College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

General

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Power of Speech: Public SPeaking increases Confidence

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

By now you’ve surely seen them, heard them, admired them. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have been vocal, organized and poised when facing adulation or opposition. Their public speaking has been so good they’ve been accused of being actors. They have not played the typical role of victim. They’re not trolling for sympathy; they’re calling for action.

Their professionalism has surprised many observers– but not me. As a speech and debate coach I work with high school students who are just as poised, just as educated and just as good at public speaking as the Parkland students. I see these qualities in action every week.

More than 25% of Americans are afraid of public speaking, according to Chapman University’s Survey of American Fears. People are more afraid of public speaking than of being robbed, losing their job, or walking alone at night.

No doubt this fear causes many adults to assume that kids cannot accomplish the feared activity. We naturally assume that others fear what we fear, especially younger people like teenagers, so the courage of these youngsters astonishes.

It so happens that Broward County, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas is located, has one of largest speech and debate programs in the country. Courses are offered at every level of elementary, middle and high school and the majority of students enroll in at least one course during high school.

Public speaking teaches how to articulate an idea. It often requires the ability to think on one’s feet. Debate techniques teach how to effectively make and counter an argument and see an issue from both sides. Debaters are actually required to argue both sides of every question, affirmative and negative.

As luck would have it, the national debate topic in November was universal background checks for gun owners. As the Parkland students fanned out on television interviews and Sunday talk shows, they were well prepared. They had already researched and debated both sides of the question. They were primed for the predictable attacks. Their public speaking training enabled them to stay poised even when opponents went off the rails. Their understanding of the legislative process made them fearless before lawmakers.

Public speaking and debate practice instill one quality that a coach cannot teach: confidence. I can explain how to deliver a point, a counterpoint or a dramatic line, but I cannot instill confidence during a practice session. Only a live debate or a performance in front of a judge can develop confidence. All coaches can do is lay the groundwork and provide the tools to enable students to develop confidence in themselves. I am amazed to say this happens every day. I have watched students who could not stand in front of me in an otherwise empty room and speak a line without panicking go on to give inspiring speeches in front of hundreds of strangers. I have watched countless students find their voices, project those voices, and compel audiences to listen to their words.

It is clear that the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas have long since found their voices, developed self-confidence, and gained strength from each interview, speech and legislative hearing. But these students, though exemplary, are not unique. There are literally thousands of students across the country participating in forensic activities that will make them ready to speak their minds. They may not all appear in front of a camera or on a stage with thousands watching and listening, but they will appear in board rooms, in classrooms, at conferences and town meetings and they will be ready to articulate and defend their positions.

I hope the students I coach will never be called upon to address an issue as tragic as the one that inspired the #NeverAgain movement. I hope my students are never viciously attacked just for being good at what they do, and for being prepared to debate the public issues we all face. But if they ever are, I know they will be ready and they will make me proud, as they always have and continue to do.

Watching the students from Parkland, and my own students in Massachusetts, I have never felt more honored to be a member of the speech and debate coaching community.

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College Acceptance Letter - Springtime waiting angst

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

It’s springtime, when students check their email and mailboxes for those letters from colleges. Everyone knows a thick packet means acceptance and a letter-size envelope means rejection. The wait is fraught.

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JFYNetWorks awarded $100,000 Cummings Foundation grant

BOSTON, JUNE 01, 2018 – JFYNetWorks is one of 100 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s “$100K for 100” program. The Boston-based organization was chosen from a total of 597 applicants through a competitive review process. Cummings Foundation has announced a total of $20 million in grants to Greater Boston charities in the past two months.

Executive Director Gary Kaplan and Deputy Director Paula Paris (pictured above) will join approximately 300 other guests at a reception at TradeCenter 128 in Woburn on June 7 to celebrate the $10 million infusion into Greater Boston’s nonprofit sector. With the conclusion of this grant cycle, Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $220 million to Greater Boston nonprofits alone.

“We are delighted and honored to have been chosen for this award along with our colleagues,” said Executive Director Kaplan. “At a critical moment in JFY’s strategic growth, this investment from the Cummings Foundation will help us meet the challenge of preparing young people for an economy that demands ever-higher levels of cognitive, technical and interpersonal skills.”

JFYNetWorks will use its Cummings Foundation grant to expand its college and career readiness blended learning program in high schools and further develop its early college courses that enable students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously while still in high school. These courses accelerate college completion and reduce the cost of a degree.

The $100K for 100 program supports nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate Cummings Properties. Founded in 1970 by Bill Cummings of Winchester, the Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 11 million square feet of space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.

