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Where the light turns on

Ashland High students say advisory classes help them take a breath, find a future
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Ashland High School seniors learn the finer points of pursuing college scholarships during their morning advisory class in the auditorium. Advisory classes give students the academic and emotional support they need to succeed in school, teachers say.Jamie Lusch
 Posted: 2:00 AM November 02, 2012

Whether it be a little extra time to catch up on homework, a moment for self-reflection, or a tooth-and-nail presentation on how to land more scholarships, morning advisory classes at Ashland High School offer students myriad opportunities to succeed in school.

The 40-minute study hall-style classes went into effect last year and are designed to provide students with academic and emotional support, as well as information on career and college paths, said Principal Michelle Zundel.

On Monday, seniors getting ready to apply for scholarships were learning where and when to look for extra dollars to buffer rising college costs.

"This is where it starts," AHS counselor Steve Smith told the auditorium of students. "Everyone has the same opportunity from here."

The high school's seniors last year pulled in more scholarships than any graduating class before them, Zundel said, including three highly competitive scholarships from the Ford Family Foundation.

"We believe this was due to the information and support they received through advisory," she said.

Students are split up into 43 groups of 20 to 25 students. Each group is monitored by one teacher who stays with the students for their entire stint at the high school.

"I have kids in my advisory who want to go to college," said Allison French, a health teacher and coordinator of the advisory program at AHS. "I also have students who would rather join the military or go to a trade school or work in the arts, but I only know that because of the time we've been able to spend together in advisory."

French, who started with a group of freshmen last year, was giving the same students, now sophomores, a heads up Monday on the dangers of texting and driving, and what to expect should they choose to pursue a driver's license during the upcoming year.

"It's really helpful if you need extra time to plan something out or get organized," said 15-year-old sophomore Sabina Schilling.

"It's nice to have this as a little break between classes," said sophomore Shelby Trotter, 15. "And we have a lot of fun — it's always fun in advisory."

A few doors down, math, foods, and family health teacher Ashley Hafner was giving her freshman advisory group a lesson on organization while the students enjoyed ice cream bars during the last few minutes of class.

"We're the one staff member that they really get the chance to know," said Hafner.

Hafner and French said the classes also give parents an opportunity to check in with a teacher who interacts with their child on a one-on-one basis every day of the week, excluding Friday.

"It's like we're a family," said freshman Bowie Levick, 14. "We can really get to know each other here."

The school cut some of last year's advisory class activities and curriculum requirements to ease the workload after surveying students and teachers at the end of the year, Zundel said.

"The goal is to personalize their educations "… the four years of high school is a process of self-discovery," she said. "We'll continue monitoring and adjusting based on the feedback we get."

Junior Hunter Lloyd Jr., who was plugging his interests into a computer program designed to spit out career options during Monday's advisory, said the classes have been great this year.

"I think advisory is a good idea," he said. "I don't know about this program, though "… I want to be a graphics designer or a writer, not an engineer."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email

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