Success Academy High School Dean (and Mom): They Might Not Admit It — They’re Teens, After All — But Our Kids Love School
Last week, SA 8th graders who applied to a district high school received their placement offers. It reminded me of when my daughter was deciding where to go for high school. Ultimately, she chose to stay at SA, and she is now in 11th grade, with a great group of friends both new and old, a high GPA, close relationships with teachers and deans, and a passion for track in which she excels. Neither she nor I have ever regretted her decision to stay at SA.
My family is SA through and through: besides my high schooler, I have daughters in at SA Harlem East Middle School (grade 7) and SA Harlem 1 (grade 2). So I have kids at every level of SA schools, and on top of that, I am a proud SA staff member. Last year, after ten years of being a SA parent, I began working as a dean at the Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts.
Working as a dean gives me a whole new lens of understanding what makes SA special. At the high school, I am part of a team that makes the safety and social-emotional well-being of our kids the number one priority. There are 608 kids at our high school, and I know the names of every one of them. I make it my business to be where my students are and to build positive relationships with them, so when they have troubling times, they are open to talking to me and listening to what I have to say. Everyone on our staff does the same.
It is clear to me that our high school students love school. They might not admit it (because they’re teenagers, after all), but when I see them here until 6 or 7 every night for drama club or robotics or debate, it shows me that they feel that this school is their home. Our kids feel safe, nurtured, and known here; as someone who has worked as a safety agent at five high schools — including one where a student was stabbed! — I know what a gift that is. HSLA is giving kids the opportunity to experience high school in a warm, enveloping community, where they can focus on achieving academic excellence and on pursuing interests that they are passionate about.
HSLA is giving kids the opportunity to experience high school in a warm, enveloping community
The sense of community and of partnership between families and the school has been my experience with all my daughters at Success Academy. Throughout my time as a parent here, the teachers and leaders at my daughters’ schools have worked so closely with me. It was always clear to me as a parent that SA understands that you need to be in constant communication with parents — that if you don’t have parents along with you on the journey, it’s impossible to get kids where they need to go. What’s unusual about SA is that this relationship is maintained through high school, when so many schools basically leave parents in the dark about what’s going on with their kids. The reality is that the teen years — the high school years — can be a time when kids hit their roughest patch. It can also be the time when parents feel most helpless about intervening effectively, since so often kids will do exactly the opposite of what their parents want. That makes the close support and communication of SA particularly invaluable. Parents are not alone in making sure their kids get what they need to thrive in high school and be truly ready for college.
It’s a phenomenal experience to see the kids coming up through elementary and middle school and finishing their journey as young adults here at the high school. SA educators have been working with our children from the very beginning to shape their habits and their behavior and to make sure they really master the academics. By the time they get to high school, they feel confident and successful. And because they have had trusting relationships with adults at their schools throughout their journey, they feel comfortable seeking and asking for help.
I have spoken out and advocated for SA over the years because every kid in the city deserves a great K-12 experience — and currently that is all too rare. Even though each of my daughters is different, I want all of them to continue at SA through high school, because I know that whatever their strengths, their interests, their challenges or struggles, they will have a community rooting for them, supporting them, and ensuring they have the best possible high school experience. A mom — a parent — couldn’t ask for anything better than that.