TJ Reaches Out to LIFT Scholars
TJ recently received a $100,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation as part of $500,000 that the Foundation is donating to six selective public high schools across the country in an effort to provide high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds a better chance at success. TJ’s “Learning through Inquiry, Fellowship, and Tutoring” (LIFT) grant supports “a regional academic enrichment program, mentorship, and test prep as a vehicle to propel talented, economically disadvantaged 7th and 8th grade students to pursue TJHSST as a viable option for their high school education. The LIFT program intends to at least triple the proportion of low-income students at TJHSST over two years.”
This summer, the grant enabled nearly 100 8th-grade LIFT Scholars to attend TJ’s long-running Middle School Tech Institute (MSTI), where they sampled a variety of accessible and fun summer STEM courses. Scholars, chosen based on their performance on a cognitive assessment as well as demonstrated need, were invited to take part in MSTI and encouraged to strongly consider applying to TJ. In conjunction with MSTI, Assistant Principal Shawn Frank, who is spearheading TJ’s grant-funded outreach effort, led LIFT Scholars in after-school sessions on such subjects as team building, having the right mindset to pursue their goals, and applying to TJ. Principal Evan Glazer made a guest appearance each week, as did a panel made up of TJ students who had volunteered to serve as mentors for the middle school students. Over two thirds of the 93 LIFT Scholars submitted applications to TJ’s Class of 2020.
Mentorship is an important element of the LIFT grant program, and TJ students have responded enthusiastically to the opportunity. In fact, Senior Class President James Park recruited 40 volunteers within days of first learning of the program! German language teacher Szilvia Oszko (pictured above with mentors during an 8th period meeting) is supervising the TJ mentors, who are expected to maintain electronic and in-person contact with their assigned LIFT Scholar at least through the end of the school year. Students interested in volunteering as mentors can apply at tjMentors.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TJ math and English teachers are conducting TJ test-prep sessions on four Saturdays leading up to the December admission test (above right, math teacher Nicole Kim works with the Scholars). Based on the results of a math diagnostic given to all LIFT students prior to the first session, the prep sessions have been customized to address students’ needs. JCIRN, TJ’s unique, secure online collaboration platform, has proven critical to the LIFT program’s successful implementation by allowing LIFT scholars to take the math diagnostic remotely and to ensure that their initial contact with their TJ mentors could take place in a secure environment.
After the first three-hour academic prep session, Assistant Principal Frank treated the LIFT Scholars to an early peek at the school’s just-finished gym (right) and the still-unfinished dome entrance before mentors escorted them on Research Lab tours. The day ended with a fun, group activity. At the second prep session, Dr. Glazer met with both students and parents.
In recognition of the role of parents in encouraging student achievement, the LIFT program includes a parent outreach component. During the November academic prep sessions, volunteer parents will speak with the parents of LIFT Scholars about the TJ application process and available resources. For more information or to volunteer, please contact email@example.com.
This is not the only initiative the Cooke Foundation is counting on to help close what they call the “Excellence Gap,” namely “the disparity between the number of lower and higher income students who reach advanced levels of academic performance.” The Foundation awarded another recent $100,000 grant to the Society for Science & the Public to provide stipends to adults willing to coach promising students from diverse backgrounds so that they can be successful in science research competitions. Over its fifteen-year history, the Foundation has awarded $130 million in scholarships to 1,900 students and over $80 million in grants to schools and organizations. Next year, TJ will welcome another group of 8th grade LIFT Scholars to the program.
“We want to give low-income students who are really smart an equal opportunity to succeed. Helping high-ability students with financial need fulfill their potential has significant implications for the social mobility among America’s lower-income families and for the strength of our economy.
Cooke Foundation Executive Director