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The City Journals

Student of the Year award delivered to 25 Granite Park students

Jun 24, 2020 03:11PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Principal Aaron Wilson and school counselor, Lisa Ballash, surprise Andrew Bourne with the Male Student of the Year for Dance award. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

In the face of a pandemic, some Granite Park Junior High School (GPJHS) traditions continue. Traditionally, an end-of-year assembly is held to remember the year that was and honor outstanding students. With the soft school closure in March, no assembly was possible.

On May 27, Principal Aaron Wilson and other members of the administration took to the streets to honor outstanding eighth (now ninth) graders. Twenty-five Students of the Year were presented a certificate and a unique GPJHS blanket at their homes.

A male and female student was selected across 13 departments at GPJHS. One student was a double winner as Student of the Year in Math and Top Growth for Special Education (SPED). Top Growth was measured by comparing test scores at the beginning of the year and at the end.

Each department selected the students using the criteria of participation, achievement, effort and leadership.

Awarding the honors

For the most part, students were surprised to have their principal, vice principal or school counselor at their door. Parents were notified in advance to make sure the student was home and awake and dressed. In some cases, the parents just couldn’t resist spilling the beans.

“This is so cool,” said Mary Cosman, who was named the Female Student of the Year in Music.

Cosman plays the cello because she loves how the instrument sounds. She is also following the example of her mother.

“It was difficult to decide which students were selected as our students of the year. Teachers considered their grades, growth during the year, citizenship and also noticed students who excelled at distance learning. As we went to these students' homes to drop off their awards, I was inspired to see these wonderful students also had responsibilities taking care of younger siblings. Our students truly are the best. They inspire me and give me great hope for the future," Wilson said.

Wilson departs

June 30 will be Wilson’s last day as GPJHS principal. He is taking a new position in the district office as director of the Organizational Effectiveness Department. He will directly oversee Title I and other federal spending, help turnaround schools, and supervise research and evaluation as well as student assessment.

When asked about his time at GPJHS, Wilson replied, “When I started working at Granite Park eight years ago, it was a different school. There weren't as many opportunities for students to shine or be themselves. Now, students are in plays and musicals, competitive sport teams and clubs, and can be enrolled in our gifted courses. Students walking our halls are happy, safe, and thrive because of these opportunities and also teachers who love and care for them. Where once our student achievement was so low, we were a sanctioned school, now we are a model for school turnaround and student growth. We are now nationally recognized for being an AVID demonstration school and for our work honoring veterans. Being part of this journey with such amazing educators, students, and parents has been both humbling and thrilling. I will forever look back at my years at Granite Park as some of the fondest."

Chris Griffiths, who is currently an assistant principal at Cyprus High School, will take the reins of GPJHS.