Thursday, July 28, 2011

Higher Achievement and Reach for College! Launch 9th Grade Institute

This summer, Higher Achievement, in partnership with Reach for College!, piloted the first-ever 9th Grade Institute for rising 9th grade alumni. The program was intended to aid with the often-difficult transition to high school for students attending schools without a summer bridge program. “This program gives students an early start at looking at their progression to the ninth grade and helps them build an understanding of the academic choices that exist beyond high school,” says Kenneth Parker, Director of Programs, Reach for College!

A small group of alumni were in the first pilot group, which involved team-building activities and three modules or courses: Achievement in High School, Basics of the Collegiate Experience, and Career Exploration. The curriculum, written by Higher Achievement and Reach for College! staff, was intended to be hands-on and interactive. Achievement in High School involved student-written and performed skits on peer pressure, a Q & A session with Higher Achievement alumni currently in high school, and goal-setting lessons. Some of the goals scholars articulated for their first year of high school included “I will be more open and social in high school by joining at least 2 clubs and making 3 new friends by November” and “to get the honor roll in all 4 quarters in my first year in high school.” Scholars spent much of the Basics of the Collegiate Experience course researching information about 4-year colleges and universities. They then designed their own colleges and acted as the Admissions Committee, reviewing mock applications and accepting, rejecting, or waitlisting those candidates. In Career Exploration, scholars learned career advice that they can both put into use immediately when applying for summer jobs, as well as things that they will use once out of college and in the career world. They learned about informational interviews, how to write a resume, and participated in mock interviews, where they were evaluated and given feedback about how to improve. In addition, scholars were able to participate in Career Shadow Days at the Department of Fine Arts at the George Washington University and at the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of State. The pilot program was enthusiastically reviewed by scholars and staff, in the words of Paris, “the most important thing I learned was asking for help and not to be afraid of asking questions. I will make the best of my time in high school by prioritizing.”Higher Achievement staff will follow through with program participants in their 9th grade year.

Princess: “I learned to be more social and not isolate myself but to also keep my options open and not limit myself. I was scared about meeting new people and making friends, but now I know to just be myself and I’ll find the right group.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

21st CCLLC Summer Institute

Throughout the 21st CCLC Summer Institute this week there has been lots of discussion around the convergence of afterschool programs and extended learning initiatives, in parallel with the government's efforts to address ESEA. There are several key issues that remain at the core of these discussions:

  • The need for schools and community-based organizations to effectively partner so students can experience more learning but not more of the same.

  • The need to leverage the power of communities to bring additional talented, caring, and committed adults into our schools and supporting our youth

  • The need to ensure that afterschool or extended supports meet the needs and demands of individual students and don't force families and youth into programs they don't want or need.

  • The need to look creatively at funding sources, both public and private, so that schools and CBOs can weave together dollars and programs that reach every student

  • The need to continue driving school improvement through high-quality support programs, and ensuring that student performance data is shared with all partners toward that end.

Follow us at @higherachieve for more thoughts and dispatches from the conference.

Rachel Gwaltney, Chief of Programs

Monday, July 25, 2011

Higher Achievement featured on USA9's Heros Segment

Higher Achievement DC Metro was featured on WUSA9's Heroes segment - a spotlight on organizations and people in the DC region who are doing good work in the community. Thanks to WUSA9 for coming out to our Ward 7 center to film - our scholars loved meeting you and sharing their stories!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Higher Achievement Launches New After-School and Summer Learning Program in Richmond with Ribbon Cutting at Boushall Middle School

Program to help close the achievement gap for middle school youth in at-risk communities

The future for Richmond’s youth is brighter this summer. Higher Achievement, in partnership with Richmond Public Schools and with the support of Altria, has launched its nationally-recognized academic program in Richmond with two new achievement centers for middle school students on Richmond’s Northside and Southside. Today, Higher Achievement, Richmond Public Schools, and Altria celebrated the launch with a ribbon cutting at Thomas C. Boushall Middle School.

The ceremony featured remarks from Superintendent Dr. Yvonne W. Brandon, Altria Vice President for Corporate Affairs Jennifer Hunter, Community Leader James E. Ukrop, and Higher Achievement Richmond Executive Director Eleanor R. Kootsey. The program also featured a performance by the 120 new Higher Achievement Richmond scholars, remarks from 6th grade scholar Jose Campos about his choice to join the program, and remarks from Higher Achievement alumna Carmen Payne about the impact the program has had on her success in life and in college at Virginia State University.

“Higher Achievement scholars, in 5th and 6th grade, are making huge investments in their future. They’ve willingly committed to spend 650 hours per year – in addition to 900 hours in school – learning math, literature, science, and social studies,” said Eleanor R. Kootsey, Executive Director of Higher Achievement Richmond. “This is a stunning commitment, and it pays off in spades. We consistently see better grades, higher test scores, and increased attendance from scholars in our program, and once they’ve completed it, 95% of Higher Achievement scholars advance to top academic high schools, and 93% go on to college.”
Higher Achievement’s launch in Richmond was announced at a press conference in October 2010, and since that time, Higher Achievement has enrolled over 120 students into the program and is recruiting 120 volunteer academic mentors from the Richmond community to support it. The ribbon cutting ceremony marked the official opening of Higher Achievement Richmond, and celebrated Higher Achievement’s partnership with Richmond’s public schools, leaders, and community partners.

“In Richmond, we have focused much of our reform on the middle school years,” said Superintendent Brandon. “As part of that initiative, we have partnered with Higher Achievement and Altria to open after-school achievement centers at Boushall and Henderson middle schools. These centers will provide our students with a safe haven for homework assistance and other academic enrichment opportunities.”

“Higher Achievement has a proven program that will help prepare Richmond’s middle school students for top high schools and colleges,” said Jennifer Hunter, vice president of Corporate Affairs, Altria Client Services. “It is important for the Richmond community—including businesses—to get to know the great work that Higher Achievement is beginning here and support its efforts through giving their time and their resources.”

Over the past five years, Richmond Public Schools has experienced a 14% decrease in middle school enrollment. Nearly 90% of students attending Northside and Southside middle schools qualify for free and reduced meals. 92% are minority student populations, and 36% of the families live below the poverty line. Higher Achievement’s rigorous after-school and summer academic program gives youth from at-risk communities their best chance to succeed in middle school, and will help close the middle school achievement gap for Richmond’s young people living in underserved, low income neighborhoods.

“We know that we can help Richmond’s young people succeed. We also know we can’t do it alone,” said Kootsey. “Every member of this community has a role to play in improving education and increasing opportunities for our children. Whether you’re a parent, neighbor, or business leader, you can help – mentor, donate, or spread the word. I truly believe that together, we can help close the achievement gap for Richmond’s youth.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One Thousand Dollar Grant from First Book for our Scholars

We’re excited to share that First Book has provided Higher Achievement with a $1000 grant to buy books for our Washington, DC area centers. Among other things, we were able to get two sets of Encyclopedia Britannicas to be used as a prizes for our Olympics of the Mind competition later this summer.

First Book is an outstanding non-profit that is addressing the illiteracy among children in low-income families. To date, First Book has distributed more than 80 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving these children – and it continues to do so at a rate of 18,000 books a day.

First Book is uniquely positioned to become a leader in providing digital resources so that children in need don’t miss out. No matter how formats and technologies change, children from low-income families will still need access to rich and varied content. First Book is helping guide the publishing industry as it evolves so that all children can benefit from new technologies and flourish as readers.

President Truman said, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers."We believe all children deserve an education that will transform them into the leaders of tomorrow. Our thanks to First Book for sharing this vision and for partnering with us to make it a reality!