I am so excited to begin the school year. It is always scary and exciting to meet new challenges and introduce ourselves to new students. This year, we will be doing a lot of reading. The following are the books that will be read in each class:

7th Grade will be reading Killer Pizza, which is an action-packed, coming-of-age comedy about a young boy who lands a summer job at Killer Pizza — where such pies as the Monstrosity and the Frankensausage are on the menu — but quickly learns it’s a front for a monster-hunting organization. Based on the children’s book Killer Pizza.

Along with reading, the 7th graders will be working on their comprehension and writing strategies. Everything leads back to reading. There will be a lot of that!

8th Grade will begin the year by starting The Maze Runner series with The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I love this series. It is action packed, and the previous kids enjoyed it. By the time they leave OPA in the 9th grade, they will have read the series. The Maze Runner synopsisAwakening in an elevator, remembering nothing of his past, Thomas emerges into a world of about thirty teenage boys, all without past memories, who have learned to survive under their own set of rules in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies. With a new boy arriving every thirty days, the group has been in “The Glade” for three years, trying to find a way to escape through the Maze that surrounds their living space (patrolled by cyborg monsters named ‘Grievers’). They have begun to give up hope when a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, and their world begins to change with the boys dividing into two factions: those willing to risk their lives to escape and those wanting to hang onto what they’ve got and survive.

We will also be writing stories in their journals in order to prepare them for the end-of-year testing. Along with reading and writing, we prepare them for tests in the general education classes.

9th Grade: this is going to be an exciting year of reading! Last year, the kids read the first two books of The Maze Runner series, and will finish it up this year by reading The Death Cure and Fever Code. They have invested a lot of time in these characters.  There may be some tears, at the loss of some beloved characters, but the kids will enjoy finishing a series. We will also watch the movie ¨The Death Cure¨ once we finish the book so that they can compare and contrast the differences between the book and the movie.

Along with reading, they will be composing numerous stories in their journals in order to prepare them for the end-of-year testing. It´s going to be a great year!

HOPE Squad: HOPE Squads are the eyes and ears of your school. They are comprised of students who are trained to watch for at-risk students–provide friendship, identify warning signs, and seek help from adults. HOPE4UTAH works with school advisors to train students who have been identified by their classmates as trustworthy peers to serve as HOPE Squad members. Through evidence-based training modules, HOPE Squad members are empowered to seek help and save a life.

HOPE Squad members are NOT taught to act as counselors, but rather, are educated on how to recognize signs of suicide contemplation, and how to properly and respectfully report this to an adult. Once invited to be HOPE Squad members, students willing to go through the training must get a permission form signed by their parents. After completing their training, HOPE Squad members host a parents’ night where they teach their parents and family members about what it means to be a HOPE Squad member.

Our biggest events of the year begin in September (the 22nd) where we will participate in the HOPE 4 Utah, HOPE Walk. This is a walk where we are helping the community to become more aware of the prevalence of suicide in our communities. Also, in February we do a HOPE Week, where we do something every day for the students of OPA to make them aware and help them know how important they are and that they are NOT invisible or replaceable!

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