Inspiration was the focus at the 2023 RISE Spring Convening! Teams drew inspiration from each other as they shared practices to improve approaches to promoting on-track achievement and postsecondary success, reflected on data, and planned a strong close to the 2022-23 school year while looking ahead to 2023-24.
Throughout the day inspiration came in many forms; cross-school collaboration, an impactful presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Manny Scott (more on that below!), videos featuring students speaking about influential educators at their schools, and hopeful student outcome data.
The day was kicked off by RISE Executive Director, Emily Pallin, welcoming school teams and continued with Chief of Programs and Network Success, Christina Ellington, sharing that 75 percent of Grade 9 students (or 2,292 students) across the Network were on-track as of Q3 and 98 percent of Grade 12 students (or 2,538 students) have identified postsecondary plans!
The Convening agenda was packed with opportunities for educators to connect with each other and learn various ways to strengthen current practices or implement new strategies within their schools.
A highlight of the day was the keynote presentation by Dr. Manny Scott. An original Freedom Writer, Dr. Scott navigated incredible obstacles to become the first person in his family to graduate from high school and eventually earn a Ph.D. in Intercultural Competence. He is the author of several best-selling books, including “Even on Your Worst Day You Can Be a Student’s Best Hope.”
Dr. Scott challenged Network educators to think outside the box, humble themselves, and become students of their students, incorporating new understandings into their teaching. He shared the life-changing influence of the teachers, counselors, coaches, and other staff who believed in him when he did not believe in himself. Most importantly, he asserted to educators that “Your voice has power. What comes from the heart reaches the heart. And your hope can become contagious. Don’t underestimate the power of your voice in the lives of hopeless kids.”
One Convening attendee gushed, “I needed to hear that presentation today. Amazing!” and another commented that “his words inspired me – it was so needed!”
Feeling energized by Dr. Scott’s passionate speech, school teams gathered in breakout sessions focused on reviewing school-based data around Grade 9 and postsecondary success goals. “The breakout sessions were so valuable,” reflected one Network educator. “It was a great time to collaborate and share ideas!”
Following this, attendees had the opportunity to join one of four “excellence in action” sessions, all emphasizing the importance of supporting students through key transitions:
- Setting Up For Success – led by RISE Freshman Success Coach Kristen Negron and On-Track Coach Khanisha Moore, this session aimed to provide an understanding of the challenges students face as they enter high school.
- Putting Prep into Practice – RISE On-Track Coaches Laura Ehlinger and Sharina Jimenez shared strategies for ensuring students have the skills necessary to achieve success after promoting to Grade 10.
- Senior Success – this session, which was facilitated by RISE Postsecondary Success Coach, Sojin Park, along with Aland Joseph, Counselor at Westhill High School, and Bobbi-Jo Wathen, School Counseling Director at Middletown, focused on building a strong junior program to provide comprehensive support as students transition into their senior year.
- The Finish Line – RISE Postsecondary Senior Coach, Rebecca Kruge, along with Stephanie Cruz and Marie Brown, College and Career Coordinators from Platt and East Hartford high schools, respectively, spoke about supports for a strong postsecondary transition, including implementing end-of-year touchpoints for all college-bound pathways with actionable steps to help ensure matriculation.
School teams came back together for some dedicated time to reflect on their learnings from the day, review accomplishments, and prepare commitments to support students in on-track and postsecondary success goals. One educator shared that it was “so helpful to have the time to get on the same page with my team as we close out the school year.”
And the timing of the Convening was ideal, as it allowed educators the time and space to support one another and focus on finishing the remainder of the 22-23 school year strong.
“The theme of the day focused on inspiring others,” said RISE Deputy Director for Postsecondary Success, Sherry McLaughlin, who coordinated the event. “Teams spent the day reflecting on how to inspire students, colleagues, and network partners as we continue to focus on the goal; student success.”