Ninth-Grade Academy (9GA) Overview

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

All ninth grade students will take Freshman Seminar. Freshman Seminar is a credit-based course designed to assist ninth grade students with 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.

Specifics that will be addressed in the course are:

  • To help students adjust to their first year of high school

  • Providing students with key academic behaviors for success

  • Identify, develop, and strengthen necessary attitudes, behaviors and skills to succeed in school, college, career & life 

  • Assisting students with academic problems

  • Promote a positive school climate with awareness of diversity and tolerance

  • Promoting opportunities for social emotional development

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 will be graded on Habits of Work and Learning (HOWLs). The purpose of this work is to focus on and explicitly teach key behaviors that all successful students possess. The HOWLs  are Responsibility, Participation, and Reflection and 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. Administrators, guidance counselors, teachers and students are organized by teams. This team structure allows students to feel supported 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 from Holyoke High School. Students will participate in a variety of experiences that help guide them choose an academy based on their interests and desired goals. Students will engage in an exploratory program, participate in reverse job shadows, complete interest surveys, research careers and occupations, and reflect on these experiences in a portfolio.

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

  • Community and Global Studies

  • Performing Arts and Media

  • Engineering and Life Sciences

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

Academic Achievements

Ninth-Grade Academy teachers and students will work together within their teams on project-based learning experiences and interdisciplinary projects. For example, your team may choose to study English and history through the lens of Ethnic Studies and focus your learning on the Holyoke community. The instructional model will allow students to apply knowledge, think critically, and problem solve. Teachers will also identify and incorporate habits of work and learning that will help students be successful in their academic pursuits and in the real world.