| School Stories
Alternative School: Sheeler High School
As Sheeler High School students pass through the front door and a metal detector, they are met by warm smiles, bright hallways, and a wall-size banner reading: “Faith is taking the first step. Even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Before attending Sheeler in Apopka, Florida, students experienced school as a place of failure and frustration. Here they have another chance, a first step towards getting back on track, getting their credits, and graduating in a caring and supportive environment.
Sheeler High School is one of 13 Community Education Partnership (CEP) schools across the country, all of which implement School-Connect. CEP is a leading provider of academic and behavior improvement programs for public school students in grades 6 through 12.
Many CEP students have a history of transition, inconsistent parenting, and academic failure. Some have emotional and behavioral issues and others have personal challenges (pregnancy, financial responsibilities) that require an alternative education.
For students to be successful here they need to break old habits—absenteeism, bad attitudes, and apathy—and develop new behaviors and a belief that, with effort, they can succeed.
“The real key to success with these students is building relationships. If we don’t focus on that, we’re not going to be successful with them,” says Eileen Quinlan, CEP Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Training. “School-Connect is an important part of that because it gives the teachers a foundation upon which to build, it gives the students something to connect [to] with other students in the classroom or with the teacher in the classroom, and then everything else can extend out from there.”
“Many of our students often don’t have the social and emotional foundation that really is important for success and progression. So we feel this is an important need we are filling, gaps that we’re helping to close by providing that foundational support,” says Quinlan.
As part of this foundational support, all CEP teachers teach School-Connect once a week or every other week. “As they begin the class discussions they begin to learn more about each other and start breaking down some of those social barriers,” says Quinlan. “Sometimes they’re posturing for each other; sometimes they’re all trying to fit in. This takes that out of the mix and helps them focus on learning about themselves and learning about each other.”
“I’ve seen students open up that I didn’t realize were speakers,” says Stuart Morgan-Graham, Sheeler High School Student Support Specialist, “And I’ve seen them think twice about their behavior before they say something and avoid a behavior that might get them in trouble… and be able to own up to something and say ‘yeah, I did it. I know I shouldn’t have’ or ‘I know I should be more responsible.’”
“The response from students has been very positive,” says Quinlan. They look forward to School-Connect time - an opportunity to decompress, talk to each other, and have some fun.
“We’ve talked about goal-setting, conflict resolution, opinion matters, anger management, you know everything to keep the environment positive,” said student Nicholas Calderon. “In School-Connect, they tell you what to do in real life situations.”
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