There have been plenty of headlines about negative things in Rochester schools. But the fact is, the City District is also trying many innovative things to increase graduation rates. This week we are highlighting efforts we believe deserve more attention. We kick things off at Charlotte High School.
At the start of each day 9th Graders at the Leadership Academy for Young Men file into the auditorium at Charlotte High School and take this pledge.
"I am a student at the leadership academy for young men. I am this future.
I am accountable for my own success; my success is a product of my own actions.
I am disciplined, courteous, loyal and courageous.
I believe in myself, we believe in our teachers, we believe in each other. May my brothers give me the strength to live by this creed."
Young men like Kevin Parsons are taking that creed to heart. But he says it wasn't always that way.
"When I first started when I had thoughts about the uniforms like the ties and the dress pants and the shoes, I was thinking like I didn't want to do this man. I want to wear my regular clothes."
Kevin's Dad chose the Leadership Academy for Young Men. Kevin Parsons Senior says his son wasn't so keen on the idea. "Well at the beginning he didn't like it at all. But as the days went on he started getting stronger and stronger and he tells me now he really likes it."
Kevin agrees. "I am more confident about myself and what I want to be in school and in the future."
That is music to the ears of Principal Wakili Moore. "Well it makes us feel great because that's what our goal was. Is to spark an interest in these guys to see that education is the answer for them to get whatever they want in life. Specifically with Kevin, he was a young man who didn't want to be with us particularly, maybe because of the all boys setting and the business attire that we wear. But in 2-3 weeks he came back to my office and told me how much he likes the school and how happy he is here."
In this, it's first year, the Leadership Academy for Young Men has 100 9th grade students. They will be the first graduating class. Moore says he worked hard to get students, their parents and teachers to buy into an idea. "We all have to keep each other accountable. Are we as the school communicating with the parents. Are the parents helping out with the young men as far as getting their work done? Are the young men putting their effort in to get that work done. So us working together to hold each other accountable is huge.
What else is different? It has the feel of a private school in the city district. Classes are smaller. Students where business attire. There's discipline and expectations are high. And there are no girls. Kevin says that's it's no big deal: "It keeps me focussed. with like the girls and stuff. With the girls in school you're with a bunch of boys. But with like the girls you're really like.. it keeps me focussed, I can say it keeps me focussed. I don't really worry about the girls."
"Actually he's doing really well" says Kevin's Dad. "His academics has picked up quite a bit. So I'm really impressed."
Wakili Moore knows parents are watching. "It's a lot of pressure for us because we, they have said they believe in us to take care of their sons and that's exactly what we want to do."
Kevin Parsons knows school leaders believe in him. Now he believes in himself too. A lot of young men may have a brighter future because of the bold new program at Charlotte High School.