Worthington Hooker School: Preparing for the 8th Grade Trip to Disney and Beyond

I want us all to take a deep breath, close our eyes, and picture ourselves in middle school. Scary right? For the vast majority of us, our middle school years were filled with overflowing angst, confusion, and a litany of one awkward moment after the next.

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From an educational perspective, middle school years are crucial to the development of a student’s academic persona. In middle school, kids are asking themselves a myriad of questions, trying to figure out who they are and who they aren’t, and their educational identity is often solidified in these formative years.

Across the country, suburban as well as urban districts are struggling to figure out exactly how to keep these students invested in learning. New York Times dedicated a series, chronicling the challenges students face developmentally, during this time, and what can be done to keep children invested in school, build their self-esteem, and develop their entire identity. For years, our country has seen tests scores in math and reading plummet, at worst and stagnate, at best during the middle school years, and study after study shows us that middle school performance is a clear indicator of later school success or failure. So what does all of this mean for us? For New Haven? For our community and your child? What can we do to stop the national trend for middle schoolers?

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Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with three 8th grade young ladies to talk to them about their middle school, Worthington Hooker. Ani Brasseaux, Alena Gutierrez, and Amelia Cox are an impressive faction of young ladies who stand as a testament to what happens when middle schools work to engage the entire child on a path to their own self-discovery. We sat down to talk about the upcoming 8th-grade field trip to Disney, and the fundraising they are doing, but we ended up chatting about so much more.

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The 8th grade trip to Disney is a yearly tradition at the school. The ladies describe it as “a last chance for us all to be together.” They are excited about traveling with their 8th grade class and a team of volunteer teacher chaperones to Disney for 5 days in June for educational exploration (guided safaris and science exploration in the Animal Kingdom) and fun. But their main goal is to ensure that any student who wants to go can go, regardless of financial restraint. The trip is pricey, but that has only motivated the girls and their classmates to fundraise like crazy. They walked me through a laundry list of fundraisers that they have been organizing and executing with the help of their teachers from a Halloween dance to a talent show to weekly bake sales.

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But this isn’t just about raising money for a fun trip. This is about helping mold the identity of these young people. Ani, Alena, and Amelia shine when they talk about the leadership that these fundraisers have helped develop in them. They lead the meetings, they plan the events, they reach out to parents and teachers for assistance, and they are empowered by the educational leadership around them to take on these roles. Worthington Hooker School is a HOT school, which means it is a Higher Order Thinking school, and when I ask the girl, what that means exactly, they unload a list of complementary features of the school. “It’s not just about academics. It focuses on the arts, extra-curriculars, and all sorts of clubs.” The girls are involved in science club, arpeggios, art club, jazz band and Junior National Honor Society. When I ask them, who is your favorite teacher? They can’t pick just one. They talk about Mr. Jones, their current Science teacher who has inspired them to develop science club and lead the meetings. When you consider that woman only make up 24% of all STEM position in the country, Mr. Jones’s empowerment of these young women to explore STEM is crucial. The girls fawn over Ms. Lonetti, the drama teacher. “She’s so funny! She has so many jokes!”

 

The annual 8th-grade trip is an extension of what Worthington Hooker School is doing for these children. It is proving them with a solid foundation and enabling them to expand their horizons and help them discover who they can be. Ani, Alena, and Amelia need your help. It takes a village to nurture strong, curious, passionate young people, and the 8th grade class at Worthington Hooker needs our village to help them get to Disney, with their entire class, this June. This Thursday, 12/7/ 2017, come to One6Three the Pizza Joint for pizza, cheese curds, honey-sirachia wings, a Cubano sandwich, fried Oreos or anything else on our menu. 10% of ALL sales from open to close – dine-in, take-out, or delivery- will go to the 8th graders to help fund their trip.

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