Miguel didn’t like school. He didn’t like his classes, and didn’t like his teachers. He also made it known that he didn’t like his Link Leader, Ruben. Meanwhile, Ruben, a senior Link Leader, was nervous about getting his group together again, Miguel specifically, for Seeking Out Success, Etiwanda High School’s 3rd annual effort at reinforcing a culture of academic success.
At progress report time, the Southern California high school with an enrollment of over 3,400 students, releases all freshmen from 2nd and 3rd periods to meet with their Link Leaders. They meet in the gym, then divide into three large groups to rotate through 3 sections, listening to a speaker, taking ‘grad’ pictures with their graduation pledge and, crucially, receiving and reviewing progress reports with their Link Leaders.
“We wanted to create something that would both reunite freshmen with their Link Leaders and provide a check-in point early in their high school career that would let them know that we care about their academic success”, said Aaron Caloca, a Link Coordinator at EHS.
In fact, the first step of passing out progress reports was for the Link Leaders to remind the freshmen that they actually care about their success and would do whatever it took to support their group. Ruben’s group had progress reports first in the rotation and he was nervous to have Miguel back in this group. Mr. Caloca reminded him that, as Leaders, our job is to care about everyone, even if they don’t care back.
So Ruben began his session talking about his own academic struggles as a freshmen. He told his group that he really cared about them and would always help them if they needed it. As the freshmen looked at their grades so far, celebrated successes and identified areas to improve, Miguel remained quiet. Finally, Ruben went to him individually and asked if he could look at the grades with Miguel. Quietly, Miguel said yes and looked away. He wasn’t doing well. Ruben looked at each class and offered a resource. The Link Leaders had been trained in all the academic support options that EHS offered.
Miguel looked back and asked if Ruben was ‘serious’ about this. Ruben said, “Yes, in fact, if you want I will work with you on math myself after school on Thursdays.” Miguel didn’t believe him at first but Ruben persisted.
The group went from progress report reviews to the second phase where they took a picture of themselves in cap and gown, as if they were graduating. Each student signed a graduation pledge to themselves. As sophomores they will get a copy of their "grad" picture. As juniors they will get the graduation pledge back and as seniors they receive back the letter they wrote to themselves in their freshmen English class. They can even compare the pic of themselves as freshmen in cap and gown with their senior portrait.
Finally, the group went and listened to a speaker who talk about the importance of taking yourself seriously and setting goals.
At the end of 3rd period, Miguel took Ruben aside. He told Ruben that no one in his family believed in him. He said, “You are the only person who said they believed in me and so I believe you.” He took Ruben up on his offer to tutor him in math.
“When Ruben told me about Miguel”, Mr Caloca reported, “he couldn’t believe that no one believed in him. He was both honored and sad that he was the only one in Miguel’s life to support him”.
The relationship your leaders build with their students is the starting point. What will you do this year to enhance that relationship? How can you remind your leaders that their consistent and insistent presence matters?
What more information on Etiwanda’s Seeking Out Success program? e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org we will put you in touch with them and give you more details about how they run their day.