Graduation eludes exchange students

Rachel Shaffer, Reporter

Senior foreign exchange students at Puyallup High School will not be receiving a diploma from the Puyallup School District in June.

District policy states “an international exchange student will be required to meet district and state graduation requirements in order to be eligible to receive a high school diploma.” This means they must meet portfolio requirements as well as mandatory course requirements within the district.

Puyallup, Emerald Ridge and Rogers High Schools recognize their foreign exchange students at their respective graduation ceremonies at the end of the school year.

“We do include [senior exchange students] in the ceremony,” RHS Principal John Bustad said.

Furthermore, ERHS Principal Brian Lowney discussed the policy at Emerald Ridge.

“Exchange students [are included] in the ceremony and I recognize them during my remarks about the graduating class but they do not receive diplomas or ‘walk’ at graduation,” Lowney said.

Despite their involvement in all other senior activities – such as prom and the senior picnic – exchange students do not participate in the commencement ceremony in the same manner as other PHS seniors.

“We welcome and want the exchange students at graduation… they receive a nice certificate to honor their time at PHS,” Puyallup High School principal Jason Smith said.

Smith discussed the district policy.

“[There are] Puyallup School District and State of Washington requirements that all students must meet,” Smith said.

PHS foreign exchange senior, Axel Barateau, is okay with this fact.

“I knew before coming to America that I would not be receiving a diploma,” Barateau said

Not being able to officially graduate does not make Barateau feel any differently about his high school experience in America.

“Since I knew [I would not be receiving a diploma] I am okay with it but it does deter my motivation in schoolwork,” Barateau said.

Both principals at RHS and ERHS said that it is incredibly uncommon for foreign exchange students to receive diplomas – although both schools have had foreign exchange students graduate in the past. Smith has never seen a foreign exchange student graduate from PHS during his time as principal.

Puyallup School District policy says that “a 12th grade student transferring from another high school may be permitted to graduate with fewer credits provided minimum state-course and credit requirements are satisfied and the student successfully passes a full schedule of classes during the 12th grade.”

Smith commented on the differences between foreign exchange students and students who transfer as seniors.

“For students who transfer out of state, [we would use] their state assessments and there is a form of the culminating project that they must complete,” Smith said.

Barateau said that the exchange program was very worthwhile, despite not receiving a diploma.

“It would be fun to walk with my class but unfair, because I have not met the same standards,” Barateau said.

According to Smith, foreign exchange students provide a unique perspective within our community and they are greatly appreciated.

“We love exchange students at Puyallup High School – they enrich our campus and our lives,” Smith said.