Partnering high school receives first ‘A’, mentorship proved successful

Photo by Eric James Sarmiento courtesy of Creative Commons 

Simone Garvey-Ewan/Staff Writer

Miami Northwestern Senior High School, a historically failing school that was facing shutdown by the state, received its first ‘A’ in partnership with the University and the Education Effect.

Miami Northwestern has worked in conjunction with the University through the Achieving Community Collaboration in Education and Student Success program while working on its improvement.

“We wanted to create a ‘college going culture’ for Miami Northwestern and essentially what we wanted to do was help students who have the desire to go to college, understand and be able to have access to that opportunity,” said Irma Becerra-Fernandez,  vice president of the Office of Engagement.

According to a recent survey by the National Mentoring Partnership, at-risk young people who had a mentor aspired to attend college and enrolled at higher rates than their peers without mentors.

Three-quarters of at-risk young adults with a mentor reported that they had planned to go to and graduate from college, compared with 56 percent of those who didn’t have a mentor. Forty-five percent of at-risk young adults with a mentor said they were enrolled or about to enroll in college, compared to 29 percent of those who didn’t have a mentor.

The ACCESS program is a University partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to improve public school success, high school graduation rates and increase students’ transition into a higher education.

ACCESS is composed of 20 workgroups each responsible for achieving a specific goal.  Workgroups include The Education Effect, which was launched in 2011. The Education Effect, receiving a seed investment of $1 million by JP Morgan Chase, has a service learning component, which uses a teaching and learning strategy.

Tania Lopez alumna and professor of the service learning and upper level writing course “Writing for Social Action” said she works to ensure her students master their writing and research skills as they mentor Miami Northwestern students.

“We got together a group of us — writing and rhetoric instructors — and our goal was to promote service learning being integrated into courses,” Lopez said.

“Writing for Social Action” was launched in fall 2012 and is in its third class.

“This is the first class that’s actually working with Miami Northwestern as part of a course and I think that’s the most sustainable way to do it,” Lopez said. “That’s the ideal way to do it because if you’re a volunteer, you go or you don’t go.”

In this course, the high school students visit the University throughout the semester to meet with Lopez’s students. The class visits the high school itself once a semester.

[pullquote]“This is the first class that’s actually working with Miami Northwestern as part of a course and I think that’s the most sustainable way to do it,” Lopez said.[/pullquote]

Ashley Reid, a junior majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, was enrolled in “Writing for Social Action” in spring 2013.

“I didn’t have any intentions of enrolling but then I read about the course and was like, ‘Okay I’m from Miami and I know what it’s like to go to a predominantly black school so it would be great if I could help someone else and it was a great turn out.’”

The Education Effect has achieved many goals: supporting Miami Northwestern in obtaining an ‘A’ from being a D/F school, increasing the percentage of 3.0 grade point average or above students from 15 percent to 30 percent and increasing the graduation rate from 64 to 76 percent.

Other workgroups inside of ACCESS include dual enrollment, clinical internships, world languages and bilingual education and teacher development in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

Collectively, all workgroups under the ACCESS partnership have made achievements such as having 6,000 students participate in dual enrollment in 2013 as opposed to 425 in 2009.

“If you ask me, the credit for becoming an ‘A’ school goes to the students who have worked so hard and the unbelievable faculty and administration at Miami Northwestern,” said Maria Lovett, director of the Education Effect.

Miami Northwestern Senior High located in Liberty City, was previously in jeopardy of being shut down by the state.

“It’s not about where you’re from, it’s what you do with your talents,” Reid said. “Being that I’m black myself and was raised in a predominantly black neighborhood, I know how the city can go ‘oh they’re not going to amount to anything.’ But at the end of the day, it starts at home and it’s up to the child to push themselves to be what they want to be.”

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