Stone High School Class of 2010 members share some highlights of graduation, comments from graduates about their post-high school plans and end-of-year photos in a student-produced video. Click here.
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By Casey Hans
Dylan Farr can’t say enough good things about going to college.
Not only does he love his classes and teachers, he is learning a lot about the craft of writing and hopes to develop it into a career by earning his associate’s degree in technical writing at Washtenaw Community College.
“It’s going really well,” said the 2009 Stone High School graduate. “I’ve been able to pass all of my classes and I’ve met really interesting people. In high school, everybody’s in little cliques and I didn’t care much for that. I’ve made a lot of friends in college and I’ve learned a lot.”
He’s able to attend WCC thanks to a STRIVE scholarship – a 10-year-old partnership between the school and mentors from the Downtown Ann Arbor Rotary Club. Students Taking Renewed Interest in the Value of Education, or STRIVE, allows seniors to qualify for scholarships based on their academic improvement through their senior year. Teaming students with adult mentors, the program is designed to encourage them to attend college and pursue a career path.
Farr has attended college for a year now, and despite a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, he said he’s determined to get that degree. “I’m not going to let this get me down,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world.”
Farr even came back last spring to speak with graduating Stone seniors and share his story, encouraging them to continue their education. He not only takes college courses, but has his own weekly radio show on Orchard Radio, the WCC internet broadcast station. He is the son of Sharon Farr, who is a paraprofessional for the Ann Arbor district.
Encouraging scholarship use
Wendy Correll and Lois Jelneck co-chair the Rotary STRIVE committee. Correll said Rotary mentors talk with their charges about college, future career paths and work through whatever barriers they might have to using the scholarship money.
“We’re not psychological counselors, but we’re there to help them set a path to get there,” explained Correll, who also heads up the AAPS Educational Foundation as its executive director.
In the past, the scholarships haven’t always been used. This year, club members, school counselors and WCC staff have worked together to ensure that students who receive scholarships use them. Mentors started meeting with students earlier in the year to develop a deeper relationship and they met more often as a group, hosting “Subway” lunches at the school.
Correll said the lunches brought the mentors and students together in a comfortable setting – the school – and allowed a lot of give and take. “It gave us a formal setting to meet with students,” she said. “Most of the time, we’ve had a large crowd of students there.”
Jelneck, a longtime Rotarian, has been involved with the program since the beginning. She said the mentorship component is instrumental to success. “You have to establish a relationship,” she said. “These kids really work hard to overcome a lot of obstacles.”
Having worked in different nursing roles and now as a home care consultant, Jelneck said she has often been paired with students who want to go into her profession. “I tell them nursing allows them to do anything you want. You can work most any hours – it’s very flexible,” she added.
The STRIVE program has touched many lives, Jelneck added. “It’s important to never give up on these kids,” she said. “We need to really nurture them and encourage them to go on. Give them a sense of worth.”
Students sign contracts at the start of their senior year promising to maintain good attendance, stay drug- and alcohol-free and improve academically. Students with the most-improved GPAs receive the scholarships. Rotary mentors sign on for two years: The first to guide students through senior year to graduation and college enrollment; the second year to mentor them through their first year at WCC, Correll added.
Scholarships are earmarked directly for WCC enrollment and the Rotary works closely with the registrar and financial aid office for a smooth transition. Money for the scholarships is raised mainly through the Rotary fundraisers: A golf and tennis outing in the summer and another major event during the year.
The 2010 scholarship recipients include: Stephen Armstead III, Bryanna Brandon, Alex DeHart, Nathaniel Graulich, Brittany Hayes, Shakayla Lee, Johntya Lyons, Kiandra Madison, Ashley McElroy, Alycia Perry, Chris Roopchand, Larissa Sutton, Candice Thomas and Quin-Tez Tomlin.
STRIVE parallels school’s goals
At Stone, Principal Sheila Brown said the expanded STRIVE effort ties in nicely with the school’s push to set an expectation of achievement among students, something she calls a “culture of college.”
“Now, it’s not a matter of if they graduate,” Brown said. “Our focus is to transition to college and a career. We help them find ways to make that come true.”
Brown said the school has hosted parent workshops on finance to get them involved with the process and tracks student academic progress carefully. For example: she personally reviews and signs each report card.
“We want to have the kids understand we’re serious about their academic performance,” she said. “It’s a way to say ‘we believe in you.’ ”
Counselor Daphne Slater said Stone had a higher percentage of graduates this year that earned STRIVE scholarships. “And that’s exciting. It really is. It’s about getting students into that mindset. … I’d like to see more kids make it to the end (with scholarships.)”
English and writing teacher Brittiany Sanford took on the role of grad coach at Stone this year. In her new role, she helped students find scholarships, fill out paperwork and she brought in college experts and took students on field trips to college campuses. Working closely with Washtenaw Community College, she took students there for prerequisite testing and got them enrolled.
She said the most rewarding part of working with STRIVE is seeing results. “It’s seeing the kids actually make it to the end,” she said.
Another way that students are encouraged about college and future careers is the STRIVE@Work program. Rotarian Rick Reid coordinates this part of the program, which takes students into the workplace for part of a day. There, they learn about corporate culture, available careers and talk with professionals.
“They really get a taste of what work is,” he said. “Most (employers) are more than willing to be part of this.”
He said encouraging students is one of the best gifts adults can give. “If you steal their hope in the future, then you’ve stolen everything,” he said. “The scholarship opportunity is the hope. I think it’s essential.”
Any business owner who would like to participate in STRIVE@Work can contact Reid at 734-904-1121 or via e-mail.
Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-2090 (internal ext. 51228.)
Information meetings scheduled
Several meetings are scheduled this summer and fall to offer potential students information about the program at Stone High School for Fall 2011. Meetings are scheduled at 7 p.m. on the following dates:
- Tuesday, Aug. 24
- Tuesday, Aug. 31
- Tuesday, Sept. 7
Stone High School is at 2800 Stone School Road, at the corner of Stone School and Packard roads. Call 734-997-1237 for more information. School for the 2010-11 school year begins on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
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