Scholars Program, Student Spotlight

Meet Lisbeth, a 12th Grade Scholar

Lisbeth Moreno.jpgLisbeth is a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, and has been in the FLOC Scholars program since the beginning of her junior year.
This fall she will be a freshman at George Mason University, her top choice, where she plans to major in Government and International Politics.

Each FLOC senior is matched with a postsecondary coach who guides them through the college application process. Lisbeth and her coach Jazmin are certainly a great match! “I think FLOC did a great job pairing us,” Lisbeth said smiling. “Jazmin and I have similar interests and backgrounds; she’s also Latina and came to FLOC as a student, she studied International Affairs at Tufts, and we laugh at the same things.” Lisbeth also said that she has appreciated how Jazmin encouraged her to stay on top of her college and scholarship applications this year.

Lisbeth has many wonderful FLOC memories. The SAT prep that FLOC provided during her 11th grade year helped to increase her scores in all three sections—math, reading, and writing. “I learned new vocabulary, of course, but I also learned how to think through test answers when I came across words or phrases I was unfamiliar with,” she said. During her junior year of high school, Lisbeth went on a spring break college tour with FLOC. “We visited UNC Greensboro, Radford, and VCU, which were three of the schools I applied to,” she recollected. The college tour not only proved helpful in the college decision process itself, but also provided Lisbeth with an opportunity to make lasting friendships with other FLOC students.

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With graduation just around the corner, Lisbeth is excited for college and all of the new opportunities that come with it.

(Samantha Bailey is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator at FLOC.)

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Development, Neighborhood Tutoring Program, Scholars Program

Looking back, looking forward: end of the year at FLOC

The holiday season is a time of reflection at FLOC. It gives us an opportunity to pause and give thanks to those who’ve helped our organization and the students we serve. We count ourselves extraordinarily lucky to be supported by such a vibrant and passionate community. The remarkable achievements of our students are a reflection not only of the tireless work our students put forth, but it’s also a testament to the generosity of our donors and volunteers.

Nationwide, 81% of students now graduate from high school. Inarguably that’s an important milestone and an indicator that things are moving in the right direction, but it also shows the work that remains. We are failing one-fifth of the young people in this country. The numbers are even worse in Washington, DC. In our city, a city that has more college degrees per capita than anywhere else in the country, only 64% of students will achieve a high school degree. Even fewer will earn a postsecondary degree. A failing of this magnitude is hard to fathom, and it’s even more difficult to create and fight for the lasting, systemic change necessary to rectify it. However, in the push for sustainable and lasting change, we cannot lose sight of the thousands of students in classrooms today who are living the reality of these statistics.

9th grade Scholars group

At FLOC, we believe that the only thing separating students who struggle and students who succeed is opportunity. Over the past 50 years, we have served over 10,000 children, talented young people who thrive when exposed to quality out-of-school-time programming. Thanks to continued and new support, another class (the ninth straight!) of FLOC high school seniors achieved a 100% graduation rate. We’re proud of their hard work and grateful that our donors have allowed us to continue supporting these tremendous young people. Across all our programs, this support and partnership have led to remarkable results.

  • Our Neighborhood Tutoring Program served a total of 380 students and recruited more than 349 volunteer tutors.
  • Those 380 students made more than a year of improvement after just three and half months of steady tutoring.
  • Thanks to a new program model for SAT prep, students improved their composite scores on the SAT by more than 100 points.

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This growth is fantastic, but preparing students for postsecondary success requires a lot more than just raising test scores. Today’s student are leaving high school and entering a highly competitive, quickly moving world. They require new skills and new experiences to help them navigate it. Jason, one of our recent high school graduates, is a great example of the ways that FLOC is working to fully prepare students for postsecondary success.

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Ever since he started coming to FLOC, Jason has been a presence. Sometimes this was a positive thing, like when he would encourage his classmates across our high ropes course. Other times, it was a challenge, like when he would take over a workshop with his jokes. In his school life, he struggled to find his place, to share his talents and to achieve success.

As a freshman in high school, Jason had to deal with the death of his older brother. The loss was devastating, certainly distracting and not surprisingly a major factor in his lack of motivation in the classroom. FLOC has been a part of the village that supports him and his family. Jason was motivated by basketball and the special caring relationships he’d formed with his peers and the staff at FLOC. We fought to help him recognize that he still had a path to success, that he had the capability to achieve great things if he challenged himself and remained focused. It didn’t happen overnight, but he began to heal and to grow. Jason’s senior year of high school was his strongest academically, and he graduated on time. He applied and was accepted to a community college, where he intends to get his associates degree before moving on to a 4-year institution to study psychology. We asked Jason what he believes will be his key to success. He shared that he finally realizes the power he has to be great, to make his brother proud and to help others; Jason plans to become a therapist for children who have suffered from traumatic loss. We believe in him and will support him throughout his journey.

Students at VTECH

This year, another group of twelfth graders is preparing for the next steps in their academic journey. Throughout the city, there are thousands more who have the potential to excel, but lack access to the programming that will allow them to do so. Again, the only thing that separates a student in a failing school from one in a top-tier school is opportunity. FLOC represents that opportunity for more than 600 students in the city. We need your support to reach even more students in 2016. Today, during this season of giving, we ask you to make a special gift so that more children can get the tools necessary for academic success. With your gift, FLOC’s dedicated staff and volunteers will be able to better serve even more children. With your support, even more people will hear our message that a high-quality education is the birthright of every child, that viable pathways to postsecondary success should be the bar by which any community of educators is judged.

