Full circle


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Winter 2016, Vol. 7, No. 2

By Selma Claxton, Educational Program Designer and Former Star Academy Teacher • [email protected]

Full circle

It is January 11, 2016, and a gaggle of both returning and brandnew students across the country are crowding the hallways of our nation’s colleges on this the first day of the spring semester. One of these colleges is Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida, and one of the new students gracing its hallways is Leticia Ribeiro. Each year, Pitsco Education awards two deserving young people each with a $500 scholarship that will be used for higher education. Nominations are solicited from Star Academies around the country, and after much deliberation, the awards are presented to the two students who have found success in the program and who best embody the ideals of Star Academy. Although award nomination is a common practice at the end of the year, the nominees invariably turn out to be uncommon students. Leticia is one such student. As a former teacher in the Star Academy Leticia attended, I felt very privileged to nominate Leticia, and I remember almost bursting with pride when she was selected as one of the recipients. Years later, I am no longer a teacher in the Star Academy. Today, I am an educational program designer for Pitsco Education and Leticia is a high school graduate and a young lady off to college. Being a team member of the company that awarded the Star Academy scholarship, I find myself in the unique and very privileged position to see this scholarship award come full circle. Late last year, I was asked if I would be willing to contact one of my former students who was going to be attending college in the spring and who was inquiring about the details of a scholarship that she had been awarded. Needless to say, I leaped at the opportunity

STAR ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS

Leticia Ribeiro

to catch up with Leticia. I was not surprised to learn that she had graduated high school with honors. She will be working toward an associate’s degree in Mass Communications at the local community college, after which she plans to transfer to the University of South Florida – a state university – to focus on either mass communications or marketing. Although she is still deciding what her specific path will be, Leticia says, “As long as I get to work with people, be creative, active, and communicative, I will be happy. I am hoping college will get me ready for the field’s workload as well as help me become a better writer. Having that college degree will help me stand out from the rest when I look for a job in the future.” Now, with the help of the Pitsco Education scholarship, Leticia is taking her future into her hands and taking the first steps on her college journey. Having been one of her teachers, I cannot be more proud of her accomplishments. I feel exceptionally privileged to be a part of her story, and she will forever be a part of mine. For Star Academy teachers across the country, this time of year is always the most challenging. You have supported your students throughout the first semester and you have pushed them to work hard. In spite of the inevitable challenges this semester will bring, know that your support and encouragement help your students continue to focus on the task at hand. It might not always seem like it, but in the end, your students will do you proud. This year’s Star Academy scholarship nominations are coming up. Start identifying the Leticia in your classroom!

We are awarding two $500 Pitsco Education Star Academy Scholarships. Share your students’ success stories and give them a chance to win. See the full details on the back page.

Star Academy brings renewed hope Suny McKaughan Educational Services Manager • [email protected]

In the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, we welcomed two new Star Academies. Opening a new program is kind of like Christmas: it takes great effort to prepare for it, but it is exciting to give an incredible gift and to receive one. The gift for our programs is the opportunity for students to regain a year previously lost in their education – the gift is hope. I had the privilege of being a part of the open house in one of these programs, and it was an experience that offered great insight into the lives of students. I was able to speak to families and school and district staff and hear the stories that brought about the loss of an academic year for some students. I heard of bullying, broken homes, death, a lack of support, and feelings of inadequacy. As I talked with parents and students in both a group setting and one on one about the opportunity before them, there was a general sense of excitement and appreciation no matter what the background story was. One woman asked, “Where has this program been?” and thanked administration profusely for bringing Star Academy to their district. This program represents a new beginning and hope for each student and family enrolled. I left that meeting excited by the possibilities for each student and anxious to return.

