By Roger Figueroa, program coordinator at Latin American Youth Center – Maryland Multicultural Youth Center.
The transition for rising ninth graders is one filled with twists, turns, pitfalls, and barriers: the new and often larger environment, changes in academic responsibility, increased number of peer influences, and a new social structure can all be overwhelming. The LAYC-Maryland Multicultural Youth Center Road Map to Graduation program aims to create a supportive pathway for students.
The program seeks to provide wrap-around services to support students during their transition through Road Map workshops, an intensive five-week summer bridge program, after-school academic assistance, individual development plans, case management, and parent engagement.
Following their eighth grade year, students take part in a summer bridge program focusing on preparing students to enter high school. Students participate in Road Map workshops that include life skills, high school readiness, and gang prevention. In addition, students receive academic assistance in English and math to strengthen their foundational skills in expectation of new academic challenges. This past summer, students also had the opportunity to take field trips every Friday to the National Museum of Natural History and Hirshorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md., and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland.
Currently, the program is working with the participants to ensure they are on track to be promoted to the next grade. The program creates an academic plan with each student to track their progress. In addition, the program monitors students’ grades and attendance to ensure each student is meeting graduation requirements. Through the afterschool program, students are also learning about decision making and overall healthy behaviors, the college application process, financial aid, and career options. The program encourages participants to become active members of their community through service events.
For many students, the Road Map to Graduation program provides an essential guide to success during their transition and beyond.
“The summer program was so fun and interesting,” says Fredica, a rising ninth grade student in the program. “It helped me learn about high school, and I wish to be in it next year. I liked the trust and confidentiality of the staff, they are supportive and nice. They also care about us.”