“We are indebted to nonprofit organizations like JFYNetWorks that have a meaningful positive impact on the local communities where our colleagues and clients live and work,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s executive director. “We are delighted to invest in their important programs and services.”

This year’s diverse group of grant recipients represents a wide variety of causes, including homelessness prevention and affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. Most of the grants will be paid over two to five years. The complete list of 100 grant winners will be available June 7 at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

Cummings Foundation announced an additional $10 million in early May through its new Sustaining Grants, which extend “$100K for 100” funding for previous winners for 10 more years. Beginning in 2019, the Foundation will increase its total annual giving through these two programs from $20 million to $25 million.

Founded in 1976 under the name Jobs For Youth, JFYNetWorks has a 42-year history of enhancing economic opportunity and social mobility for low-income urban youth through education and training programs that meet the demands of the labor market. Today, JFY focuses on college and career readiness by using blended learning to build academic skills in high school so that graduates can qualify for degree-credit college courses without remediation. Since the vast majority of jobs now require post-secondary skills and certification, entering college or technical training at the credit-earning level increases the probability of successfully entering the workforce and earning a self- and family-sustaining living.

About Cummings Foundation
Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn. Bill Cummings released his self-written memoir, “Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist,” in March 2018. The book may be purchased at cummings.com/book.

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On June 7, JFYNetWorks will be joining the other local nonprofits in celebrating our $100kfor100 award. We would like to extend the celebration invitation to you by way of Facebook Live.

The Cummings Foundation will be live streaming the event starting at approximately 7p, Thursday June 7th. To learn more, visit the Cummings Foundation Facebook page.

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JFYNet Partner School Spotlight

Sometimes We Need to Be Reminded…
… that our schools are full of great kids, hard-working and creative teachers, overworked and underappreciated administrators, and effective programs.

Read more about some of these outstanding people, schools and communities in our series: Spotlighting JFYNetWorks Partner Schools… May 2018 edition.

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From Ethiopia to Architecture: My Journey - Selamawit Balcha's Journey

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

One Student’s Brave Journey

As a Blended Learning Specialist with JFYNetWorks, I have met many students. It’s the best part of my job– meeting people and helping them succeed. I enjoy working with all students, but some naturally stand out. Selamawit Balcha is one of those stand-outs. She was in one of my classes at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 2014 and I was immediately impressed by her determination and focus. I knew she would be successful. She is now working towards her architecture degree at Wentworth Institute of Technology. I asked her to share her story and she responded with the following account.

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The Crafts and Art of Teaching

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

Embracing techniques serving student success

Nothing can take the place of a teacher in a classroom. Nothing can supplant the role of the person who designs a lesson in which there is time to activate prior knowledge, impart new information, model how to use that information, and structure activities to practice and embed that process.

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Predictions: Snow days! School delays! Red Sox win! WHen?

It will snow. Just don’t ask me when.

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

I would never want to be a weather forecaster in Boston. The changing jet stream winds, the effect of the warm ocean on a snow or rain line, and the pressure of predicting whether rain will hold off long enough for the Red Sox to play would be too much for me. Engineers were thinking about traffic when they built Routes 128 and 495, but those lines on the map are now rain and snow boundaries. Making those storm calls may be the most thankless job in the region– after predicting the Red Sox finish.

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Improving Performance on MCAS Math

On MCAS, every point counts.

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Although ELA has barely ended, MCAS math will be here before you know it on May 23 and 24 for high schools.

It seems obvious that the math formula page is there to help students, but few students really use it. Many questions, including open response items, are easy to solve if they just check their formulas. For example, the 2017 10th grade test had six questions that relied heavily on geometric formulas. There is almost always an open response question derived straight from the formula page. One of the best ways to show students the value of the formula page is to do one of these open response questions in class. And don’t forget the handy tool on the DESE website mentioned in my previous blog— the student work/scoring guides section. You’ll find it very useful for practicing open response.

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JFYNet Partner Schools
Sometimes We Need to Be Reminded…
… that our schools are full of great kids, hard-working and creative teachers, overworked and underappreciated administrators, and effective programs.

Read more about some of these outstanding people, schools and communities in our series: Spotlighting JFYNetWorks Partner Schools… April 2018 edition.

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Tyrone Figueroa, East Boston HS Teacher

A teacher gives back to his community

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

In my last blog post, I talked about building relationships with people in the schools I work with. Today I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite teachers, Tyrone Figueroa. How Tyrone came to be a teacher is an interesting story.

I first met Tyrone last fall. He was teaching the Senior Math Seminar, one of the classes in which we embed our JFYNet College and Career Readiness program. In the course of working with him I got to know a little bit about his story.