Fast forward a bit to my next two visits; how are students doing at present? The students, for the most part, are doing great, said one teacher. The student who felt bullied in the middle school is well adjusted and excelling. This child has hope. One student is seeing for the first time that he is capable and working hard to earn good grades. He has hope. One student’s father works at the school, so I see him when I visit. He indicated that his daughter is doing great and looking forward to finishing well and officially joining her sibling next year on the high school campus. That family has hope. One teacher shared the story of a young girl continually in trouble at the middle school, who is connecting not only with her peers but also with the teachers. When the teacher called the girl’s mother to share how much she enjoyed having her child in class and how well she was doing, the mother listened and waited for the bomb to drop as the true reason for the teacher’s call was revealed. The negativity never came. The call came to a close with the mother asking, “You mean she didn’t do anything bad?” That teacher has built a bridge of positive communication and support with both that mother and student. This mother and daughter have hope. Each student’s and family’s story is different, but the common thread of renewed hope runs through all. For each of you who are part of a Star Academy, thank you for making a difference and renewing someone’s hope.

FEATURED SCHOOL: Escambia County Star Academy Location: Escambia County High School in Atmore, AL Escambia County’s Star Academy program began as a midyear implementation with a start date of November 30, providing for a gentle enrollment for this first year. Students are thriving in their new environment, and teachers and students are working diligently. Instructors have gone above and beyond to make the program work, and the students understand that their teachers care about them and want them to be successful. The district has been extremely supportive and put forth much effort and many resources to ensure student success.

Program Capacity: 80 Enrollment: 26 Courses: »» Physical Science (8)

»» English (9)

»» Math (8)

»» Biology

»» World History to 1500 (8)

»» Algebra 1A

»» English (8)

»» Career Prep

»» World History – 1500 to Present (9)

»» Life P.E.

2 RISING Stars – Winter 2016

Board members Mike Edwards and Coleman Wallace, ECHS Principal Dennis Fuqua, board member Cindy Jackson, Alabama State Representative Alan Baker, Assistant Superintendent Beth Drew. Not pictured: board member Sherry Digmon. Photos: Sherry Digmon

A profound partnership brings a true culture of achievement discussion” in which they compared the versions. In English The Star Academy at the George County School District in Lucedale, Mississippi, is a wonderful example of the success that can come when language arts, the students created Venn diagrams of the works. teachers and administrators push the program to its potential and Teachers and the assistant principal worked together to provide this couple it with a proven tool for creating a healthy culture. rich experience for the students. On a recent visit to the George County Star Academy, Mike Robinson and Brock also discovered that the students enjoy their Robinson and Dr. Tom Brock of the Metis Leadership Group (MLG) science class and are finding that, for the first time, they understand surveyed the progress of the mutual endeavor of the school and the math they are being taught. Thanks for this goes at least in part MLG. The group was founded to provide a path for schools to build to the individual explanations given by the math teacher, Mr. Dykes. a culture of achievement. The organization’s three-tiered strategy Bringing students who are behind in their schooling up to par for schools involves focusing students on achievement, managing is not easy. One real challenge faced by many is illiteracy. Staff have classroom behavior, and building a healthy climate for learning. found noteworthy success in addressing this problem. Robinson and Brock came away with a great sense of Robinson explains: “Now that there is calm in the classroom, and accomplishment. Robinson had a great more instructional time, the assistant deal to say and shared his reflections. His teacher/special ed support person account began with his first impression “To a one, these kids verbalized that has set up a program for reading upon walking into the school. they are happy to be learning in the instruction. . . . She set up a pull-out “You walk into the hallway where process with the ELA teacher, and she Star Academy,” said Robinson. “They the Star classes are held and you see like that they have hands-on examples facilitates the Lexia online program.” posters, a Goal Number Line, and According to Robinson, the notices for Star Activities. . . . Kids are of what they are learning. They trust, percentage of students identified as politely walking from class to class. admire, and even love their teachers.” functionally illiterate went from 65% They go into class and immediately to 6% – in just two months. begin their bell work.” “Sixteen students entered a national contest sponsored by In addition to the clear benefit that the courteous atmosphere Lexia and performed such that they were fifth or sixth in a group permits more one-on-one time time between teachers and of hundreds of teams. Not bad for these kids and a real example of students, other benefits came to light in the interviews Robinson how a team can make things work for the kids.” and Brock conducted with students. Robinson and Brock left the encounter filled with admiration “To a one, these kids verbalized that they are happy to be for the teachers and administrators at the George County Star learning in the Star Academy,” said Robinson. “They like that they Academy. Yet what enables them to succeed is not an extraordinary have hands-on examples of what they are learning. They trust, set of talents or knowledge. When a school has the tools to create a admire, and even love their teachers.” culture of achievement, it is up to the educators themselves to make Students tended to think of the Star Academy as a family. the touchdown. Teachers are strict, they say, but in a “nice way.” So far, so good. But “They are a real gift to education,” said Robinson. “Yet for all is this civil and close-knit environment enabling learning? The MLG these kudos, they are just regular folks with regular abilities and practices teachers and administrators are taught can certainly set extraordinary hearts and souls. They take their mission seriously and, the stage. But when educators step out onto that stage, it is their with support, will continue to do so.” ingenuity and dedication that drive the production, providing meaningful and memorable educational experiences. Recently, students went to Mobile to attend a live production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This was the first live theater for most of the students in the Star Academy, and it was an eye-opening experience. (Teachers reported that the students conducted themselves in a way that they could be proud of.) Students also watched the movie version and read segments of the novella. In social studies, this led to a “totally inclusive Winter 2016 – RISING Stars 3

