Tamika McPherson, M.Ed., is the Director of HOPE at Kingsbury Day School. Her blog describes how the HOPE program is impacting the education and lives of disenfranchised youths in the DC metro area.
The Need for HOPE
The statistics are not encouraging. Students with Learning Disabilities (LD) continue to experience one of the highest drop-out rates among all students with disabilities (other than those with emotional disturbance). Their inability to complete traditional high school programs is due to any number of factors, including a history of school failure, learning differences that have gone undiagnosed and/or untreated, parenthood, economic hardship or other societal issues.
Is there HOPE?
What happens to these teens and young adults with LD who have been unsuccessful in other general and special education programs? Are they doomed to a life of underemployment, unemployment or incarceration? Or, is there a chance that they can resume their education in an age-appropriate environment that offers them the support they need in order to graduate?
The short answer is yes, if the student lives in the DC metro area! The Kingsbury Center’s HOPE Program is designed to serve non-traditional high school students with learning differences and ADHD by providing a high-quality, full-time, high school diploma program through morning, afternoon and evening classes that meet year-round. High school students who have been unsuccessful in other general and special education programs are welcome. At HOPE they receive the academic and behavioral support they need in order to graduate.
The Goal of HOPE
The goal is to help young adults, up to age 21, obtain a high school diploma before the age of 22. Each student is accepted as a person with unique strengths to be encouraged. Teachers, tutors and counselors work together to ensure that students gain the support, skills and knowledge they need to obtain a high school diploma. The independence and self-confidence of HOPE students is fostered, across all domains of their learning. To keep students actively engaged in their learning process, Kingsbury’s HOPE Program offers
- Individualized learning plans
- Student-directed planning and instruction
- Promotion of self-determination
- Compacted curriculum based on Common Core standards
- Blended learning
- Intensive and individualized academic and social engagement interventions
- Integrated related services and tutoring
- Relationships with designated adults (mentors) who keep education relevant and significant for individual students.
HOPE’s Impact is Growing
Launched in 2013, Kingsbury’s HOPE program has grown from serving 12 students to serving 21 students. Ten students have graduated; three students are working toward graduating in June 2016 and six students have made the Honor Roll. Two of the three students who will graduate this year have earned acceptance to a post-secondary education/training program. A 2015 graduate has completed his first semester at Livingstone College in NC and returned during break to share his college experiences and encourage HOPE students to pursue their education.
The successes aren’t limited to the academic arena. Every student shows improved school engagement, with several participating in Kingsbury Day School athletic program. HOPE students develop knowledge, awareness and social skills necessary for positive school and post-school outcomes.
HOPE Students are Transformed
HOPE students offer a variety of reasons for how the program has transformed their educational experience:
“I have been successful at HOPE because of the excellent support, modifications made to accommodate my needs, and the technology used to help support the lessons.”
“As a HOPE student I made the Honor Roll for the first time since I’ve been in high school. I have also started to prepare for my career goal of becoming an EMT. HOPE helped me research my field and set up an interview with the DC Fire Department to get me started for post-high school education.”
“Since coming to HOPE, my test scores have gone up; I know how to work computers and use the Internet; and, my reading comprehension has improved. In addition, I’ve completed my resume and I have practiced my interview skills and applied for several jobs with the help of HOPE staff.”
“I’ve learned so much more since coming to HOPE. It helps me in many different ways and is having a positive impact on almost every part of my life.”
As the parent of a HOPE student wrote in her note of gratitude: “Finding Kingsbury’s HOPE was a dream come true for my son and me. ….the flexible schedule, small environment, dedicated staff, later hours and individualized support was the perfect setting for him and his motivation to attend school increased tenfold.”