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Experiential Exploration: 9th Grade at Maritime High School

by Joe Cline 15 Jan 15:17 PST July 18–25, 2024
9th Grade at Maritime High School © Joe Cline

Application window for new students open until January 31, 2024

Think back to the start of high school. Did you have options? Many students today do, and for those interested in hands-on learning, the wide-ranging maritime field, or a more project-based school experience, Maritime High School (MHS) offers an exciting new pathway.

Started in 2021 as a part of the Highline School District, MHS has grown and matured in just a few short years, now boasting more than 75 students across its inaugural three classes. While you may have recently read about a new partnership between MHS, NWMC, and Seattle Maritime Academy that helps 11th grade students pursue essential maritime credentials, 9th grade is where kids get their start by exploring the diverse array of maritime fields and opportunities.

Ninth graders at MHS are given a remarkable chance to experience and explore the maritime world. Centered around quarterly projects—from vessel operations and navigation to building two sailboats—the first year at MHS also introduces students to maritime people and places, trades and communities with regular field trips, presentations by members of the maritime industry, and lots of time aboard the school's work-boat-style power catamaran, Admiral Jack.

Current MHS 9th grader, Kali Rowlette, says she was drawn to MHS because, "I'm a very hands-on person." She has been "very shocked" by how much more experiential the learning has been than she expected. She particularly liked the three-day overnight trip to Blake Island State Park. Rowlette says that "being out on the boat a lot has made me interested in designing the interior of boats—how everything is mapped out, the plumbing and all that jazz, that sounds fun." Thanks to regular field trips, she reports, "my talking skills have gotten better because of how many times we go out into the community and actually talk to people."

Eleventh grade MHS students Mara Mersai and Henry Peters reflect on their first year and appreciate aspects similar to Rowlette. Mersai began at MHS driven by an interest in marine biology; but after spending time aboard Admiral Jack, she found that engaging in "vessel operations was very fun," and says her "interests are going more toward that...and the opportunities it offers" as she advances in school.

Peters recalls the presentations to 9th graders by those working in maritime, "everyone from Puget Sound Pilots to maritime lawyers." He describes the "ladder" of relationships following the presentations—10th grade students chose an individual maritime industry mentor who sticks with them all year; and then as 11th graders, students are given opportunities to go out and make their own connections as they narrow their educational focus to a particular pathway. For both Mersai and Peters, the 9th grade experience at MHS gave them a foundation on which they're building toward careers in the maritime world.

Rowlette offers this advice for future MHS 9th graders: "Be yourself. Bring your interests, others will enjoy your interests." At a time when the next generation of the maritime workforce is front of mind for so many, Maritime High School is fostering the growth of some of those future leaders. Apply by January 31, 2024 for priority consideration for the 2024-25 school year at maritime.highlineschools.org/admissions.

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