This post is part of a series reflecting on this year of service in honor of our 2011-2012 corps graduation on Wednesday.
This time last year, I was closing up an exciting school year at the Orchard Gardens Middle School in Boston, MA. We spent the entire year working together as a community to support every student at the school to a higher level of social and academic success. Little did I know that a year later I would be in California, finishing one of the best experiences of my lifetime at City Year San José.
Before moving to San Jose, I served in the City Year Boston 2009-2010 Corps at the Tobin Middle School in Mission Hill, where I fell in love with the potential for change in a middle school student due to all the social and academic developments made in sixth through eighth grade. This experience, combined with the year I spent at Orchard Gardens with the non-profit Citizen Schools, led me to become a Program Manager of a City Year school team here.
What I saw and experienced during Basic Training Academy at the beginning of this year made me completely confident that the year I was embarking on was going to be spectacular and full of tangible student and school improvement. I was put in charge of the program at our only middle school partnership at Lee Mathson Middle School. Mathson’s community is vibrant, beautiful, yet continually entrenched in social and economic trials that seem to keep the community and schools from achieving the success that they are fully capable of achieving. I realized this fact quickly from just the first week of being on campus in meeting the amazing teachers and interacting with wonderful students and parents. I knew I was about to begin a year filled with joy, excitement, interventions, and collaboration with the City Year Mathson team and its fantastic Team Leader Maria Rodriguez.
We began the year with many objectives, but our main goal this year as a team was to align ourselves with the school’s main goal to raise the overall school culture and mindset to one of social successes and academic achievement. The school has experienced a lack of consistent, strong leadership and from that has come a general culture of mistrust, miscommunication, and low-test scores. In Alum Rock Unified School District, through collaboration, alignment of practice, and enhanced professional development, Mathson is one of many schools taking drastic efforts to transform practice, and in turn, transform results. City Year’s role in that transformation has not only been concerned with helping to improve the overall school culture and mindset, but also intervening with students who were off-track in attendance, behavior, and course work in English Language Arts and Math.
One of the most dynamic things I learned from leading a team through a year of service is that it is completely possible to support off-track students towards being on-track and eventually graduating from high school. Each one of the corps members on my team has had a massive effect on multiple students through their consistent, loving, strategic mentorships and tutelages. In literacy, 33 students made a three or more year growth in their reading level from October to June. In attendance, 29 truant students started coming to school on average one more day a week than how they began the first 42 days of school. In behavior, 86% of our intervention students increased their behavior skills and/or lowered the amount of times they were referred to the office. In just these there figures, I am completely convinced that the possibility of student success can be viewed as a reality.
The final and completely verified reality for me in regards to this year is the fact that I am coming back to lead another team at Mathson next year. It is my great honor to do this and a responsibility that I do not take lightly, not even for a moment. Affecting student growth while aligning practice with a school’s administration and teachers involves strong, consistent communication and countless hours of tireless work. What we have seen this year from our enhanced trust, more-focused interventions, and strong after school program has been tremendous, and I cannot imagine doing anything else next year except building on the foundation this year’s team has created. This year has truly been an amazing journey, and I am truly fortunate to have taken it alongside 12 other incredible people.
-Jon Hinthorne, Program Manager CYSJ