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Vocational Education: Crotona Academy Partners with SoBRO
Students in danger of not graduating and of aging out of the system find a silver lining when they transfer to Crotona Academy High School in Bronx, New York. Here they receive rigorous student-centered learning through the Diploma Plus model, along with work experience, career exploration, and job readiness skills through the Learning to Work (LTW) program. School-Connect forms the basis of the LTW Seminar. This winning combination has resulted in 77% of graduating students earning the prestigious NY Regents diplomas in 2009.
The Academy partners with the South Bronx Overall Economic Development (SoBRO) Corporation to deliver the LTW Program. SoBRO Youth Advocates—educators trained in workforce and youth development—place students in work internships and teach a daily LTW Seminar. In search of materials to complement the seminar curriculum, a SoBRO team headed by Eva Lopez, LTW program manager, attended a School-Connect Institute in Chicago and then implemented curriculum strategies both inside and outside the seminar.
“Before [School-Connect], we had been successful in placing students in internships, but many of them didn’t have the social and emotional skills needed in the workplace,” explains Lopez. “School-Connect really enhances the Seminar curriculum. Students are more reflective and understand how to communicate. They are also more successful in their internships, and many transition into summer employment.”
Evaluations completed by employers are a testament to success. “Genesis Oyola is a great worker who is always available to learn,” notes Alba Ramos, her supervisor at Lebron Culinary Institute. “She treats her co-workers with respect. Genesis has improved in all areas because she is receptive to learning new things.”
Student transformation is evident in school as well as the workplace. The biggest gains have been in self-management and sense of autonomy. “When faced with adversity, students used to lose motivation and stay home from school. Now they know how to reach out and navigate the system. They get up, go to school and work through problems.”
Social and emotional learning is beginning to find its way into the school as a whole. “The methodology of School-Connect is especially helpful to Crotona teachers,” observes Lopez. “The teachers ease into it. They hear Youth Advocates touch on and reinforce skills from the program and get to see how it works with students.” This summer a Crotona history teacher will attend a School-Connect Institute to learn how to integrate the strategies in her academic classes.
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