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Students challenged to reshape the world as Portland Public Schools prepares for changes

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Ava Arias, valedictorian at Leodis McDaniel High School in Portland, addresses graduates and guests during a commencement ceremony June 8. Behind her, pictured left to right: McDaniel High School Vice Principal Keylah Boyer, Principal Adam Skyles, Vice Principal Keyla Santiago, PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, valedictorian and senior co-president Vivian Voqui, PPS Chief of Staff Jonathan Garcia and McDaniel senior co-president Oscar Moreno-Gilson. Portland's class of 2022 graduated last week, with more than 3,000 students among 11 high schools in Portland Public Schools. This year was the first that students were back in person full time since the 2018-19 academic year.

"We've all experienced loss over the last four years, including all of us losing out on 18 months of our high school experience," Ava Arias, Leodis McDaniel High School valedictorian, told her graduating class Wednesday, June 8, from Providence Park. "Our world continues to experience a lot of losses right now: climate change, war, school safety and political extremism."

Arias addressed the challenges ahead of graduating seniors. Many of today's crushing issues will be left to future generations to endure, or solve.

"Tonight is a victory," she said. "What's it gonna take to make this world a place of victory for everyone? The world is waiting for us to save it."

Portland school leaders have primed students to think not just about what they'll do in the world, but how they'll change it.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Leodis McDaniel High School staff hand off diplomas and congratulatory hand shakes to graduates during a commencement ceremony June 8. Students from 11 high schools in Portland Public Schools graduated last week. In a recorded video message to seniors, PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said the class of 2022 is "ready to lead efforts to create a more socially just world."

As the school year wraps up, Portland Public Schools is rolling out a robust summer school and summer activity program, using an infusion of new money directed at schools to help make up for lost learning and social experiences during the pandemic.

This year marked the last in the current Lincoln High School building downtown, before students move into a brand new campus this fall. Across the river, Benson Polytechnic High School is also undergoing a substantial rebuild. Both schools are being rebuilt or remodeled using voter-approved bond money.

Other changes are afoot at PPS. Next school year, students will see a new math and English curriculum in a shift the district hopes will help students learn more effectively and close achievement gaps. The following year, many students on Portland's east side will be shuffled to new schools, as the district implements its school boundary changes to balance out enrollment.

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