‘Grads Return’ at Columbia High School is Smashing Success

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Monday was the sixth annual “Grads Return” program at Columbia High School — and it was bigger than ever before. Founded by CHS science teacher Allan Tumolillo, the program brings recent CHS graduates to the high school to share with current students their experiences at college.

This year, Grads Return featured nearly 90 graduate speakers presenting in around panels on topics including Arts, Business/Marketing, Community College, Military Careers, Campus Safety and Health, Social Studies/Law, STEM – Medical, STEM – Computer Science, Study Abroad, What to Major In, Work/Study, Sports, Journalism, and Design.

The program was made possible by CHS teachers and administrators, and funded by the CHS Home School Association and the CHS Cougar Boosters.

“It is unlike any other [event] in high schools in New Jersey,” said Superintendent Dr. John Ramos at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

It was a marked and steady increase since the program’s first year, which featured nine graduates for three panels and drew roughly 180-200 students.

Read more about the program in this Village Green article from last year.

Panelists spoke about different aspects of their topics, offering advice and answering questions. At a STEM panel, one grad explained that in many cases, Computer Science is less a discrete subject leading to a specific job and more of “a tool…you are learning how to make other people’s jobs easier.”

Another grad said that college “is a lot different than high school” because there are fewer classes but they are more relevant to students’ particular interests. “Hunker down and apply yourself,” “make friends in your classes,” “manage your time, sleep well, eat well” were some nuggets of advice.

A panel on School Safety brought some good questions from attendees; one was, “Do you feel safe on campus?” Panelists said they did, but they offered sage advice on how to maximize safety.

“What did we do well to prepare you” for college, asked one CHS teacher of grads on a panel on Internships and Co-ops. One graduate said she realized that “CHS prepares you a lot better for colleges than most other high schools,” in terms of teaching students how to write and ask questions about texts.

“I know Columbia can seem miserable,” she said to general laughter, “but when you compare [it to other high schools], Columbia gives you a lot more opportunity than anyplace else.”



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