this stemmed from a dislike of the grade-driven mentality at Tam. “I noticed that…I almost completely stopped reading for pleasure, and I didn’t attempt to do anything beyond what I needed to receive an A in my classes,” Cahn said. “I lost almost all excitement and curiosity in learning.” Cahn was afraid that she wouldn’t be happy and would “burn out by the second semester of senior year.”

Travel aspirations were another motivation behind Deane, Cahn, and Alexander’s decisions to graduate early. “I decided to graduate early because I wanted to start living my life,” Deane said. “Next year I am planning on participating in WOOF [World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms] and living in New Zealand, Spain, and maybe Iceland.”

Alexander, whose plans for next year involve either backpacking through Europe or travelling to Germany, said she had “always wanted to go on an exchange.”

Cahn knew that she had a chance to change her situation and that it was her “responsibility to take action for [her] happiness.” As a result of this action, she has planned a year of work and travel. “The first half [of the year ] I’ll work, volunteer, and intern in Marin. For the second half [of the year] I am hopefully going to Nicaragua for four months with the Amigos gap program where I will live with a host family and volunteer in a local community,” she said.

In order to graduate a year early, these students had to “add typical senior courses, such as Economics and Government and AP Literature and AP Composition into their schedule, or take these classes online or at College of Marin to get enough credits,” Aviles said. Both Cahn and Alexander’s schedules are very hectic, and the push to get enough credits leaves no room for a free period and makes it harder to take electives.
Cahn, who made the decision to graduate early at the end of her sophomore year, took Statistics at College of Marin over the summer to get the last 10 credits that she needed. This year, she is taking Honors Pre-Calcululs, Environmental Science, Government, Economics, AP Composition, Poetry and Short Story, U.S. History, and Honors Chemistry.

Alexander made her decision this year, so along with taking AP Composition, Advanced Drama, French, Honors Physiology, Pre Calculus, and U.S. History, she had to drop Honors Directing after her first semester. In order to get enough credits to graduate, she is taking Economy and AP Literature courses online. “I’m barely scraping by,” Cahn said.

According to Cahn and Alexander, most people who hear about their decision are shocked, intrigued, or jealous. Few people have been skeptical why Cahn would want to miss her junior year. She said, “A lot of people keep telling me how much they wish they thought ahead and did what I did, and I keep on telling sophomores that… it’s not too late.”

Next year, Cahn, Alexander, and Deane will be off experiencing the world, while their former classmates in the class of 2016 will be in the classroom, completing their homework, and worrying over college applications. “It’s a big change, but I can’t wait for all the great adventures I’ll have,” Deane said.