Burr and Burton Academy - Student Success Program

The Student Success Program was conceived over six years ago when a BBA teachers, Kendra Larson, was granted a sabbatical. Her time was spent studying how poverty affects the learning potential of low-income students. Ms. Larson traveled far and wide gathering research and attending workshops and forums, then reported her findings to the Board of Trustees.

Based on those results, the board fully endorsed the creation of a program that specifically addressed the challenges facing students from families struggle with the challenges of generational poverty. Headmaster Mark Tashjian hired Jason Pergament who had extensive teaching experience in the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) schools in inner city New York. In his first year, Jason concentrated on planning, developing and implementing a program, meeting with BBA’s sending schools administrators and counselors, identifying students who could benefit from the program, meeting with local social service agencies, and then recruiting and meeting with potential Success Scholars and their families for their buy-in to the program.

The mission of the Student Success Program is “To help students living in poverty develop college and/or career readiness skills, strength of character, and a sense of purpose that will propel them toward success”. On a day to day basis, the Success Scholars work with a daily mantra of Goals * Habits * Growth which is a framework for everything they do.

The first Student Success Camp was launched in July of 2013 with approximately twenty-six students participating (in 2017 the Summer Camp had fifty-four participants). The camp was an introduction to their high school experience, helped set expectations, familiarized them with the campus, learn about technology at BBA and expectations of iPad use, identified the location of their classes and the students met their teachers. The three weeks were laid out to help the students create goals, learn about healthy eating, build self-confidence, begin to look at colleges and technical programs, and be ready to start high school later in August.

Throughout the year, the Success Students are mentored and coached in all that they do. As educators, we look for indicators of success that include confidence, academic proficiency and appreciation for the value of education, transferable skills (including collaboration), a mindset of perseverance and optimism, self-control, self-worth and joy, creation of a future vision to work toward, the ability to effectively navigate resources, and development of healthy relationships with adults and peers. To achieve this, the students are supported in many areas, including tutoring, exploring technical training, provided help with transportation, interventions for family crises such as homelessness, addiction issues, food insecurity, and even supplying the basics such as personal items that may be needed throughout the year (hygiene supplies, winter clothing, boots, etc.)

Supportive courses such as Prep for Success for 9th graders, and Introduction to College Studies/Prep for College for 10th and 11th graders are in place and students are strongly urged to take these courses. Flex Block support is provided by program staff members to Success Scholars as needed for help with academics. There is support for the college application process, and staff works with students to identify internships, job opportunities, apply for grants, enrichment programs, travel opportunities, scholarships and more.

After four full years in place, the Student Success Program is proving its worth. The Class of 2017 Success Scholars who were in the program from day one, are heading to college, working while attending community college, serving in the military with a goal of attending college after their service, participating in a technical certificate program, or going directly into the workforce with the certificates they need to earn a living wage. All students know where they are going with a vision of their own personal success in mind.

As Burr and Burton Academy moves forward with this program, the Student Success team along with the administration continue to tweak and adjust different aspects of the curriculum and support structure. And as Director Jason says, “It takes a village” and this program is enthusiastically embraced by the entire faculty and staff at BBA, the community at large, and funded through generous philanthropic support raised annually from individual gifts, fundraising events and grants, including one from the Edward E. Ford Foundation.

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