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Posted July 26, 2017

Manzano Hosts Bridge Program for Incoming Freshmen

The program sponsored by the APS Education Foundation helped students gain skills, confidence and a better shot at success.

The APS Education Foundation’s major summertime project centered on Manzano High School, where nearly 30 incoming freshmen gained skills, confidence and a better shot at success thanks to a $10,000 grant.

The Foundation funded a month-long bridge program for Manzano’s four feeder middle schools, aimed at plugging students’ gaps in English and math. Results won’t be known until later in the school year, but the program’s founders – five APS teachers who spent the month of July with the kids – say early returns are promising.

“What you hear is `Oh, I think I remember now,’ or “`This all makes sense now’” said teacher Claire Wood.

Manzano won the grant from the Foundation during the spring Achieve Awards window. In the proposal, teachers identified several dozen eighth graders at Kennedy, Grant, Roosevelt and Jackson middle schools who could use extra help in language arts and math before starting high school. Close to 30 students jumped at the opportunity, and organizers say they will run the program again next year with the hopes of attracting as many as 100.

Teachers, aided by upperclassmen at Manzano, concentrated on improving writing skills and reinforcing building blocks in algebra, a subject that confounds many high school freshmen and is a major hurdle in the high school experience. Organizers will evaluate assessments and test scores – not to mention grades – during the students’ freshman year in hopes of evaluating the program’s effectiveness.”

 “Looking at some of their post-evaluations of themselves, we did a couple self-evaluations, they are all saying that they’ve grown, and to me that’s more important,” said teacher Erin Peterson, who wrote the winning proposal. “Yeah we can show with content that they grew – they got (things like) so many more fraction problems right. But for them to take ownership of that growth was more important to me. So, seeing that they felt they grew was a huge impact on the students. I feel that was a success.”

Parents agreed. On the program’s final day, friends and family came to look at the work students completed and many said they were glad their kids participated, adding that in addition to helping students be better prepared academically, they also got to experience what life would be like on a high school campus.

“The teachers that were involved were very awesome,” said parent Michelle Benavidez, whose daughter Neveah participated.  “They made her feel very comfortable.”

The end goal, of course, is to help ease the difficult transition between eighth and ninth grade, increase the chances for success in critical subject areas, and eventually pave the way to graduation.

The Foundation provided about $534,000 in awards at dozens of APS schools during the 2016-17 school year, a record. More than 34,000 students were affected throughout the city in more than 100 projects.

“Our theme is `Kid by Kid, School by School,” said Foundation Executive Director Phill Casaus. “That’s why we’re excited about the potential of what can be done in the kind of program Manzano proposed. It combined enterprise, volunteer help and a tough but achievable goal – getting kids better prepared.”

Not all success can be measured in a test score, but Bridge Program teachers say they’ve seen it, even without the numbers.

“Confidence is a huge thing, and that’s what I’ve seen with the Bridge Program,” said Manzano teacher Kelly Dutro, who teaches English at the freshman and sophomore levels. “A lot of these kids also  lacked confidence. Having our volunteers who are sophomores and juniors this upcoming year go up to the kids `Hey, I think you should think about taking Honors – you’ve got some really great ideas’ … We’ve just seen these incoming freshmen blossom with that feedback.”


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