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St. Ignatius High School sets record four-year graduation rate

by CAROLYN HIDY
Lake County Leader | August 18, 2021 12:15 AM

ST. IGNATIUS — Despite unprecedented challenges, the St. Ignatius High School class of 2021 graduated 96.4% of those who started at Mission as freshmen together four years ago. Principal Shawn Hendrickson said it's a record for the school.

“We knew it would be a tough year, and it was,” Hendrickson said. “We were worried about getting pulled out for COVID and what that would look like coming back. But our seniors really rose to the challenge. They had an end plan in mind and stuck to it.

“We’re really excited. Our staff did a great job of really personalizing the education, looking out for kids. They did their best to accommodate students and their families with safety in mind and addressing all the concerns. It was what we do normally, but then going above and beyond.”

Hendrickson said that level of commitment is going to have to be “the norm” going forward.

“We saw what successes we had, but also what challenges we are going to continue to face. We know what it’s going to take.”

One challenge will be helping kids who have not been to school in person since March 2020 and fell behind.

"We don’t know what that’s going to look like to pull them back in, and whether it will be tough for them to be in a traditional class setting again.”

With COVID-19, there was so much new work starting in March 2020 and continuing through this whole year, he said, “it just seemed like that never ended.” Hendrickson read the research on what the stress was doing to teachers, and how many were leaving the profession.

“My focus last year was not only on students but on staff,” Hendrickson said. “There used to be a kind of badge of honor for who spent the most hours at school, who was there the latest, and put in the most time. They took pride in that.”

But during the past year, Hendrickson said, they took a different approach.

“Maybe burning yourself out, even though you feel like you’re doing work and staying ahead, maybe there’s more harm than good there in the long term.”

Staff were supported in spending more time with family, not checking emails during the weekend and maintaining physical fitness. They built time into the schedule to do more things together as a staff, including sitting down for a meal together once a month.

“We did things together that might not relate to teaching or school at all — teambuilding, getting to know people you might not have gotten to know. … We really tried to lighten it up, have some fun, and our staff really came together as a group this year. More tight knit, sympatico, and on the same page. … We have such a dedicated group of teachers that will do whatever it takes, whether it’s in the contract day or not. They’re just going to do what’s best for kids.”

Learning to also take care of themselves may just help keep that energy up.

“These were some unintended things that came out of COVID, but now that we’ve done it, we want to continue,” Hendrickson said. “Self care will continue to be a regular focus.”