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In just six months, eighth-grade students will start a new adventure in life as high school freshmen. The three St. Mary’s public high schools will host orientation events next week to help the 13- and 14-year-olds prepare for that journey.

The orientations run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and will be held at Chopticon on Monday, Feb. 25, at Leonardtown on Tuesday, Feb. 26, and at Great Mills on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The events will help students, who will soon be known as the Class of 2017, and their parents learn about scheduling and see the pathway opportunities available to high school students, said Scott Smith, executive director of secondary schools and school improvement.

Principals and counselors will be on hand at the to offer general information and tips on getting started in high school.

Individual program staff will also have presentations on programs including the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academy at Great Mills High, the Global and International Studies program at Leonardtown High and the National Academy of Finance at Chopticon High. Each of those programs are open to students throughout the county; applications are due to schools by April 5.

Students can also learn what they need to accomplish to graduate school in four years time, including earning a total of 21 credits.

The course registration process can be daunting, and involves recommendations by teachers and counselors. Final course requests and then schedules are sent home to parents for review.

About half of St. Mary’s public school graduates complete the Maryland University completer sequence, which requires four math credits and two foreign language credits along with the other minimum credit requirements.

The career and technology completer sequence requires four specific credits related to career and technology.

About 10 to 15 percent of “the best and the brightest” students finish the dual-completer sequence, Smith said.

More and more students opt to take a program at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center, which offers one-year and multi-year courses in a variety of career paths, including construction trades, graphic design, horticulture, automotive, criminal justice and health.

The school board last week approved its revised high school program of studies, which lists all courses available.

“We look to continue to develop and refine our courses,” Jeff Maher, executive director of teaching, learning and professional development, said.

Each year school staff makes changes to descriptions, and sometimes adds or deletes courses.

Two courses will be piloted next year — an introductory course for the new National Flight Academy that will be housed at the Forrest center and a course titled Introduction to Bioethics, which will initially be offered only at Leonardtown High.