MASA Feature www.gomasa.org 23 Oak Park honors physics and astronomy teacher Grayling Mercer teaches with the express purpose of preparing his students for college. “I want to make sure my students know the process of learning and not just how to get to the answers. I want to show them how to use critical thinking skills because not having them can lead to a lack of success in life.” Being a GATH student means taking coursework that really tests their abilities at a higher level. “GATH pushes me to try harder and learn more,” said senior Anna. “The work requires me to dig deeper, find ways to keep my mind open to different things, and have deeper discussions.” Engaging Parents and the Community Oak Park High School Assistant Principal Carissa Peterson believes in the importance of parental involvement as part of the success they are seeing with the GATH students. “Parental involve-ment tends to drop off in high school,” said Peterson. “Holding monthly parent meetings keeps parents engaged with the program’s activities and informed of their student’s progress. It also leads students and parents that are not presently part of the GATH program to inquire about how they can be a part of a cohort.” The monthly parent meetings cover meaningful topics such as relationship building, student growth mindset, and promoting healthy competition. These subjects are all important in getting the family engaged in fostering a college- and career-readiness mindset in the student. Another important aspect of parental involvement with the program is how it is changing the mindset surrounding parent expectations of student achievement. “GATH is changing the students’ mindset to be one that reaches for something greater and higher, that is possible and real,” said Derrick Kellam, Oak Park District Instructional Coach. “We need to help our students’ parents to nurture college-bound students.” An important component of GATH is equating each student’s individual success to the community’s success. “Academics, leadership, and citizenship will develop in this complete child,” said Kellam. “They will move forward academically and be socially aware that they are part of a larger community.” Community involvement includes internships at area businesses, job-shadowing placements, and the opportunity to participate in interviewing with career professionals at an Oak Park High School-sponsored Portfolio of Scholars event. “The Portfolio of Scholars event involves our students undergoing real-world interviews with community business owners and their representatives,” says Dr. Colbert. “The students then receive immediate feedback about their conversation, wardrobe, goals, and portfolio. They also have a unique opportunity to ask the interviewers questions about possible career choices and have exposure to a wide variety of employment opportunities.” Students are focused on college- and career-ready skills in their coursework. GATH students are pushed to excel, and their classes offer them the opportunities to support each other to reach higher levels of achievement.
MASA Leader - Sprin 2016
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