Menlo Students Must Complete a Series of Requirements to Graduate


Students answer questions during Spanish. Since incoming students can be placed into a wide range of different levels and have to both complete two consecutive years and reach level 3, it can be complicated to fulfill the requirement. Photo Courtesy of Desiree Ramon-Aquino.

Sophie Stone, Staff Writer

As Menlo seniors plan their last year of high school and freshmen plan their first, graduation requirements are something to keep in mind. Certain requirements, such as the English requirement, which requires students to take an English class all four years of high school, appear to be more straightforward to build into schedules. Others, like the language, art, community engagement and physical education (PE) requirements, are more subjective and require more attention when building into schedules each year, according to registrar for the upper school Dr. Julie Hammack.

A student’s ability to reach the requirements depends on their interests and the number of slots open in each class.  Hammack emphasized the difficulty of organizing schedules. “For seniors especially, when you get to the singletons and specialized classes, we only have one section for about 18 students, and we’ll have 60 students request it,” Hammack said. Hammack elaborated that limitations in class sizes have never caused a problem with a student’s ability to graduate but has disrupted many students’ schedules.

The language requirement is also less straightforward since skill rather than grade level determines what class students are put into. All incoming transfer students and freshmen, whether they come from Menlo middle school or not, have to take the language placement test. Freshmen are normally placed in levels one through three, and, depending on the level, they then have to reach at least level three and complete two consecutive years in that same language. “I was placed in Mandarin four my freshman year […] I had to think pretty hard about whether I wanted to take a third year of language or not, and I ended up not doing it,” senior Grace Tang said.

To fulfill the PE requirement, students must complete four seasons worth of physical activity. Similar to the art requirement, one of these seasons is completed during freshman rotation. The PE requirement can be completed in various ways. For example, participating in one season of any Menlo sport, taking the yoga class that is offered after school or lifting weights in the weight room can all count as one semester towards the requirement. Tang said that it’s important for Menlo to allow sports to count towards the requirement, as most of Menlo’s student body participates in at least one sport. “I think most people that are going to be doing a lot of sports as freshmen are going to continue doing [them] throughout high school,” Tang said.

Outside of school, sports also occasionally count towards PE credits. However, that isn’t always the case. “If the club sport is a sport that is offered at Menlo, we won’t let students count it towards their requirement. If the sport is something Menlo doesn’t have, like fencing, then we will let students count it,” Hammack said. Some exceptions have been made to this rule due to COVID-19. “Students should go to Coach Koberlein for any requests about contract credits [PE credits earned outside of the Menlo program],” Hammock said.

Students who enjoy playing sports and participate in a wide range have the least amount of difficulty with the PE requirement. According to senior Reese Grosso, she didn’t have an issue with the requirement. “It hasn’t been difficult for me to meet the PE requirement because I enjoy playing sports and have tried a bunch,” Grosso said. “There are many options for sports that are not too high of a commitment, and [the sports] are just a great way to get involved and meet new people.”

One requirement that is unique to Menlo is the community engagement (CE) requirement. Each year, students must get 10 community engagement credits to satisfy the requirement. Additionally, if a student doesn’t reach 10 credits, the remaining credits will be added to their CE requirements for the following year.. Director of Community and Civic Engagement Ava Petrash believes that her recommendation for students to ensure that they reach the 10 points each year is to find community service they’re passionate about. “Find something that [you] love and can do consistently, and then keep an eye on the CE bulletin to find a few other opportunities that might be of interest. Knight Vision, Menlo’s Community Engagement club, is also a great place to find opportunities and people to volunteer with,” she said.

The number of credits varies with each activity, however. Credits are generally calculated based on how long the activity lasts, as every two hours equates to one credit. There are some exceptions. Petrash explains that some events have a slightly different calculation based on factors such as how many credits have been awarded for that event in past years and how much preparation the event requires. “We’re trying to make sure the system feels fair and equitable by sticking to that formula as much as possible,” Petrash said.

To make reaching the graduation requirements as stress-free as possible, planning is imperative. “As I progressed throughout high school, the number of grade requirements decreased each year [as I started reaching them] […] Now in my senior year, I only have one or two required classes [left]. While the grade requirements are important, I never found myself to be overwhelmed or stressed by needing to meet the requirements,” Grosso said.