Teachers who care

Thurgood Marshall Middle Schools teachers Natasha Reed, reading/AVID, Stephanie Pawlowica, AVID and Jessica Smith, science teacher

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Well it’s just about the end of the summer fun and splashing in the swimming pool. The hot days at camp and traveling to visit relatives will soon end.

However, the summer months make for exceptional growth and developmental experiences.

When learning is on your mind, and education is in your heart, summer activities serve as educational tools for student achievement. For a few teachers at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, they found time to encourage students who took part in a college enhancement program during the summer.

On one particular day, Kaniya, Aniya and Laniese, students at Thurgood Marshall, were vehemently working on their personal profiles and student resumes during a college preparation summer program. The program’s co-facilitator, Dr. Mychal Wynn, challenged the group of nearly 50 students to complete their resumes before they took a break for lunch.

With their heads down and their eyes focused on the computer, the three girls tapping ferociously on the keyboard to get the assignment completed. Suddenly, three quiet voices appeared from the hallway entering the room, and for a moment, the girls changed focus.

Each of the girls began to flash a wide smile with excitement. They made eye contact with the facilitator in unspoken permission to greet the newly arrived guest, Thurgood Marshall Middle School teachers Natasha Reed, Stephanie Pawlowicz and Jessica Smith.

There was an obvious connection and relationship between the students and the three teachers who entered the room.

“This is amazing what you all are doing, getting our kids ready for college.  The program is so intense, they can’t help but to do well,” said Natasha Reed, a reading and AVID teacher.The teachers were on campus to work on a professional development plan for the upcoming school year. They learned that students were working in an academic boot camp, so they popped into the media center to see what they were learning and to give support.

After a brief conversation with Dr. Lewis Brinson, Pinellas County District Minority Achievement Officer — responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing initiatives to close all achievement gaps — and Michael Wynn, author and co-facilitator of the College Planning Boot Camp Program — the teachers proceeded to greet the students.

The three teachers spotted each of their students and embraced them with encouraging hugs. It was evident by the interaction between the teens and the educators that a positive relationship had been formed.

Kaniya, Aniya and Laniese participated in the Access and Equity College Boot Camp sponsored by the Pinellas County School District.

Brinson saw the need for all students to be rigorous and purposeful in their quest for college. After receiving information two years ago from Wynn and his wife Nina, he met with Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego and the two of them agreed on a plan that would propel high achievement, particularly with mid-level students.

Brinson contacted Wynn for the initial summer bootcamp program held last year at Gibbs High School for high school students. Approximately 35 students attended, followed by a month-long work session that involved demanding college planning, which helped the students chose a school that best fit their personal profile and gave them the greatest opportunity of graduating debt-free.

Of the initial participants who attended the first boot camp, 12 were seniors, and all of them are attending college with tremendous financial aid assistance packages. The middle school boot camp is looking to produce similar results with even higher numbers.

After speaking with students during their lunchtime, Nicole Wilson, principal at Thurgood Marshall, expressed how the weeklong experience exposed students to various colleges and criteria needed to pursue their future goals.

For information on future college boot camps, go to www.accessandequity.org or call 678-395-5825. You can also contact Brinson at 727-588-6436 or email him at brinsonle@pcsb.org.

To reach Dexter McCree, email dmccree@theweeklychallenger.com

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