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Transforming Tradition at Roosevelt High School

Written by: Leicha Shaver, Principal and Broderick Maxwell, Project Development Specialist, Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, Dallas TX  

Once again Franklin D. Roosevelt High School and Health Science Satellite Magnet in Dallas Independent School District is raising the bar for its students. The school, nestled in the wooded hills near downtown Dallas, Texas, is set to graduate two students with an Associate’s Degree before they walk across the stage with their 2012 graduating class.

“These are the opportunities that we envisioned for our students when we started the program,” Principal Dr. Leicha Shaver said. “We

College and High School Communities Support Student Success

College and High School Communities Support Student SuccessMr. Howard Finney, Executive Dean, Business/Public Service & Information Technology, El Centro Community College, Mr. Antonio Pecina, College Director - School Alliances and Institutional Outreach, Jose Carranza, Student, Rosalinda Sanchez, Student, Mr. Marcus Scott, Director, Roosevelt’s Dual Credit program, Dr. Leicha Shaver, Principal, Franklin D. Roosevelt High School and Health Science Satellite Magnet

are dedicated to giving all of our students an opportunity to be academically successful. For some, that has meant pursuing their college studies while still enrolled at Roosevelt.”

Roosevelt is in the third year of its Dual Credit program. Qualifying juniors and seniors leave the high school setting and take college-level courses in a college atmosphere at El Centro Community College. School officials said students not only are gaining the academic successes that come with taking college-level courses, but they are doing so at no cost to them.

Although dual credit is not new to high schools across the country, such programs are not abundant in comprehensive high schools with a socioeconomic status similar to Roosevelt. The 2009-2010 poverty rate of Roosevelt High School students was 83 percent.

“My family, we never really just had much,” said Rhonda Boyce, a 2011 Roosevelt graduate who accumulated 33 hours toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Radio/TV/Film. “I am always looking for opportunities to make sure my family has a better life than they have right now. Dual Credit was not easy, but it was worth it.”

Mr. Marcus Scott, director for Roosevelt’s Dual Credit program, said the school covers the cost of tuition and books for each student participating in the program. This allows students to reap a financial benefit and reduce their overall cost of college while pursuing their college academic ambition while in high school.

Roosevelt students rave about the experiences they have encountered while taking courses at a local community college.

“It really helped me to focus on my studies and become more responsible,” said Larry Green, a participant in the program during its inaugural year. “Going through the Dual Credit program helped me to prepare for life after high school.” Larry is now a junior at Texas Southern University.

Similar success stories are becoming entrenched in the culture around Roosevelt. Roosevelt StudentZachery Miles graduated from Roosevelt with 12 hours toward Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. “It definitely makes you grow up,” said Zachery, the youngest of eight siblings. “You can’t be acting childish when you step foot in a college classroom. You have to mature.”

Students undergo a recruitment process that includes a review of their standardized test scores, interests, and teacher recommendations. At Roosevelt, it is now commonplace to see students enrolling in accelerated programs during the summer. By taking economics and government classes, students are able to lighten their course load during the school year to take the college courses. Dr. Shaver said the consistently rising number of students enrolling in summer school at Roosevelt is a clear indication that students are interested in “taking care of their business”.

“We have students who see the benefits of our Dual Credit program,” Dr. Shaver said. “I have students coming to me all the time asking ‘How can I be a part of it?’ The excitement centered around this program has helped spur a renewed vigor for academic excellence around the entire school.”

Roosevelt recently opened a Health Science Satellite Magnet, which allows students to focus on health education careers. These students greatly benefit from the partnerships Roosevelt has already established with higher learning institutions in the Dallas area with its Dual Credit program. “I think it has been phenomenal,” said Antonio Pecina, El Centro Community College Director of School Alliances and Institutional Outreach. “The students gain confidence and strive to be successful. They are able to demonstrate to us and themselves that they can do college work.”

Students’ increased confidence has become contagious around the high school campus. Barbara Clemons, a Roosevelt teacher assistant, said students enrolled in the Dual Credit program hold their heads high when leaving the building for their college courses. “They feel better about themselves,” Mrs. Clemons said. “They are more encouraged to enroll in college because they are doing it now.”

Roosevelt is poised to continue its success with the current Dual Credit model it has established. The school’s students have earned

The Building

A Tradition Building with a New Culture

more than 1,000 college-credit hours since the inception of the program. These hours translate into an overall cost savings for each student who is a part of the program.

“We are excited about the program and its future,” Dr. Shaver said. “We want all our students to have the opportunity to achieve academically at the next level, and this program prepares them for that.”

