GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport High School wants to motivate and reward students who push themselves to take more challenging courses. This week, the Gulfport School Board approved a three-diploma system for graduating seniors. The change won't go into effect for another two years.
In the next few weeks, sophomores at Gulfport High will start planning their schedules for next year. Many have Advanced Placement courses on their minds.
"I am definitely interested in AP classes. One class I'm interested in is AP Chemistry," said sophomore Emily Edwards.
"I'd like to take advanced classes just because it challenges me more," said sophomore C.J. Keckler.
"We want the students to sign up for those programs to challenge themselves, to make them more marketable when they leave high school, whether it be college or a job or the military," said Gulfport High Principal Mike Lindsey.
To encourage students to take more rigorous courses and honor them for their achievements, the Gulfport School District will offer three diploma options.
Seniors who meet the Mississippi requirements for graduation will get a general diploma. Those who meet the Gulfport School District's guidelines, which require more core classes and electives, will get the College and Career Ready seal on their state diplomas.
There's also an advanced seal diploma. Those will be awarded to students who earn credit in at least five AP courses or complete the two-year Career and Technical Education Program. Those CTE students must also score 80 percent or higher on their state test in order to qualify.
"It'll give you more like a sense of pride, like I tried so hard in school," said Emily. "I think it's a great idea. It gives kids a whole new incentive to go into AP classes. A lot of kids choose not to. They think it's hard or challenging."
"I would definitely try to aim for that, not just for recognition, but also put it on my resume, my diploma," said C.J. "It'd feel pretty cool, because I know not everyone's going to be able to get recognized for that. I think it'd be pretty cool to stand out a little bit."
The new diploma system will take effect starting with the current sophomore class. That way, the students will have time to sign up for their first AP and CTE programs as they take aim on their graduation goals.
"The classes they're taking will obviously help them on their transcript when they're competing for scholarships, when they're trying to get in the select colleges. I think it's a win-win for students," said Lindsey. "We had an idea that this will help motivate and recognize those students too, so we're looking forward to a good start to a program with this year's 10th graders."