|Students focused on the road to success|
Guardian Lifestyles Reporter
Published: Aug 01, 2012
To most parents all summer schools are the same — but that was not the case for parents whose children attended the Forward and Onward to College and Upward to Success (FOCUS) academic supplementary program Summer SLAM (Summer Student Learning and Achievement Mania). The Lyford Cay Foundation sponsored year-round project-based summer camp engaged the 70 student participants in academics by getting them to participate in daily activities that ranged from watching movies, viewing powerpoints on scientists and inventors, writing creatively and factually and exploring the power of group work and team effort.
For many students the unconventional summer camp encouraged them to not only see summer as a time to do more than laze around, but get a jumpstart on their schoolwork as well as ignite a new love for academics.
Because of his participation in the FOCUS Summer SLAM program, 10-year-old Teran Cash’s lukewarm feelings about school has changed. The Mabel Walker Primary School student said he is now more excited to learn new things, and about school. The atypical academic summer experience has given Cash the drive to learn new things, and challenge himself to do better in his studies.
“I never had so much fun learning new things before I came to FOCUS,” said the first year student. “The program is really nice and it teaches me things I would have never learned in school normally. I think being in the program will give me an advantage over other students who aren’t in it. This is a really different kind of summer school and it makes learning fun. I’m really excited for school to start now because I will be ready,” he said.
Program has layers
There is another layer to this student friendly program. It is also designed to assist students in the long run so they can further their academic success. After all, every student imagines going to college, fulfilling their dreams and living the life they set their minds to. But with the growing cost of attaining a higher level education such dreams seem almost unattainable and many students simply give up.
Despite the challenges, 10-year-old Margo Scarlett, a student at Oakes Field Primary knows that collegiate success can be attainable as long as she works hard for it. Through
“I like the program because I am learning a lot and my teachers said that I will get a scholarship one day if I do well,” said Scarlett of the unique opportunity that sets a foundation for a bright academic future for the students who participate in the nine-year program. “That will be great for my parents so they don’t have to worry about it. I like that the camp encourages us to do things together and I’m learning responsibility and things like that. It’s also great that I know I will be able to do something great one day without any questions.”
FOCUS is a free academic development and enrichment program aimed at transforming the lives of its participants. For teachers, it is an opportunity to be a part of an exciting process. The program provides academic support in a wide range of educational activities, counseling and mentoring to talented, but under-resourced public school students in the fifth to twelfth grades who are
performing at an average or above-average level.
Although it is structured similarly to many summer programs, facilitators stress that FOCUS is not remedial support or a day camp. They say there are many summer programs in New Providence that provide fun activities for children, but few that are solely academics based. But the most impressive aspect of the program is that beyond the fast-paced summer program it also provides ongoing monitoring and assistance throughout the school year.
Preparing them for college
Reaching out to underprivileged children and preparing them mentally and academically to get into good colleges with the promise of scholarships determined on the extent of their hard work is the key to this Lyford Cay sponsored program. For many of the children in the program the chances of getting into college are slim and for others, just getting past the typical primary school class is a challenge, so the program aims to not only teach students everyday things they need for class, but to also push them to see themselves as bigger than their environment and to excel beyond their dreams.
“We try to accomplish this annually by reaching students where they are academically and push them to learn even more through a fun project based curriculum and teach them how to be responsible in the process of each other’s learning,” said program director, Felicity Humblestone.
“This is more than a summer camp or after school program. We want to reach out to students holistically which is why our lessons are not typically just straightforward Math and English. We incorporate our planned summer project — inventing makeshift instruments that can be used in a symphony into the subject lessons so they can see how things connect and start thinking more creatively.”
Camp teachers and mentors give students creative history lessons to introduce them to the concept of inventions, learn about inventors and other applicable ideas they would need to make the project come to life. They also did music lessons to get them used to instruments and what models they could base the results of their project on. To get students focused in English they participated in numerous activities from writing plays or stories about inventors, inventions or musical ideas they come up with. Math was also creatively incorporated by having students do problems based on what they learned. They are focused on their project but get all their core subjects packed into one day.
Humblestone said if the program goes the way it should, students should not feel average in a classroom setting. She said they should be able to have a fun and easy-going experience that they can utilize in their future scholastic encounters. As they get older and enter high school, the program adjusts to students’ needs and is more college focused to prepare them for tertiary level work.
The academic enrichment program targets students in the northwestern district of public schools and hosts an intense summer program for six weeks from the beginning of July to mid-August. To keep students a step ahead after the school bell tolls there are 15 Saturdays of academic support planned per school semester. Forty students were accepted into the program this year to join the 30 students that were already enrolled.
“We really want to get students to think bigger and do better in their every day work. We want them to be more creative thinkers and have the right mindset to continue to excel,” said Humblestone. “It is important for us to start working with students as young as those in grade four because at this point in the pipeline we can work to influence them to be on the right track academically and assist them in problem areas early enough so their ability to do well later down the line is not affected.”
Kenny Hall, a first-year student in the program, said the experience he had ignited his imagination about his future. The Woodcock Primary student said he now feels that growing up to be a law enforcement officer is a possibility for him and hopes the program will help him to work hard to attain his goal.
“I don’t want to be just any police officer or Defence Force officer. I want to be a smart one so I can raise [through the ranks],” said the nine-year-old. “I know that I have to study really hard and work even harder. So it’s good that I will have people who can help me to do well in my schoolwork and teach me new things. I want to be more creative so I’m really happy to be in the program.”
Students eligible to apply to be a part of the FOCUS program have to be in the fourth grade in one of the northwestern district of schools which include Oakes Field Primary, T.G. Glover Primary, Woodcock Primary, Mabel Walker Primary, Stephen Dillet Primary, Albury Sayle Primary and Naomi Blatch Primary. They must get recommendations from their teachers as well as have their parents attend an information seminar on the program and give their approval. An application form can be filled out by parent and student. It should also be accompanied by an essay on why they want to be in the program.