Woodlawn High opened the new school year this month overflowing with a record number of students and palpable excitement.
Principal Scott Stevens and the faculty and staff welcomed an enrollment of approximately 1,500 to campus — an increase of almost 25% during a five-year span — with a wide range of academic and extracurricular opportunities.
“Hearing from the kids, they like the fact that they get to wear spirit shirts every day and not wear the polos,” Stevens said. “They’re excited about the return of pep rallies, but that’s something, too, that we have our pep rally committee working on, because there’s no way we can feasibly fit 1,500 kids into our gym at once.
“So having so many students presents some challenges with space. But we’re working on ways to combat that and make sure everybody has a good experience.”
Woodlawn’s enrollment was reported as just over 1,400 last year and just over 1,100 five years ago.
And while that sharp rise in numbers can lend itself to some complications, Stevens said the school has taken measures to still prioritize personalized and tailored instruction to help facilitate student success.
“Obviously there are a lot more bodies in the halls,” he said. “With so many students, every room is used at all times. There is no empty space. But we’ve hired more teachers, so that’s helped us out some to still cut down on the class sizes.”
And to continue to provide courses and programs to meet the diversity of students’ needs and help better prepare them for varied paths after graduation.
“Having all the classes that we do, all the different programs, such as Gifted, Magnet, Great Scholars, Talented — you name it, and we’ve got it,” Stevens said. “So we’ve focused on making sure we meet all the requirements for those, making sure we get the kids what they need for graduation requirements, but also still giving them the options that we have like journalism, athletic marketing and things that let them expand on areas that they’re interested in.”
Outside of class, several student organizations, including sports teams and other clubs, have already launched into regular practices and meetings in the first two weeks of class.
The football and volleyball teams have both already competed in scrimmages against other area schools and will participate in jamborees this week before opening regular-season play next week.
“Kind of getting past some of the impacts of COVID the past two years and being able to do a lot more to allow the kids to be able to get involved is a big deal,” Stevens said. “It should feel back a lot closer to normal — should being the operative word,
“But there’s a lot more stuff we’d like to do this year. For instance, there are some PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) and TSS (Therapeutic Staff Support) aspects we’re going to be implementing along with the Social Emotional Learning through the counseling office, some different activities during the lunch periods and all those things.”
As students and parents get back into the routine of the new school year, Woodlawn High is excited to once again have an in-person Open House. Open House will be held Monday, September 12th, beginning at 6 pm.
Senior Carolina Alvarado has brought the first State Championship in the sport of Powerlifting to Woodlawn High School. The Panthers have participated in Powerlifting for less than a decade, but Panther lifters have consistently qualified for the State Meet. However, no lifter has been able to be crowned State Champion until now.
Carolina Alvarado displays her State Championship medal.
Alvarado, who placed second in Regionals, competed in the 97 pound weight class. She posted three personal records on the way to the state championship. Her squat of 210 pounds and bench of 90 pounds each bested her personal records by five pounds. However, it was her dead lift that was the difference between first and second place. Alvarado had a previous record of 235 pounds. Lifting that weight again would have placed her second in the competition. First-year coach Knute Douglas knew she could lift more weight and went for the State Championship by listing 275 pounds as her final attempt. When Alvarado successfully lifted the weight, Woodlawn High had it’s first Powerlifting State Champion.
Alvarado was not the only bright spot in Panther powerlifting this season. For the first time in the history of the school, the boys’ team won the Regional Championship. The Panthers also placed 5th overall at the state competition. The Panthers were led by senior Amani Givens, who finished runner-up in the 198 pound weight class.
Amani Givens prepares to squat at the State Championship Meet.
Coach Douglas was extremely proud of all of his lifters this season.
“Year one has been a great ride, filled with fantastic moments,” said Douglas. “This year’s boys and girls teams have seen lots of first-time achievements in school history and will be a great foundation to build upon moving forward as we strive to make Woodlawn High School Powerlifting a Championship Program.”
Woodlawn was represented by four girls and five boys at this year’s State Meet. In addition to Alvarado, Krystel Amo (105 pound weight class), Celine Thomas (148 pound weight class), and Marie Sierra (165 pound weight class) also competed. All three Lady Panthers had top ten finishes. Freshman Amo finished eighth and juniors Thomas and Sierra finished fifth and fourth.
Willie Nunnery (123 pound weight class), Mason Watson (198 pound weight class), Hunter Thomas (242 pound weight class), and Devyn Jones (275 pound weight class) joined Givens to represent the Panthers. Juniors Nunnery and Jones placed sixth and fifth, and seniors Thomas and Watson each placed fourth.
Seema Kawji has been named Woodlawn High’s 2021-2022 Student of the Year. During her four years at Woodlawn High School, Seema has maintained a 4.6 GPA whilst in the Great Scholars program. She is currently ranked first in the 2022 graduating class. She has participated in soccer all four years and is adding Cross Country, Powerlifting, and Track to her list of extracurriculars at Woodlawn High School.
Seema is a three-time All-District Soccer player.
Like the rest of the graduating class of 2022, Seema has been forced to adapt to changes in education due to Covid-19. During her sophomore year, Seema was a member of the Beta Club and a member of the National Honor Society. Seema has once again joined NHS.
Despite the hardships that students have faced, Seema has managed to maintain a spectacular academic record. She has earned an A in 53 of 54 classes while at Woodlawn High. Her attitude and work ethic, along with her intellectual abilities, contribute to her amazing transcript.
After speaking with Seema’s teachers, it was quite obvious why she was chosen as Student of the Year.
Seema spending time with students at Woodlawn Elementary.
“Seema is one of the most responsible and consistent students I have ever taught. I am honored to have taught her in two courses, Biology 1 Great Scholars and AP Environmental Science,” said Ms. Ridgdell. “ Seema currently holds the highest grade in my APES class. This is a flipped classroom, so students are expected to watch videos of lectures and take notes so that we can investigate and experiment during class. Despite all the constraints on her time, she stays up to date with her notes, and demonstrates understanding of a topic that requires a global viewpoint.”
Ms. Ridgdell’s sentiment was echoed by Ms. Goins.
“I would like to say that Seema is a young woman who is self-possessed, self-assured, and filled with integrity! She is one of the best students I have had the pleasure of teaching.”
After graduation, Seema plans to major in Kinesiology and eventually become a physical therapist.
Students, have you failed a course and you want to recover it before its too late? See your school counselor for information about our new Back on Track program!
“Back on Track” is a credit recovery initiative out of the Office of Graduation Excellence. “Back On Track” is designed for high school students to recover .5 or 1 Carnegie unit during a 9 week grading period. Students will receive blended instruction each evening, direct instruction and EdGenuity (self-paced). Teachers will differentiate instruction for students while remediating and ensuring high levels of engagement.
Instruction will be provided by teachers across EBRPSS. Students will receive a hot meal each evening at 5 pm and will begin class promptly at 5:30 pm and end nightly at 7:30 pm. Students will receive transportation from homeschool to designated sites and from designated sites to the students’ home.
Students interested in participating in the Back on Track program should reach out to their School Counselor. School Counselor information can be located by clicking here.
To see more information about the initiative, please click here.