“When people told me that I should go to college, I didn’t know what that meant. I thought that was just something that people said to young people. I didn’t realize at the time that it meant that they believed in me,” said Eduardo, a Civicorps alum and recent UC Berkeley Graduate.
Students come to Civicorps with an incredibly diverse range of academic experience. We’ve had students, such as Harris who went on to become Corpsmember of the Year, come to Civicorps after missing school for over a decade. We have other students, such as Xenia, who pass all of their exit exams on the first try and breeze through the requirements to graduate in under 9 months.
How do we, as educators, adapt to this enormous range in service and learning needs? How do we equip such diverse students for the rigors of college and a professional career?
I was brought on at Civicorps to foster a nascent culture change already taking root within our community. Rather than seeing ourselves as solely a pathway to family-sustaining careers, I want our students to see themselves as scholars and to know that college is within their reach.
The standard college level Intro to English class, whether you’re at a junior college or a UC, is to write over 30 pages in one semester. Some of our students arrive at Civicorps having been invisible in an inequitable public education system and have never had the opportunity to cultivate these skills.
With a reinvigorated push toward college preparation in mind, my vision for the 2017-2018 School Year includes three primary objectives:
The most effective way to address such a wide range of skills is a blended learning approach – which is a method of instruction that allows our teaching staff to work with students at their present academic levels by leveraging technology.
In math class, for example, an instructor might spend 20 minutes of the class teaching a new set of skills to the whole group, and then students would spend the remainder of the class working individually (or with an academic coach) at their current level. This personalized learning approach allows students to move through the program at a pace that works for them.
In addition to blended learning, Civicorps teachers use culturally responsive teaching methods in order to promote an equitable learning environment. This method of teaching uses collectivist cultural practices which increase engagement and retention. It allows teachers to shift the cognitive load from themselves to the students and encourages students to engage in productive struggle.
Since reading and writing tend to be areas that predominantly determine a student’s success in the first year of college, we have doubled our portfolio writing requirements so that students can gain these skills while in the supportive environment at Civicorps.
By showing students that college is not only an option for them, but the next stage of their trajectory, we will see a cultural change where students develop a college-going mindset.
We are already seeing the change take root. More and more of our students are seeing college as a step in achieving their goals. They are seeing that they’re as capable and every bit as deserving of a college education as anyone else.
We look forward to seeing our students rise to the new heights that we set in the coming year and preparing students for the challenges that lie ahead – academically and professionally.