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Summer Academy prepares students for success in high school

by: Submitted Photo Neighborhood House Summer Academy science instructor Cody Acker reviews the previous day’s lesson with students.

MULTNOMAH - A group of incoming ninth graders were hard at work at Wilson High for the past month, building academic and life skills to help them succeed as freshman and throughout high school.

Neighborhood House's Wilson 'Ninth Grade Counts' Summer Academy provided intensive academic and life skills supports to 35 students from Jackson and Robert Gray middle schools.

Academy students were referred by school staff and Neighborhood House's SUN School coordinators, either because they're on an academic priority list or they've exhibited a number of risk factors that indicate they could fall far behind.

'The reason Wilson Summer Academy is so important is that research shows that students who struggle in the ninth grade have a higher propensity of dropping out if they do not find themselves being successful in that school year,' said Francisco Hernandez, SSSES (Social and Support Services for Educational Success) case manager for Neighborhood House and director of the academy program at Wilson.

Academy students met Monday through Friday, with Monday through Thursday structured much like a typical ninth-grade school day at Wilson: a schedule of 8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. with four 70-minute periods of instruction in science, literature, math and study and life skills, as well as lunch. Academy students were able to work in small groups, allowing instructors to have valuable one-on-one time with them every class. On Fridays, Academy students took field trips to professional and advanced-education environments, helping them connect their lessons to real-world opportunities.

Each subject area used materials from and emphasized lessons from the current freshmen curriculum at Wilson.

'We want to provide instruction where students struggle the most,' said Frances Hall, program manager for Neighborhood House's Youth and Family Services.

'We also try to celebrate the skills students already have so that they can enter high school with a sense of confidence,' Hernandez said. Academic improvement in these core subjects are measured by pre- and post-Academy tests.

Students who complete the Ninth Grade Counts Academy earn elective credit for their work, and most of the ninth graders will continue to work with Neighborhood House's Hernandez during their freshman year at Wilson.

Hernandez shared a conversation he had with one of last year's Ninth Grade Counts Academy students, asking how this young man would describe his ninth grade experience. The student felt it went well and told Hernandez, 'Part of the reason I did so well is that I went to summer school with you, and it really built up my confidence and showed me what I needed to do as a freshman to succeed.'

Ninth Grade Counts academies are under the umbrella of Portland's 'Connected by 25' student initiative. The Wilson Ninth Grade Counts Academy ends Aug. 5.

- Submitted by Neighborhood House