Commentary: The Rest of the Story on W.F. West’s 100% College Acceptance for Graduates


Four years in a row, including the class of 2023 this month, every Chehalis senior at W.F. West High School, 100%, has graduated already having been admitted to a post-high school credential program.  

These programs include a union apprenticeship, military, Centralia College, Bates Technical College or a four-year college. 

Completion of these programs results in a credential for the student beyond high school — that credential is almost always from a college. Some people hearing this “100% admission” figure respond saying, “College isn’t for everyone.” 

When people hear the rest of the story, most support what is happening with the Chehalis program.

Yes, at W.F. West, another graduation requirement besides passing their classes in English, math, etc., is that each senior apply and be admitted to a credential program past high school.  And, yes, when high school seniors apply to a community college, they are admitted. 

Why is this a Chehalis requirement? Because it gives every student a choice. 

Nobody is forced to attend, but if the senior has not applied and is not admitted, they don’t have a choice to get a credential right out of high school. It’s a Chehalis requirement because not every 17- to 18-year-old at W.F. West will take the time to apply otherwise. Every senior is also required to prepare a resume even though not every student will use that resume. It’s a requirement because having one and learning how to prepare a good resume will definitely help many students sooner or later. 

Why does a credential past high school matter? More than 70% of family wage career jobs today require a credential past high school, whether that is a one- or two-year credential in programs such as welding, diesel mechanics and nursing or a 12-year doctorate program.   

And that 70% is going up — not down — as international competition gets more intense and the need to use technology in more jobs increases. 

Centralia College is usually the lowest-cost pathway open for our students to earn a credential and most of W.F. West’s seniors apply there — and many apply to other programs at the same time. Many attend Centralia College. Others start in a union apprenticeship or join the military. Forty percent of the class of 2023 will start in a four-year college program this fall. 

The goal of the Student Achievement Initiative is “college and career readiness for every student“ to give every single student the opportunity and choice to start in a credential program past high school. Applying and then being admitted, while they are still at W.F. West, is a valuable step toward that goal. 

“College” today includes industrial trade classes and students training to work as welders, diesel mechanics, nursing assistants, CDL drivers, phlebotomists, law enforcement officers, warehouse operation staff and a long list of other jobs. Centralia College offers more than 25 separate CTE credentials.

The difference for a job applicant between having a post high school credential or not is big whether that credential is a one-year certification or a four-year degree. Many successful people don’t have a credential past high school. But, for most people, having a credential past high school or not is the difference between starting at minimum wage and a family wage in a career job.  

And that’s why the school district with support from the Chehalis community keeps working to see that every single graduate has this real choice.

There is the rest of the story being the fact that 100% of the graduating class of W.F. West, four years running, being admitted to college.