Program helping 8th graders ease transition to high school

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Every September, school is filled with big transitions. This includes students starting first grade or young adults heading off to college for the first time.

One that’s equally important is the jump to high school from eighth grade.

Citizen Schools is a non-profit that sponsors the 8th Grade Academy. 

“Our program is focused on closing the opportunity gap,” explained Carolyn Navikonis, the director of the program here in Boston. “We really focus on the transition to high school, and making sure that the students are going to have the skills and the content knowledge they need to successfully navigate the high school choice process and then transition over to the 9th grade next year.”

Every other Tuesday a group of 8th graders from the Orchard Gardens in Roxbury makes their way to the headquarters of John Hancock in the Seaport to attend their sessions.  

Navikonis says the goal is to expose the students to another world of possibilities. 

“And know what different college and career pathways they have available to them, because if they have never seen it before, it will be hard for them to imagine themselves in that space."

A big focus of the program is about improving writing skills.  Each student is paired with a volunteer from Hancock, who guides them through the writing process. 

Mentor Sue Harrington says that is just the start, however.  She said the students are introduced to the concept of networking, learn how to write a resume, and create a business card. 

Harrington has been working intensively with Jayslene Santana-Brea, who is now considering private school as an option for next year. 

“I would never have thought to go to a private school, and I think that would be a new experience for me,” said Santana-Brea.  “I know that there’s a lot of smart people there, and I know I am smart! I think I would fit in and do good there.”

Over the course of the school year, Harrington said she’s noticed how the program has impacted Jayslene. 

“I have definitely seen her confidence getting better, not only with her writing skills, but when she comes in, she's a little more serious.  We get the socializing out of the way, and then we get right to work.”

Eighth Grade Academy has successfully helped to place students in of Boston’s exam schools, and in many private schools around the area.