Minority Males: a System for Success

Written by:  Howard Finney, Executive Dean, Division of Business and Public Service, Manasseh Lee, Faculty Advisor, El Centro Community College, Dallas, TX and Myra Silverman, MCNC

  At the July 2011 MCNC Summer Conference, Dean Howard Finney, facilitated a workshop on Minority Males – Challenges, Opportunities, and Response. This session acknowledged the fact that minority males have had a historically lower rate of college completion than their female counterparts or white and Asian males. One reference used was The Trouble with Black Boys, by Pedro Noguera. Dean Finney pointed out some of the issues the author asserts

Brother to Brother

Brother to Brother participants at El Centro

are facing these students, particularly in adolescence. “Many are trapped by stereotypes and they let these pull them down. Society considers Black or Brown to be less than. Racial identity takes on significance with respect to friendships groups and dating. High achieving students may be ostracized from their friends. The assumption in school is that if you’re white or Asian you’ll do better than if you’re Black or Latino.” Marsha Jackson, Associate Vice President at Erie Community College, Buffalo NY and McKinley Williams, President Contra Costa College, San Pablo, CA: shared similar experiences on their campuses. Minority males often have the lowest rates of literacy and therefore graduation. They feel misunderstood and want people to know they take education seriously, but they don’t really know what you have to do to be taken seriously. What are the rules for becoming a success? Students come to the college who don’t understand the issues they are bringing with them. Minority males need some affirmation. They realize education is important but there are many stumbling blocks.

“The Brother to Brother program has become one of my irreplaceable resources. I am a first generation college student and I didn’t know the first thing about coping or dealing with issues associated with pursuing my college diploma.” 

During the session, those in attendance shared some successful strategies. They stressed the importance of consistency. In working with students, it is important to be aware of, understand, and debunk racial stereotypes by assigning students to work with students of different races and ethnicities. Empower those with the problems to work toward solutions. Place students in settings that they might not commonly be: debate teams, journalism, service learning. Incorporate elements of their culture into the curriculum and have conversations that push them beyond their own comfort zone. Map out time management, showing students how much time they have. Dean Finney recalled a City Council member talking about the small ways that he noticed that people react to young African American men. One was the issue of dress. He suggested that one day a week students could meet with mentors. They could show students how to tie a tie, dress up, and sharpen their image. He suggested that students talk to faculty members until they felt comfortable. He asked the faculty to try to make themselves more visible.

Brother to Brother

El Centro Community College has developed Brother to Brother, a program that has begun to turn around negative results. During the spring of 2005, the college Vice President of Instruction and the Executive Dean of Business and Public Service noticed that about 70 percent of our African American population was female and only about 30 percent male. Of that 30 percent, only about 10 percent were completing their certificates and graduating. Several members of our staff, including the president of the college, faculty and staff members (all of whom were African American men) put their heads and hearts together and started a very successful outreach program to our registered young men.

“I turned to Brother to Brother for moral support and positive motivation as well as a feeling of welcome and belonging.”

 Charles Sims

First, we had our research office send us a list of all of the men who identified themselves as African American students. We then sent a letter, signed by the President of the college inviting them to come and to meet some of the African American men on staff who wanted to serve as mentors for them and to assist them with any problems that they might have in completing their goals. The college provided nice surroundings for meetings. In order to get them to come, we had food, door prizes, and a very informal agenda planned. At the initial meeting, we had about 75 students attend. The staff members included the campus police, financial aid officers, human resources, health center and facilities staff, faculty, and administrators.

Out of that meeting the following goals were established:

  • To provide African American male students with an immediate support system to complete their educational goals
  • To provide African American male students with opportunities and experiences that will build esteem and competence
  • To increase communication between and among African American male students and staff at the College
  • To create a community of scholars and practitioners among African American Administrators, Faculty and Staff who are willing to support and guide students at El Centro College
  • To increase the number of African American men graduates and certificate completers

The mission of this group was to encourage academic excellence and success among the African American male students. We further sought to create lasting relationships and support networks among African American men students by bringing students, staff, faculty, and administrators together in a variety of programs and activities. After one semester of meetings, we had a 5% increase in students completing their graduation. We have seen an increase each semester since the program started. After we started the African American Male mentoring program, we soon saw the need to create one for Latino males. We began our

Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, Founder, Student African American Brotherhood, with student Alan Garcia

efforts by inviting all of the Latino male staff to come together to offer suggestions on how to remedy problems that Latino male students were facing. There was a good group of students who showed up for the first few meetings, but attendance began to drop off. So, we decided to merge the two groups and call our program the “Brother to Brother Minority Male Mentoring Program.” During the spring of 2009, the Dallas County Community College received a grant to assist with minority male mentoring. El Centro was one of the recipients. In the revamped program, student leaders were in charge of the activities and they elected officers and established weekly meetings. Eventually the students took over, decided on when to meet, identified issues, congratulated each other on accomplishments, elected their own officers, and counseled each other as to which teachers to take. The school year 2010-2011 was very successful for the group. They had consistent meetings and encouraged each other to complete their education. We have seen a huge increase in the number of male graduates and completers of programs. One of the things that we plan to do better is to track the number of students who take advantage of the program and to have the men to mentor the new students coming into El Centro.

For more information about the El Centro program, please contact administrative advisor, Howard Finney at 214-860-2201 or faculty advisor Manasseh Lee at 214-860-2638. An additional recommended resource is the October 2010, a Call for Change, published by the Council of Great City Schools.