By SAMANTHA TIPLER
For the Herald and News

Gilchrist School is very small. In total, 223 students attend Gilchrist in grades kindergarten through 12th. Senior Mike Wright, 17, found Gilchrist to be just the right size school for him.

“My freshman year I went to a bigger school in La Pine,” Wright said. “My grades were decent, but I did not get the help I needed.”

He began attending Gilchrist and things changed.

“Back at Gilchrist, my grades instantly got better,” he said. “I was able to ask more questions and get the help I needed.”

Now Wright is preparing to graduate from Gilchrist High School. His career goal? Become a pilot for emergency air service.

Gilchrist High School’s graduating class of 2016 has just 18 students, but they’re high achieving students. All 18 have been accepted into either a two-year or four-year college, said adviser Darla Brandon. In all, they’ve earned about $250,000 in scholarships.

“I love working in a small school,” Brandon said. “I care about every single one of these students. In a small school you really get to develop a relationship with every student. It allows me to devote individual time to everyone, know their goals and find them the resources to attain them.”

Benefits of a small school

“Being in a small school environment helped me get to know people and encouraged me to try harder,” said Adam Kerr, who plans to become an aerospace engineer. “People around me inspire me to try harder.”

“I like a small school because you know everybody,” said Nick Bonner, 18. He plans to go to Central Oregon Community College and become an automotive technician. “You build really good social skills with people.”

“Being in a small school setting, it allows me to be closer to people, to know everybody,” agreed Stephen Bishop, 18, who plans to pursue biomedical engineering.

“I have planned out exactly what I want to do,” said Johnathan Archer, 18, who plans to become an energy engineer. “Gilchrist has helped me get a head start on it, as well as encourage me, and never giving up.”

“Teachers will help with anything we need,” said Jennie Brown, 17, who plans to be a massage therapist. “The small classes are kind of awesome. You get the opportunity to get one-on-one time with a teacher whenever you need it.”

“The small school environment gives me a more personal relationship with teachers, allowing me to get help and ask questions whenever needed,” said Hunter Nelson, 18, who will pursue marine biology after he graduates from high school. “This made it easy to set my bar high in everything I do.”

“Being at a small school such as Gilchrist allows more one-on-one interaction with teachers,” agreed Nate Alexander, 18, who plans to pursue a career in law enforcement. “You get encouraged by the teachers because they care. They want you to graduate.”

Drawbacks of a small school

Growing up in the tiny communities of Gilchrist and Crescent does have its drawbacks.

“Growing up in a small community, there’s not many opportunities to grow and build yourself up,” Brown said.

But she said her parents pushed her to pursue her education.

“They pushed me and made me want to go above and beyond what’s expected of a Gilchrist student,” Brown said.

“I have watched kids graduate, get stuck in the same rut, and never leave the small town,” said Madison Bean, 18, who plans to become a prenatal ultrasound technician. “However, I am driven to get out of that rut and become successful to provide for my future family.”

Gabriel Bernabe, 18, said he wants to upset expectations, too. He plans to become a physical therapist.

“Knowing you come from a smaller school, you’re the underdog,” he said. “People who go to bigger schools are expected to succeed. People who come from small schools have to work. They have to become harder workers to accomplish more.”

Beyond Gilchrist

Growing up in a small community, these seniors have seen how not having an education can affect their lives.

Alexander, the senior who wants to go into law enforcement, remembered not caring too much about school during his middle school years.

“But I started to realize my mom was working three jobs to make sure I graduated high school,” he said. “I decided to continue my education and go to college.”

Charlene Berling, 18, who wants to be a pediatric nurse, saw family members who suffered when they failed to graduate from high school.

“You see a lot of people who graduate or don’t, they don’t leave this town,” she lamented. “It’s a really nice school, but I’m motivated to get out of this town because it’s so tiny.”

Bonner, the senior planning to be an automotive technician, wants to set a new standard for his family and his school.

“I want to set it right,” he said. “I want to be the first Bonner to make a difference.”

SIDEBAR:

Educated answers: Why is education important?

  • Jennie Brown, 17

Career goal: Massage therapist

Answer: “I just want to have a good life. I want to buy things I want to buy, live comfortably and happy.”

  • Mike Wright, 17

Career goal: emergency air service pilot

Answer: “I want to better my life and education is the way to do it.”

  • Gabriel Bernabe, 18

Career goal: Physical therapist

Answer: “Education is very important. I can’t just walk into the career field I’m interested in and act like I know everything. I have to go through the education.”

  • Nate Alexander, 18

Career goal: law enforcement, police

Answer: “To be successful in life and start a family you have to further your education and go to college.”

  • Charlene Berling, 18

Career goal: Pediatric nurse

Answer: “I know in order to live a happy and successful life you need choices and options. Furthering your education gives you choices and options.”

  • Nick Bonner, 18

Career goal: Automotive technician

Answer: “If you don’t continue your education after high school you don’t get to do what you want to do. If you set a goal, you have to put in the work and get an education.”

  • Adam Kerr, 18

Career goal: Aerospace engineer

Answer: “As a society, for us to advance, education is everything. That’s how you can make a better place is with education.”

  • Stephen Bishop, 18

Career goal: Biomedical engineer

Answer: “I’m going to need to know my way around a lot of terms for science — anatomy, biology — I’ll be able to work with that and use it in biomedical engineering.”

  • Jonathan Archer, 18

Career goal: Energy engineer

Answer: “Education is important to me because knowledge is everything. If we did not learn about the world, we would be ignorant of it and unprepared to live our lives.”

  • Hunter Nelson, 18

Career goal: Marine Biology

Answer: “With the amount of global issues we see in the world today, we need smart individuals to solve them in order to make this a better place for all of us.”

  • Madison Bean, 18

Career goal: Prenatal ultrasound technician

Answer: “In order to pursue a career path that provides a steady life you need to have an education post high school. It will give you the skills to be who you want to be.”

Graduating Grizzlies: Gilchrist School