McBride High School's first freshman class made an appearance on the campus four years ago, and today, students from that class will be walking the graduation stage and accepting diplomas.
"We have just under 720 students on campus now," McBride principal, Steve Rockenbach, said. "It's really exciting to see things come together."
The high school started with nearly 190 students in its first freshman class in 2013, adding another grade level — and more students — every school year.
Rockenbach added that the upcoming graduation is an exciting accomplishment for both faculty and students, but the departure of McBride's pilot class will be bittersweet.
"These kids took the risk to attend a brand new school," he said. "We will miss them. We got to see these kids grow."
He added that many students wanted to attend the school because of the unique curriculum offered, which includes engineering, law and medicine Pathway programs. Students have the opportunity to choose from the three programs, which are connected to their regular curriculum with the Linked Learning approach.
"Linked Learning takes core academics and ties it into Pathway programs," Rockenbach said. "We try to provide a connection to the industries as well."
According to Rockenbach, McBride's academics aims to provide its students with industry recognized skills along with college training.
"A lot of the students came to school with a good attitude and commitment to academics," he said of the school's first class.
Rockenbach added that the students were encouraged from the start to find their voice in the school. The various campus clubs, including intramural sports, were established due to demand from students.
"We really try to get their voice in as many opportunities as possible," he said. "We have student representation on our advisory board. We really feel they have a vibe of their own."
To add to the graduation excitement, McBride made the list for U.S. News and World Report's 2017 best high schools. McBride is one of seven high schools listed for LBUSD, which is a record for the district.
"This is unique because schools usually don't make the list until the first class graduates," he said. "The data was based on ninth through 11th grade."
Paired with the the high school's first senior class are the school's first senior-oriented activities, including prom and grad night (which will take place at Disneyland).
"Prom was nice because we had had such strong senior participation," Rockenbach said. "We were able to have a senior only prom."
This also is the first year the high school has had the opportunity to help seniors apply for colleges and scholarships, he said.
This year, an estimated 97% of the high school's graduating class will move on to a two- or four-year college, Rockenbach said.
As for the future of McBride, Rockenbach said that he plans on continuing to make an effort to improve academics and student life at the school.
"I think it's fun to grow with the kids," he said. "Both from the standpoint as a leader and a member of the school."
McBride High School's graduation will take place at 5 p.m. next Wednesday, June 14, at the Long Beach Convention Center Grand Ballroom, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org