Pictured left to right: Dr. John Kellogg, Jill Ponzi, Tami Santa, Cynthia DeVese, and Courtney Massey.
At the Westerville Education Foundation’s (WEF) inaugural Celebration of Education, Innovation & Inspiration, held at the Everal Barn this morning, Westerville City Schools Superintendent Dr. John Kellogg announced a new district initiative called Student Connections. The program will connect students to diverse literature, mentors and tutors, as well as create opportunities to engage and address issues surrounding students’ social and emotional needs. Students also will focus on creating pathways that connect them to careers and college opportunities, as well as increase their academic achievement.
“We are in the process of designing specific programs that will help us address achievement disparities within the Westerville community and schools,” explained Kellogg. “These programs will meet specific needs in the district and provide a diverse stream of underserved students with opportunities to participate in a variety of activities to help them succeed both in school, and in life.”
Some of the initiatives under the Student Connections umbrella include:
- Academic assistance at the three high schools with the Minority Scholars Program, featuring an academic peer mentor/tutor component;
- “Mentors Opening Doors, Enriching Lives” (M.O.D.E.L.) will provide mentoring relationships with community adults and college student volunteers in the middle and high schools;
- Enhancing services to meet the social and emotional needs of students;
- Parent involvement in out-of-classroom activities;
- Student leadership development and training; and
- A Spirit Book Club that will provide an opportunity for students to read books written by a diverse group of authors, while introducing more students of color to literature focused on cultures reflective of themselves.
The programs, while not designed exclusively for students of color, provide an opportunity for every student to explore and learn through culturally-relevant learning tools and initiatives. Student Connections will be jointly facilitated by Minority Student Achievement Coordinator Cynthia DeVese, Student Assistance Program Coordinator Tami Santa, Guidance Counselor Jill Ponzi, and Secondary English Language Arts & Social Studies Coach Dr. Jill Smith.
During the announcement, WEF President Courtney Massey shared that the WEF set a goal for itself approximately two years ago, which was to be able to fund a larger district initiative outside of its traditional grants program. The launch of its GAP Initiative earlier this year brought about the addition of a crowdsourcing feature to the Foundation's website, as well as other online funding tools.
“One of the hopes was that these tools would result in some financial flexibility that would take the WEF one step closer to being able to support a larger district initiative,” Massey explained. “To date, as a result of the GAP Initiative, we've been able to generate slightly more than $6,000 online to support innovative classroom initiatives that directly benefit students.”
As a result of achieving its goal, WEF is granting the Westerville City School District $9,880 to support its Student Connections initiative.
Massey said that when the WEF announced its GAP Initiative last September, the organization believed it would help close several types of gaps that exist in education today, such as funding gaps, programming gaps and achievement gaps.
“When we became aware of the district’s desire to implement its Student Connections initiative, it was very clear to us that this was the opportunity we had been seeking,” Massey said. “The intended outcomes of the initiative align perfectly with our ultimate vision for what our GAP Initiative would allow us to accomplish as an organization.”