By Melissa Goldberg
This semester, 41 SEI affiliated students are volunteering their time for the Citizen Schools Eighth Grade Academy (8GA) program. The program, which meets seven times throughout the semester, pairs each Northeastern student as a writing coach with an eighth grade student from the Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury. The eighth graders come to Northeastern every other week to participate in the one-on-one program.
8GA is a program ran through Citizen Schools, a non-profit organization that pairs with schools to provide an expanded learning day for its students. While SEI students have been volunteering in different capacities with Citizen Schools for a few years, this is only the second year of our involvement with the 8GA program specifically. After a successful first year during the 2013–2013 school year, Citizen Schools approached SEI requesting 40 writing coaches, twice the number that they requested the previous year. The coaches and students are split into two smaller classrooms with a Citizen Schools teacher and student leader with each group.
The semester began with an introduction of the coaches and students. Each student was tasked to interview their coach and write a professional biography about them. In return, the coaches wrote bios about their students including what the students hoped to do in their futures. Following this portion of the semester, coaches began helping their students with the high school application process.
In Boston, all public and private schools require applications for students to attend. While some schools simply require a paper application, others require written essays, short answer questions, high exam scores, and in-person interviews. While students ultimately decide what schools to apply to, Citizen Schools encourages them to apply to at least one school that they deem to be “high achieving”, whether it be a private school or a particularly strong Boston public school. A sampling of the schools where our 8GA students are applying include Boston Latin Academy, Boston Arts Academy, and Catholic Memorial High.
The writing coaches have helped their students to do initial online research of their selected schools. Following this, coaches have helped their students brainstorm and draft their essays to be finalized in the coming months. Essay questions vary from asking students to describe someone in their life who inspires them to explaining how students will grow and contribute at their selected school. Citizen Schools also provides options for their students to do mock interviews to better prepare them as well.
To close out the fall semester, all 41 coaches and their students will be invited to an on-campus celebration and demonstration of their written work. 8GA will continue into the spring semester with both returning and new writing coaches.