WASILLA — Mark Okeson, principal of Mat-Su Career and Technical High School, takes his responsibilities seriously. A few weeks into the school year, he gave a presentation welcoming students back. He said he wanted to emphasize students’ rights and responsibilities, secrets of success and his expectations and guarantees. He said he wanted to reassure students that he was accessible, even as principal.
“People are radically different after high school than when they are here,” Okeson said, explaining how people will change, both in class and outside of school. He pointed out that school can be a path of guidance that helps students succeed. At CTHS, students are guaranteed the right to choose their own pathway and pursue their goals in a safe and secure manner.
Okeson addressed points that he said needed to be underscored. First, he addressed the issues of harassment and hazing, describing them as derogatory and offensive behavior that is becoming more prevalent in schools.
Here he made notice of his first guarantee: “If someone is harassing you, we will make it stop — if you tell us.”
Other concerns Principal Okeson spoke about included the issue of cellphones, electronics, closed campus, off-limit areas, dress code, visitors and academic dishonesty.
On attendance, he said, “Your grade will be affected by your attendance, … either positively or negatively.” When he spoke about tardiness, he particularly emphasized that it was “the ultimate sign of employability” on whether you showed up on time or always showed up late.
Okeson’s second guarantee also addressed safety.
“If you know about drugs or weapons on school grounds and tell any staff member, we will investigate to the full extent of the law,” he said.
Weapons and drugs on campus also have become a major issue in schools, Okeson said.
Principal Okeson spent the most time talking about drug use.
“They are illegal for a reason. They do damage,” he said.
He told students he has rarely seen anyone become successful in life by using drugs. And when a school’s reputation is diminished by students’ drug uses, than the reputation of their diploma is cheapened too, he said.
“This is the most important decision you’re going to make in your life, period,” he said of the choice not to use drugs.
Okeson shared three keys to success with students: Be where you are supposed to be. Be nice to people. Try.
These three keys, he said, are what most employers want. When employees are not where they are supposed to be, do not cooperate and do not try, they lose their jobs. If students followed these three simple rules, they are on their way to success, Okeson said.
Okeson said he wanted to reassure the population of the school that no matter what, the staff and he were always available at any time.
“Let us know if we can help,” he said. “We are here to direct you in the right direction.”
Anita Laulainen is a junior at Mat-Su Career and Technical High School.