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All about academics

A group of Worthington Middle School seventh-graders is all smiles after Friday morning's Renaissance program event1 / 2
The Worthington and Cuero, Texas, Turkey Day racing teams made a visit to Worthington Middle School Friday morning to participate in the school's Renaissance program.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Elvis was in the building, and the Worthington Middle School (WMS) cafeteria was a sea of black shirts -- with a sprinkling of red-and-black pompoms tied in to a few pony tails -- on Friday morning as sixth- through eighth-graders gathered to be congratulated on their academic achievements during the 2011-12 school year's fourth quarter.

"So often students in sports get the accolades, but we want to make sure we give accolades for academics," explained WMS assistant principal Tony Hastings.

Several years ago, WMS initiated the Renaissance program, which awards students following each quarter based on their grade point averages.

"There are different categories, and we recognize students who have earned GPAs from 2.5 to 2.99 (bronze level), 3.0 to 3.49 (silver), 3.5 to 3.99 (gold) and 4.0 (platinum)," Hastings said.

Each quarter, qualifying students assemble by grade to receive certificates, and special Renaissance T-shirts are given to students at the second assembly of each school year.

"Many of the kids wear the t-shirts indicating their Renaissance status on the Fridays of the Renaissance assemblies," Hastings said. "This is one way to encourage our students academically, and to help them see it is cool to be smart in middle school.

"And if they work hard, they will be rewarded and recognized."

Parents and grandparents are invited to attend the Renaissance assemblies, at which each qualifying student's name is read within the GPA category achieved.

"We usually have a small program, offer them a treat, and try to make it a big deal," Hastings said. "If you have at least a 2.5 GPA and make it in to Renaissance, you get some other perks throughout the year, like getting to attend a school dance for free and going to the movie theater for a show at the end of the year."

Yesterday, the seventh- and eighth-grade students were entertained by a visit from the Worthington and Cuero King Turkey Day race teams, and Elvis (otherwise known as WMS paraprofessional Justin Spaethe) made an appearance in his classic rhinestone-studded white jumpsuit, black pompadour and sunglasses.

"There are about 770 students enrolled at WMS this fall, and we have about 75 percent of them make Renaissance," Hastings said. "If you don't make it one quarter, you can the next quarter. But kids can't have any 'Fs' on their report cards and still make Renaissance."

Sixth-grade teacher Paula Wolyniec, before announcing the names of the qualifying sixth-graders, said, "We're off to a great start in sixth grade. Thanks, parents, for loaning your kids to us during the day because we're enjoying them very much."

After a hearty handshake from Hastings, WMS Principal Jeff Luke and "Elvis," the students posed for group photos before gulping down a cookie and juice and returning to their classes.

"If you work hard and achieve great grades, you get to do fun things like this," said Luke to the students. "Congratulations on a job well done, and keep up the good work."

The next Worthington Middle School Renaissance assembly, honoring students who achieve GPAs of 2.5 to 4.0 during the 2012-13 first quarter (which ends Oct. 17), is scheduled for Nov. 9. Parents of qualifying students will receive notices in advance of the date specifying time and location.