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New honors assembly doesn't make the grade

Amy ChenIt’s been quite a while — a little over a month now — so this might seem a little delayed. But it continues to bother me.

I was disappointed by a difference between past years’ honors assemblies at Lake Oswego High School and this year’s.

In past years, the honors assembly was inspiring, particularly the Top Scholars section of the assembly that traditionally honored the top 10 students of the graduating class, according to weighted rank. This year, due to the removal of the weighted rank, the cutoff for this year’s “Top Scholars” was a weighted GPA of 4.3 or higher or an unweighted 4.0.

This was not, however, the only change.

In past years, I was one of many who watched the Top 10 intently. The order of recognition went as follows: Student’s name is called, student steps forward, student’s future college and major is noted, and student’s accomplishments are recognized — his or her activities, honors and awards, number of AP classes and so on.

This year, as I stood on the stage with my fellow Scholars, my name was called, my future college and major noted, and then — my favorite memory of high school. In place of a favorite memory, some of my peers were introduced with their favorite quote, book or teacher. I was horrified.

To put this in perspective, Lake Oswego High’s Top Scholars received less recognition for their achievements than most homecoming princesses.

Full disclosure: I did receive recognition during the honors assembly, but not for Top Scholars. This isn’t about me, at least not right now. This is about freshman me — the one who left the honors assembly feeling motivated, wanting to follow the lead of the students on the stage.

Just as funerals aren’t for the dead but for the living, the honors assembly is not for the Top Scholars but for those who want to be like Top Scholars and want to end up in the same places as the Top Scholars.

Reducing the Top Scholars section of the honors assembly to a GPA cutoff, students’ names, colleges —- among them, many high-ranking schools — majors and a “fun fact” doesn’t send the right message.

The students in Top Scholars did more than study for the past four years. One is not only a computer programmer, but also varsity captain of the swim team a competitive club swimmer and a pianist and composer. Another is a stand-up comedian, humor writer, occasional columnist for the Lake Oswego Review, a team captain of the debate team and a lover of Frisbee. Another is an advocate for women’s rights and an excellent poet. Another is a brilliant Science Bowl captain and chess player. Another is an actor and award-winning playwright.

And because we are — for the most part — modest students, there are probably plenty of other accomplishments that I don’t know about — a problem that would have been remedied had we gone with the structure of past years’ honors assemblies.

These activities were ignored because of the format of this year’s honors assembly. In the process, students in the bleachers — many of whom are trying to set themselves on the track to the schools Top Scholars will attend — only saw good grades correlating to good schools, further spreading the misconception that college admissions is highly reliant on numbers: on GPAs, SATs, ACTs and so on.

While these things do play a role, what plays an even bigger role is what these students are passionate about, and what they do to follow their passions.

When I contacted the school about this, they explained that “with additional students being recognized this year, it was decided to share where they were going to school and a favorite quote,” and that administrators will continue to reevaluate the honors assembly. Hopefully, next time, it will keep the audience in mind.

Amy Chen recently graduated from Lake Oswego High School, and she has been writing a monthly column for the Review, which she will continue until she leaves for Stanford University. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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