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Starting the School Year Off on the Right Foot
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Monday, August 16, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Fifty-two Wood River High School students will start the school year on better footing than they ended last year’s, thanks to a summer program that helped them recover credits that might have held them back.

The Credit Recovery Summer Seminar was designed by the I Have a Dream Foundation during the summer of 2020 and conducted in partnership with Wood River High School. It was brought back this year on behalf of 124 students who lost credits and might have even failed their classes due to a school year disrupted by COVID-19 school closures, schedule changes and the challenges of learning online.

“This year there were a lot of inconsistences with the learning experience due to COVID. They started out online, then went to a hybrid system. Some students had trouble staying on top of school with the inconsistent face-to-face learning. And, with in-person classes not happening every day, a lot of kids went to work,” said Kris Stoffer, I have a Dream Foundation’s social emotional learning specialist.

The 52 students who took advantage of the seminar met from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day over two weeks, enjoying a bonus of daily breakfasts, lunches and snacks with a celebratory pizza party at the end.

Math and science students worked with Lane Durtschi and Noah Levin. Those working on American and world history, 20th century literature, poetry and Shakespeare worked with Renee Peters, Pamela Donoso and Stoffer. Two student tutors—Ashley Cullen and Devan Perez—also assisted.

“Online learning requires a level of autonomy around academics, social emotional maturity, solid time management skills and a well-developed internal locus of control that many of our students do not yet possess,” said Stoffer. “Some teenagers struggle with finding that intransient motivation to do what they need to do when they’re not dealing with a teacher face to face. Online learning is easy to discount because they’re not interacting with another person.”

Berenice Martinez came on the days she wasn’t working at Starbucks, hoping to avoid having to be held back a year because of struggles fulfilling her history credits.

“We started out going online, then we went to school just twice a week, and that was hard to do,” she said. “I also had a problem with procrastination so this is teaching me to be focused. I’m learning to just sit down and do it.”

In fact, Stoffer spent part of each day offering the students strategies for overcoming procrastination.

“I want kids to understand that it helps to get comfortable with asking questions. Procrastination can’t stand it when you ask a question, when you invite another person to provide feedback,” she said.

The mere act of coming to class is a wonderful way to be intentional about taking action and saying, “I matter,” she told the students. “When I decide to come and get courses under my belt, I’m making an active statement about my future.”

Most people think of procrastination as a time management issue, she added. It’s actually more of an emotional management issue that helps us avoid unpleasant emotions, such as the fear of failure.

“You figure you can’t do what you need to do so you might as well not try,” she told the students. “When you feel anxious or stressed, realize that’s like a tip of iceberg of procrastination. Get up and take a few deep breaths, reset yourself.

“You can regulate yourself by making sure you’re getting enough sleep, making sure you’re eating right,  taking some time to chill. Move, get out and walk, kick a soccer ball. Connect to someone you know and care about that can help regulate you to do what you need to do. And, when you walk out of here today, think: What did I accomplish today?”

Students were required to achieve a minimum of 80 percent on their Plato post tests and a minimum of 75 percent on Plato course finals.

“I realized if I just take the time to do something and slow down, make sure I understand what is being asked, I’ll have more success,” said one student.

“Being here with a teacher one to one helps me stay focused and motivated to finish,” said another. “I feel good about completing this class and I get to start fresh this year.”

Every student imagines walking across a stage in cap and gown, Stoffer said. But the burden of carrying so many lost credits year after year is overwhelming for a young person and often perpetuates a negative cycle of a lack of confidence, peer/teacher judgement, and a sense of powerlessness that leads to more academic failure and simply giving up and dropping out of school.

“We’re offering the relationship they need to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said.

I Have a Dream Foundation and WRHS hope to conduct small credit recovery sessions throughout the school year this year, rather than waiting to address credit loss next summer, said Laura Rose-Lewis, executive director of I Have a Dream.

“We want to support them to stay on track and feel confident and strong throughout the whole year,” she added.

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