WE Embrace Equity: Opportunity YOU at Five Oaks MS
Cooking, broadcast journalism, Lego robotics, architecture and photography. These are just a few of the careers and activities students at Five Oaks Middle School have had the chance to explore through Opportunity YOU. Opportunity YOU is the after-school program at Five Oaks, one of the most highly-impacted middle schools in the District.
The program was developed by Teacher on Special Assignment Eric McGuire and Executive Administrator for Middle Schools Matt Casteel. "Our proposal was to identify students who simply need more time and more of our energy to close the learning gap, but we weren't simply talking about more time for reading and math instruction. We wanted to address the opportunity gap," says Casteel
Initially, the program began targeting students who struggled academically, but organizers realized they were limiting opportunities for students and expanded the program this year. "Research shows that the more kids are attached to school, the more effort they make during the school day," says Shirley Brock, Five Oaks Principal. Brock says the school also realized they needed to partner with parents to ensure that home and school worked together, to address attendance and to ensure each student experienced success.
Opportunity YOU runs Monday through Thursday and allows Five Oaks students to engage in extra opportunities after school and includes additional academic support. Some days, students receive targeted support in subject areas where they are struggling or are able to work on homework. Other days, students attend career labs, which introduce them to jobs or careers. "Overall, any middle school kid, what they know is what they are familiar with," says Brock. "There are so many careers out there that they don't know about."
Science teacher Amy Borlaug agrees. This is her second year with the program. "As they're making their choices on a daily basis, they don't always know why they're making those choices. This program gives students an opportunity to think about why they are studying, why they are getting their homework done. It gives them motivation and a reason to come to school and do a good job," says Borlaug.
Many of the career labs are taught by volunteers from the community. These volunteers are called SPARCs (Someone Proficient and Really Cool). "It's just coming in and sharing something you know with students. I couldn't miss out on that opportunity," says Mike Martindale, a second year SPARC.
"I like the SPARC classes because they teach me new careers and jobs," says 7th grader Tyler.
Adds Borlaug, "We're getting to work with these kids one on one. They're getting exposed to skills and careers that they wouldn't have been exposed to if it weren't for this program."