March 13, 2017 Monday, Day 1
On the first day in US – the first day of my expertise exchange trip organized by Eurasia Foundation Social Experience Exchange me and my colleague Dr. Elspeth Slater, professor of Social Work School of Salem State University, visited Mother Caroline Academy of Boston. This small private school serves about 130 girls from low-income families in grades four through eight since 1993. The school provides quality and free education that develops individual potential of every student and prepare her for secondary school and higher school. The cornerstones of the Academy are scholarship, leadership, spiritual, social and moral development.
Education program is well-balanced and includes English, math, science, social studies. Girls study in small classes of 12-18 students in each. Professional and experienced staff and AmeriCorpsteaching fellows teach and guide students during regular lessons and after school activities. A special thing about the Academy is the atmosphere and environment which are absolutely student-oriented. All the girls are treated with dignity and respect to their nature and personality, and grow up with self-confidence and self-pride. All student we saw were relaxed, openhearted, very thoughtful and enthusiastic about their future. The Academy provides students and their families with the guidance and support needed to transition into best-fit secondary school and beyond. The High School Placement Director assists students and their families throughout every aspect of the high school application process, including the financial aid process.
Another thing we were interested to hear about was Mentoring program that works in the Academy and run by an amazing and very involved Ms. Julie Gehring. Girls can enter the program starting the 7th grade. The program now counts about 45 matches. Future mentors go through careful screening and training. Program participants are matched in September and in average stay matched for 3.5 years. Mentors and mentees normally spend several hours every week together doing sports, studies, hobbies, going cinemas, having fun. Four girls we talked with have their mentors for months and years and said having mentors helps them feeling more confident about their future, do better in their studying and learn more about life. Ms. Gehring and her colleagues arrange events for the matches and the day before we came they did their annual Girl Power Event. For this event girls and mentors prepared workshops and lectures – a wonderful way to spend time together. It is necessary to mention that parents and guardians take active part in cooperation with mentors and mentoring program staff as it is a very basic condition for mentoring program to work effectively and benefit for children.
I felt absolutely inspired about the Academy, staff who was so warm and welcoming and dedicated to their work and the students, and girl students who were so open-hearted and full of plans and expectations about their future. Last minute we stepped a class where the girls were drawing. We asked one girl what she was painting and her answer totally amazed me. She said: “I’m drawing a start because I’m a star, I’m drawing a heart because I have a big heart and I’m drawing crossing line because my personality is sometimes controversial…” is not is a great self-definition?