LYNN — Over the summer, sixth through eighth graders at Thurgood Marshall Middle School are encouraged to dream more.
On Monday morning, Mayor Jared Nicholson, Ward Councilors Wayne Lozzi and Coco Alinsug, Interim Superintendent Deb Ruggiero, and School Committee members Brian Castellanos and Lorraine Gately toured the school to see how LEAP (learn, explore, aspire, pursue) for Education’s Dream MORE program was enriching students’ lives.
With the help of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, Lynn Public Schools and LEAP for Education are providing opportunities for middle school students to engage with new topics, social and emotional learning, and English language learning support.
During the five-week program, cohorts of students spend time in different programs where they tackle projects designed to both be fun and expose students to new potential career paths. The programs included Soccer: Real Life and Fantasy, which teaches students about team building, leadership, and how to play soccer, and Recipe for Success, which supports students’ mental and social wellbeing.
Hilary Kopp, senior director of middle school programs, Wanntha Sim, the Dream MORE site coordinator, and Executive Director Linda Saris led tours through the different programs before hosting a discussion panel of student participants and Dream MORE faculty.
The students described the ways Dream MORE has affected them. Ajalyn Carmenatty said that the social justice programs have given her the courage and confidence to pursue her goals of becoming a correctional officer and US president. Carla Rodriguez said that the program gave her the opportunity to participate in both art and engineering, subjects she may not have considered before this program.
Dena Coffey, a Dream MORE teacher and a guidance counselor at Pickering Middle School, said that she has seen her students grow throughout the program. She described an experience that affected her, saying, “We were trying to get the kids motivated … so we took a walk [to Kiley Park] and a lot of the students were like ‘we wouldn’t come here on our own,’ but we were there as adults supervising [so] they played and they ran around. It was just a nice thing to see them in the park having fun and coming back they were energized.”
In addition to enrichment, Dream MORE also encourages its participants to think about post-secondary education, whether through a trade or in higher education.
“If we do [this] well, it is not just to fill their afternoons or summer while they’re in middle school, it is also to try to help them explore and see what they’re interested in.… As an educator, you’re really trying [to] have them try stuff out and have them say ‘oh I really want to learn more about this,’” Kopp said.
“You’re not going to keep going to school and working hard and planning for post-secondary if you have no idea what you want to do when you grow up,” Kopp continued.
LEAP is planning to expand into the high schools in January of 2023 with similar programming as well as incorporating more help with college preparedness.
Emma Fringuelli can be reached at [email protected].