Freshman Academy

Ninth-Grade Academy (9GA) Overview

The first year of high school is an exciting and important time of transition in life. Students begin to deeply explore the many different paths they can take in their futures through their school experience. The Ninth Grade Academy is structured to guide students through this transition year.

All ninth grade students will take a Freshman Seminar class. Freshman Seminar is a credit-based course designed to assist ninth grade students through their first year of high school. The course will help students develop their understanding of who they are as learners, community members, and individuals by effectively applying the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, establish and achieve positive goals and relationships, and make responsible decisions when it comes to their academic and social lives.

Some of the topics addressed in the course are:

  • Adjusting to the expectations and structures of high school

  • Providing students with key academic behaviors for success

  • Identifying, developing, and strengthening necessary mindset, behaviors, and skills for school and life beyond graduation

  • Assisting students with academic, social, and personal challenges

  • Promoting a positive school climate with awareness of diversity and tolerance and a focus on community

The 9th Grade Experience

Habits of Work and Learning (HOWLs) with Rubric

As part of our work with academic achievement, students in the ninth and tenth grades are assessed daily on their Habits of Work and Learning (HOWLs). The purpose of this work is to focus on and explicitly teach key behaviors that help students to be successful in school, career, and life. The HOWLs categories are Responsibility, Participation, and Reflection & Revision.


The Ninth Grade Academy is an organizational structure designed to ensure a more personalized, supported, and integrated experience for students. We believe that relationships are the foundation upon which achievement is based. Students, teachers, counselors, and administrators are organized by teams. This team structure allows for layers of support for ninth grade students in this year of transition.


During the ninth grade year, students will have multiple opportunities that will allow them to make informed decisions about their futures at Holyoke High School as well as after they graduate. Students will participate in a variety of experiences that help guide them to choose an academy based on their interests and desired goals. Students will engage in an exploratory program, participate in immersive experiences, complete interest surveys, research careers and occupations, and use this learning to inform their decisions about their education.

At the North Campus, the three academies students can choose from are:

  • Community and Global Studies

  • Engineering and Life Sciences

  • Performing and Media Arts

At the Dean Campus, the vocational education programs are:

  • Advanced Manufacturing: Machine Tool Technology

  • Auto Collision

  • Carpentry Technology

  • Cosmetology

  • Culinary

  • Diesel Technology

  • Electrical Technology

  • Health Assisting

  • Programming and Web Development