P.O. Box 1708 Pittsburg, Kansas 66762 CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED

Scholarships celebrate star students Up to two students per site may be nominated for $500 awards; nominations due by March 25, 2016 You’ve fought hard for your students. You’ve struggled to give them support, guidance, and motivation. At the end of the day, their success comes down to their decision to seize the opportunity put before them. We’d like to honor those students who have committed themselves to turning their academic story around. We are awarding two $500 Pitsco Education Star Academy Scholarships this year to students who truly exemplify the ideals of Star Academy. Here are the details: • Number of awards: Two $500 scholarships will be awarded. • Eligibility: Any student who is on track to complete the Star Academy program this academic year is eligible. • Nominations: Each Star Academy site may nominate up to two students. Nomination forms have been sent to site administrators/officials. The nominator must be either the site administrator or a teacher/official within the program. The nominator must detail the student’s background and academic achievements and explain why the student deserves to win. • When: The completed nomination form must be submitted via email by March 25, 2016. Winners will

be notified by April 15, 2016. • Presentation: If desired by school officials, a Star Academy representative will present a certificate for the scholarship at a designated end-of-year event at the school. The nonrenewable scholarship may be used at the college or postsecondary learning institution of the winning student’s choosing and will be issued after the student graduates high school and enrolls in a college/postsecondary institution. So, what are we looking for in top Star Academy students? To give you an idea, here is a comment from the nominator for one of the 2015 winners, Devon Warren of Enoree Career Center in Greenville, SC: “While we learn to love all of the kids for the year we teach them, there are students that always stand out in our minds and will never be forgotten. They are the ones that we know will be successful. Devon is one of those students. He does what we hope our own children are doing: paying attention, leaning forward into the instruction, working to be the best, meeting deadlines, and inquiring beyond the lesson.” The triumphs of young people deserve to be celebrated and rewarded. Please consider nominating two students at your Star Academy and joining us in helping to pave their path to a bright future. If you have any questions about the scholarships, contact Communications Manager Tom Farmer at [email protected]

Vol. 7, No. 2 • Winter 2016 Published periodically during the school year

Matt Frankenbery Vice President of Education [email protected]

Robin White-Mussa Vice President of Sales [email protected]

Suny McKaughan Educational Services Manager [email protected]

Tim Cannell Educational Relationships Manager [email protected]

Celeste Parenti Senior Project Manager [email protected] P.O. Box 1708 Pittsburg, Kansas 66762 888-844-8414 Fax: 620-231-2466 www.staracademyprogram.com

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