New programs at George Wythe and John Marshall aimed at boosting student achievement

Ronald E. Carrington | 10/14/2021, 6 p.m.
George Wythe and John Marshall high schools are big winners of the Virginia Department of Education’s 21st century Community Learning …
George Wythe High School students Deanna Martinez, left, and Oran Christian, right, receive goodie bags filled with education tools after participating in an orientation Monday of the newly funded Bulldog Enrichmond Academy. Standing behind the table are George Wythe parent participants, from left, Yakysha Langhorne, Tina Wooden and Rosemarie Edmonds. Photo by Ronald E. Carrington

George Wythe and John Marshall high schools are big winners of the Virginia Department of Education’s 21st century Community Learning Center grants.

George Wythe High School has received a $192,634 grant to establish the Bulldog Enrichment Academy Program, while John Marshall has received $198,000 for the Justice STEAM League.

Both programs are designed to provide students with enrichment activities and tutoring to complement regular academic programs and boost student achievement.

Spanish teacher and site director Brittany Flippen is leading the effort at John Marshall, where the grant runs through 2024, with an option to renew for three additional years.

The Justice STEAM League, aimed at ninth- and 10th-graders and all student athletes, focuses on science, technology, engineering and math plus art, and began on Monday.

“We anticipate 60 or more students to become more immersed and interested in STEM, while connecting STEM with real world application,” Ms. Flippen said about the before- and after-school program.

Justice STEAM League students will work with Capt. Barrington Irving’s Flying Classroom on a project that will challenge them to use math and science skills to help Capt. Irving select his next aircraft for Flying Classroom expeditions.

According to Ms. Flippen, the team will be working on the procurement and building of a Learjet while learning about the business aviation industry. They also will be exposed to financial literacy.

Capt. Irving “wants our team to go through the expedition of starting from the financing to see what that looks like, to the math, science and the art of designing and building a Learjet,” she said. “This will begin virtually with Capt. Irving and his crew providing instruction twice a week.”

In addition to instruction, students will go on field trips to aviation companies and have opportunities for internships.

One major program goal is to provide academic enhancement to improve student achievement as well as to increase student test scores on state assessments, officials said.

Teachers and parents recommended students to participate, including some with academic and behavioral concerns, that they believe would get the most out of the program. Students will receive before-school homework support, after-school academic tutoring and enrichment activities.

The art part of the STEAM program includes cooking, gardening, social and emotional learning, art and music production, as well as a health and wellness series through a partnership with the Northside Family YMCA located next to John Marshall High School.

Ms. Flippen said the program also will conduct monthly family engagement events covering a variety of topics, such as financial literacy and connecting the school day to home.

Parents interested in participating in the program can contact Ms. Flippen at bflippen@rvaschools.net or (804) 482-0127.

At George Wythe High School in South Side, Lily Mirjahangiri is project site coordinator and Angela Moore is site director of the Bulldog Enrichment Academy.

“I am overjoyed to have this opportunity at George Wythe High School,” Ms. Moore told the Free Press.

The Bulldogs program is an expanded community learning center designed to assist economically disadvantaged students, English language learners and special education students in grades nine through 12.

“There will be 100 participants, 25 students from each grade level,” Ms. Mirjahangiri said at Monday afternoon’s kickoff of the three-year program.

George Wythe instructors will participate in the program that will take place 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Mentoring and tutoring will be offered twice a month on Saturdays and virtual field trips are planned.

One major goal of the Bulldog Enrichment Academy is to improve academic achievement by increasing the on-time graduation rate by 5 percent each year of the program.

Tracy Epp, chief academic officer for Richmond Public Schools, reported to the School Board at its Oct. 4 meeting that between 2019-20 and 2020-21, George Wythe’s graduation rate increased by 11.4 percentage points from 50.2 percent to 61.6 percent.

With that, Ms. Mirjahangiri indicated the program will continue to support Wythe’s graduation rate by providing tutoring and academic achievement opportunities and activities for students. That also includes educational development opportunities for parents designed to complement their children’s work in math, English, social science and history.

Additionally, summer workshops and special events are planned during the grant period to support classes moving toward graduation.

According to Mrs. Moore and Ms. Mirjahangiri, Wythe’s Bulldogs Enrichment Academy will encourage student exploration into college culture; wellness and nutrition; career options and readiness. It also will celebrate student successes and increase parental involvement while offering diverse activities, including technology night and bilingual support for Spanish-speaking students and parents.

“We want to bring positive light to George Wythe and how the people on the inside are working to bring relevant support for all of our students,” Ms. Mirjahangiri said.