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IN 8th GRADE? COME TO PIPER NEXT YEAR

Westpine Middle School's 8th grade class visited Piper and enjoyed an informative presentation.

 

Nilaja Grant

February 14, 2023


Moments before Westpine’s graduating class arrives, Piper hums with anticipation. In the gym, voices pleasantly overlap each other. The cheerleaders—in between last-minute rehearsals—dance with each other, giggling and filming themselves as they cheer on fellow members of their squad; the Men of Impact Step Team performs their routine on the black mats in the center of the gym in sync with the music, shifting apart and together in perfect time; and members of Student Government flit around the sidelines, organizing signs and straightening up the gymnasium. The gym swells with energy. One of the signs details the Cambridge Program, listing the accelerated classes, college credit, and diploma options offered at the school. Outside, the wind rustles the leaves. The Voices of Piper chorus harmonize beautifully. Ms. Hautigan, our principal, rushes around with security guards, eyeing the road in anticipation.


Men of Impact Step Team

"You can win. Don’t give up on your dreams, they can come true.” - Dwight Francis, Guidance Coordinator


Yellow buses pull up to the school. Prospective freshmen pour out of them in a vibrant assortment of colorful clothing, excitedly chatting among themselves as Ms. Hautigan welcomes them inside. As they fill in the bleachers, JROTC members march into the gym in well-adorned uniforms and shiny black shoes. They present the flags of Florida and the United States, and stand facing the rising 9th graders. In front of them, the Voices of Piper enter, surrounding a student who performs a rendition of the national anthem to profuse applause.“Now, as we move things along, we ask you to give a warm round of applause to our principal—who was just crowned Principal of the Year—Ms. Marie Hautigan!”



Ms. Hautigan walks out in a Piper T-shirt, holding the microphone close to her mouth. She introduces herself warmly, delivering her signature greeting: a prolonged good morning with a gradual swelling in the O’s. She stresses the importance of Piper’s #RISE philosophy; each student is expected to be respectful of themselves and other people, have integrity, commit to scholarship, and strive for excellence. “I want you to listen, and I want you to learn, and I want you to know that we will hold you to high expectations, but we know that you can do it. And I also want you to know that there are adults on this campus—and when you come here next year, we want you to find an adult that you trust, that you can speak to, because we care deeply about you, and everything we do is to ensure that you have opportunities, that you have a great future, and that everyone here is free to reach their full potential.”


Piper High School Marching Band

The marching band enters, the gym swelling with sound and rhythm. The school mascot dances around introducing them, as girls in sparkling clothing line up beside them, carrying orange and brown flags and dancing to the music. They perform incredibly well. Trumpets complement the steady beat of drums as the players spin and dance with surprising coordination, eventually collapsing onto the floor to wild applause and scattered cheers.


Ms. Hautigan stresses the importance of Piper’s #RISE philosophy; each student is expected to be respectful of themselves and other people, have integrity, commit to scholarship, and strive for excellence.

“We’re excited about you being here. This is an important transitional phase in your life,” says Mr. Lewis, who has worked as an administrator at Piper for several years, “and we have everything you need to succeed. Elementary school gives you social skills, middle school gives you a little extra time to practice, but high school—that’s the real thing. It’s a time of self-discovery, and here at Piper, we have what you need to try everything.”

"It’s like a brotherhood." - Joseph Aquino, Senior - Football
Seniors Catherine, Bailey, and Jasmine

Bailey Grant, Catherine Smith, and Jasmine Luna, three AICE students, deliver speeches on the academic culture at Piper. They stress the importance of hard work and dedication. “Even though high school can be a jarring transition, it can also be a time of fun and self-discovery,” says Bailey, who, in addition to juggling AICE and AP classes, is a member of the debate team at Piper. All the programs offered here are meant to encourage student success. There are Career Technical Education pathways, AICE and AP classes, Dual Enrollment, BRACE Advising, and quizzes on Naviance that can help you choose a major or career path. There’s also block scheduling, which provides extra time to do your work; there are also several academic tracks offered, all of which are suited to a specific type of student. Whether you’re planning for college, technical school, trade school, or still deciding where you’ll end up, there’s something for you here.


“I want you to listen, and I want you to learn, and I want you to know that we will hold you to high expectations, but we know that you can do it." - Principal Hautigan

Additionally, Piper offers over 20 clubs and 14 varsity sports, including (but certainly not limited to!): Mu Alpha Theta, Step Team, Men of Impact, Theatre, NHS, Environmental Club, Marine Science, an

Ava - Cheerleading Captain

In between speeches, the cheerleaders, bright and smiling, perform a rendition of their cheer routine for regionals, full of spins and theatrics executed with the skill one would expect from state champions. Ava Kurzejeweski, a captain of the Cheer team, shares some of her favorite parts of cheer: placing 1st at Regionals and going onto States, building meaningful friendships, and forming bonds with their coaches. “Remember, it’s not just for girls, we encourage boys to join as well! We can’t wait to see you at tryouts this upcoming school year!”

Another student-athlete, Joseph Aquino, talks about Piper’s amazing varsity and junior varsity football team. “It’s like a brotherhood. I do a lot of work for myself and my people. Next year, if you join, you’ll see how hard we work.” He reminds us that being a student-athlete is about being a student first. “Football is a tough sport,” he says,” either you tough it out or it’ll toughen you out. But, if y’all liked that cheer performance, it’s like that every week when we play.”

Mr. Dwight Francis - Guidance Director

Mr. Francis, the guidance director, reminds students that everything counts. Test scores on statewide assessments, AP exams, AICE exams, and SAT/PSAT scores dictate what classes you’re placed into, your eligibility for scholarships, and what colleges you get into. GPAs need to be watched closely, with many top colleges wanting GPAs that are above 4.0 on a 4.0 scale. The hardest part of meeting graduation requirements is testing, but there is support here for students to get what they need to succeed.

Piper Cheerleading

High school, despite being a time of turmoil and tumult, is also an opportunity to prove yourself and mature intellectually and socially. Mr. Francis leaves us with some words of encouragement: "You can win. Don’t give up on your dreams, they can come true.”



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