My name is David Moriarty. I am a Juneau-Douglas High School graduate now attending the University of Alaska Southeast. I read the Juneau Empire article about Principal Bernie Sorenson's "Freshmen First" program and had a few thoughts.
First of all, I like it. I'm glad to see someone trying to deal with our high school dropout rates, but I don't think it's going to solve the real problem: a combination of alienation and attitude.
As a high school freshman, I recall being intimidated by older students and even some faculty. Maybe the Freshman First program addresses this issue to some extent, but I cannot stress enough that high school, by its very nature, is not a welcoming place. More importantly, perhaps, was my attitude and my friends' attitudes as freshmen. It wasn't long before it became apparent that none of my peers - even the older ones - placed any value in grades. It was laughable to be studious.
The argument "get good grades to go to a good college" does not work for a ninth-grade student. Most aren't sure they want to go to college. This community needs to address that attitude. I have one piece of advice: Make high school a place ninth graders want to be. Rewards are stronger than punishments.