Academic team shaping up Lowell freshmen for high school

08/02/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online. By SUSAN McMAHON Sun Staff

LOWELL Yliana Figueroa stands at the front of the class, sample report card in hand, asking the students what they should do if they get an "unsatisfactory" in one of their courses.

"Do you understand that? How to clear a U?," the guidance counselor asked.

The students nod and peer at their own report cards, determining if a "U" lay among their grades.

As students get their report cards for the marking period, guidance counselors and members of student support services have teamed up in an effort to help high school freshmen navigate the report cards, summer school, grades and plans that come with the entrance into high school.

Teams of support specialists have been traveling throughout the freshman clusters last week and this week, talking to students about how to plan ahead and answering any questions they may have about the process.

The goal: to get students thinking long-term at the beginning of their high school career.

"We're trying to help them set goals for what they want to accomplish for the next marking period," said Bowa George Tucker, director of GEAR-UP, a federal program based at UMass Lowell that encourages students to think about college.

The students also develop a four-year plan, outlining goals for their entire high school career. The idea is to reach out to students and help them before they need to ask for help.

The project involves a collaboration between the guidance office, the GEAR-UP program, and a new drop-out prevention program at the high school. Guidance counselors head the seminars, and other student support specialists work the classroom, bending down to help students with questions or giving a bit of encouragement.

The partnerships, sprung from a new relocation of programs like GEAR-UP within the high school, are a win-win situation, Tucker said. Now that GEAR-UP is in the new student support services office, the former guidance office, it makes working with the high school staff that much easier.

And the results are more services for students.

"It helps them and it helps us with our goal of providing direct services to students," he said.

For the students, it provides a clear opportunity to set goals and look to the future.

Students said the hourlong seminars helped them look ahead.

"I think it was important," said 14-year-old Billy Torrey. "It helps me because I don't know what I would want to do."