From the desk of Dr. Tuin, THS Principal

October 8, 2021

“Quietly productive” are words I associate with this week. There was some important work behind the scenes that happened for sure, but also plenty of visible activity. With Empire League competitions in full swing, we hosted our share of games and matches. The week will conclude tonight with an important home football game to possibly determine the league champion.

Other sports competing this week were girls’ golf, boya’ water polo and girls’ tennis. These sports don’t receive as much attention as some other sports from a spectator standpoint, but it is still impressive to see how hard our athletes work to better their skills. Shanaya “Cookie” Neru, for example, has battled back from injury and somehow shot a round at par, which means she matched the number of strokes intended for the course. That alone represents hours and hours invested to be able to shoot at that level, not to mention the challenge of overcoming an injury.

An athletic event that did attract a large number of energetic fans was an important Empire League volleyball match. It was also a touching venue for honoring senior athletes at Senior Night. Families represented a fair amount of the spectators present, and they came out on the court before the game to show their support and appreciation for some awesome young ladies. Not only did Keith Maryn, our beloved announcer, read about their past high school experiences and accomplishments, but we also learned of some pretty high high level aspirations. Both the classroom and the court have prepared these young ladies well, and I know they will go on to make a difference in this world.

This week represented another opportunity to “check in” as a faculty team. Among our richly scheduled agenda was a presentation of some history and current focus of our school related to AVID. We are an AVID demonstration school, which puts us in a select group of less than 3% of the schools in the country. Over 25% of our students are in AVID, which prepares them for the rigors of academic life as a Tiller, but also for college in the future. Our school fully embraces the practices which support our AVID students, which in turn supports all students in their learning. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual determination, and requires a community of engagement. Despite some challenges, our school is a high performing school, largely because of our AVID focus

Not only do we focus on growing our students academically, but we also care intently about our students’ mental health. This was Mental Health Week at THS and we celebrated on Wednesday with a fair. We had 8 wonderful agencies show up, decorate their tables, engage with our students and give out coping skills, resources and other cool merchandise. Walking around, one could observe our students locked into meaningful conversations with the agency providers, asking great questions and picking up brochures planning to follow up with support services. It was a team effort to pull off this event, and Joanne Cabrera, our mental professional, led the effort. She expressed her appreciation for the notable work of Julie Sam, counseling secretary, and our Interns who helped with everything else behind the scenes.

Wednesday evening, I observed another two meaningful events on campus. The library transformed into a photography studio for seniors. I have always been impressed with the senior pictures in our yearbook, and this week I learned how we are able to get all seniors looking so formal, even if it is from the waist up.

Just across the way, two groups of parents and students were intently filling out their FAFSA application on line. There were people there to support, including our guidance team who hosted this event over three nights. People walked in shyly, and walked out with completed applications and smiles. I observed one mother and daughter completing their application to learn their EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) was $0. I am not sure they understood at first what this meant. When it was explained they would receive financial aid packages from colleges that represented zero money from the family or student, they understood the importance of this process. The thought of college is usually associated with an extremely high price tag, which is sometimes warranted. However, the sticker price is often much lower than anticipated and the FAFSA process is foundational to making that happen. It is also a first come first serve process, so I was particularly grateful for this support to our families so soon after the October 1st start to the FAFSA calendar.

Paying for college is only part of the process for attending college. Getting accepted is also an important piece. That is a focus of our AVID program, getting students prepared to apply for college. Monday morning, I visited an AVID classroom. I was checking on a student who shared concerns for one of her AP classes. Her grades were all solid accept for this one course in which she was failing. She expressed her difficulty with taking tests in this particular class, so I visited to see what I could do to support. In less than I period, I learned about her approach and was able to help her with some strategies for studying. I tried to help her make some connections in the content in order to increase the amount of material that would stick. What I learned is that this young person was capable. She could do it, and I could see that with some tweaks, she could greatly improve her performance on her tests. Not only did she work intently during that short period of time, but she also committed to looking over the material a little each day. Last night she approached me after the volleyball game and shared how she invested some quality time preparing for the test the next day. I don’t know what her score will be, but I saw a completely different student going into it. It reminded me that believing in our students in so foundational, sometime more than they believe in themselves. It is always delicate dance knowing when to challenge and when to support. It works best is when we do both. I saw a lot of both this week.

Go Tillers!

Dr. Jon Tuin

Tustin High School Principal