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Thank you for your support of FLOC and the work we do, and from our family to yours, happy holidays!

Scholars Program

College! More Than Just the SAT.

Over the past 4 months, the 11th graders in the Scholars Program have spent an hour and a half of their workshop time in small SAT prep groups. For half of the students, the first six weeks was spent on math while the other reading, and then after winter break, the groups switched to the other subject to better prepare for the SAT test that plays a significant role in the college admissions process. While not the only factor, most colleges see a student’s SAT score as a strong predictor of their post-graduate success. Recent research has shown that SAT scores are not always the best predictor of how gifted a student is academically, but nonetheless it is an integral piece of getting into college.

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This past Wednesday, all DC Public School students took their first real SAT test at school. This is a great option, because typically students have had to sign up for off-site College Board testing on the weekends, as private and charter school students still have to do. During program that night we had the opportunity to debrief and discuss how the students who took it felt about the seemingly ominous beast known as the SAT. Having spent the past 4 months studying and learning tips and strategies for success, the students came in with a relative confidence regarding their performance and were able to share their experience with the students who haven’t taken it yet.

I have been working with three students (Berniece, Bianca, and Nick) for the past 6 weeks, and while our time in SAT prep has been fruitful, I’ve been able to get to know them as people far beyond what colleges will see when they look at their SAT score next year. I have been able to share my own experiences in college at Gonzaga and offer them advice about choosing the right school and how to meet students once they get there. I shared that the place where you meet most of your friends in college is in your freshman dorm. During my freshman year, I lived in an intentional living and learning community that focused on leadership and service, and being with a group of freshman who had a similar calling offered a great place to meet like-minded people who chose to live there for a purpose. This is advice I offered to my students and all kids going into college because it is such an important piece of one’s college experience.

Bianca Berneice SATnick SAT

Berniece, Bianca, and Nick all have such an excitement for going to college, and the reality is that taking the SAT is one piece of that. Berniece and Bianca both attend Georgetown Visitation Prep for girls and Nick attends W. Wilson High School in Tenleytown. Berniece and Bianca both have a passion for heading south to a warmer climate for college, but I assured them that the climate should not be the reason you choose a college, as I went from hot Arizona to the wintery cold of Spokane, WA, and have no regrets. Nick, an excellent student, has the potential to really attend the college of his choice, and is interested in staying close to home at George Mason University in Virginia.

For me, going to college was not a question; it was automatically my next step after attending an all boys prep school in Arizona. But many of our students at FLOC will be the first in their families to attend university. They did not grow up hearing their parents’ stories of college-life or see themselves naturally getting through college. While preparing the students with all of the logistical steps needed to complete the college application (resume, teacher recommendations, transcripts, and essays) our biggest goal is to allow each student to realize that they’re up to this and perpetuate a reality that they can succeed in college.

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While the SAT test score plays an integral role in the ability for students to get into college, I’ve found that being able to hear about their personal lives and goals has revealed that what students mostly need is passion… to be excited about their futures… to believe in themselves. As students move forward in 11th grade, they will continue to focus on the different pieces of the college application, but most of all they are realizing that college is their future and they have the ability to pursue a school where they can be themselves and find their calling in life.

(Kurt Guenther is the program instructor for 11th Grade Scholars and is serving at FLOC this year as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.)

News, Scholars Program, Student Spotlight

Meet Tewabech: A Self-Determined and Artistic Scholar at FLOC

Tewabech

Upon first interaction, Tewabech doesn’t strike you as a typical high school student. She’s reading George Orwell’s 1984 a second time for fun – this time outside of class to get more meaning out if it. If for some reason you needed ceramic carving tools, Tewabech could pull hers out of her backpack for you to borrow.

Tewabech is currently an 11th grader at arts-magnet high school Duke Ellington and this is her fourth year partaking in FLOC programming. Although her school lets out later than most, she makes the effort to come to FLOC each Wednesday for SAT prep.

She is a talented artist who is also passionate about science.  We witnessed her eyes light up as she learned of the Smithsonian’s prestigious summer internship opportunity called the Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) program. She was diligent and determined in completing her application and we wish her the best of luck.

Not only does Tewabech take her academics seriously, but she also places strong value on her relationship with teachers at school and staff members at FLOC. She is articulate in conversation and possesses maturity beyond her 17 years.  She emphasizes the importance of her family, and serves as a great role model for her younger sister, who she picks up every Monday from the Middle School Scholars Program.

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FLOC staff members unanimously agree that Tewabech has a bright future.  As a 10th grade student in the Scholars Program last year, she combined her drawing skills and her ambitious dreams to create an exemplary “10 Year Plan.”

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Tewabech wrote about getting good grades and building strong friendships in high school, and envisioned herself extending her college-going years to attend medical school and become an anesthesiologist.  She planned to never lose sight of her passion for art, and when making her budget for life after college, she recognized the importance of both saving and spending smart.

(Lauren Ballinger is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC).