Article courtesy of ALLIE RAE MAUSER of the Daily Dispatch
In a school where success is cultivated through character, accountability for one’s actions has become well recognized by students.
At Henderson Collegiate, building character is a priority, and success on an academic level is something that has naturally followed.
Eric and Carice Sanchez founded the school three years ago with 100 fourth graders. Since that time they’ve added a grade and 100 more students annually.
The school is now fourth through sixth grade, but plans to continue growing at the same rate until reaching the twelfth grade.
“I would tell you this school was created for three purposes,” Eric said.
First and foremost to help students become better people, second to get them to college, and third to empower them with those academic and character skills that are going to be necessary for them to change the world, to be world problem solvers.”
Henderson Collegiate is a college prep school, where staff constantly remind students of the opportunities they have to achieve a higher level of education.
“I want to go to Princeton University,” said Cliff High, a sixth grader. “I’ve heard college is the greatest opportunity to really learn and experience stuff without having your parents help you. You get to be by yourself and really understand things on your own.”
Students at Henderson Collegiate all believe in being part of the same pride, where everyone is treated with respect.
“To be part of a pride it means you really love and care about each other genuinely and sincerely,” High said. “It’s not like a normal school where you’re kind of friendly and then say mean things behind peoples back. We really care about each other.”
Creating such a profound sense of community throughout the school is what enables students to focus on learning when they’re in the classroom.
“The kids feel safe, they know they can take risks and feel comfortable,” Carice said. “Once you have that in place the sky’s the limit as far as what they’re capable of achieving academically.”
Brianna Sulyans is a sixth grade student who says she’s not picked on like she used to be at her old school.
“I feel safe because at my old school a lot of people used to pick on me cause I’m small,” Sulyans said. “I don’t have to worry about that here, I’ve had no comments.”
With a new sense of security, Sulyans has become more comfortable with herself, allowing her to concentrate on learning.
“I do think I’ve learned a lot,” said Sulyans, “I learned how it’s important to be nice to people and how you shouldn’t act like people you see in the streets, even if you grew up around them.”
Statistics produced by students that have been with Henderson Collegiate for three years depict a school that has cultivated talent by first creating a culture of success.
“We create success through the cues that students receive which informs their subconscious of how to be great students,” said Eric, as he walked through the halls pointing to the numerous wall hangings.
Posters throughout the school depict books the students have read, graded work that teachers consider to be outstanding, and picture collages of students on trips given as rewards for being academically successful.
“Cues of team and family, cues of achievement, cues of earning things, literacy is always going to be everywhere,” Eric said.
Percentages of students at or above proficiency increased exponentially for sixth grade students over a three-year span.
“Reading I think is the key lever in anything and its one of the biggest struggles across the country, to get kids to read better,” Eric said. “When we look at this data, seeing them start at 46 percent in the first year, significantly below the state and county, and then after one year — just one year — surpassing both of them. We believe it is a testament to the program that we’ve created here.”
During their second year at Henderson Collegiate, 77 percent of sixth grade students were at or above proficiency, achieving a level three or four on their end of grade testing. After two years, scores were significantly higher at 87.9 percent.
“When they come into the classroom they’re focused on learning because they know they have that safe environment,” Carice said. “We understand character is what drives everything so we make it a priority. It’s on the front of our minds, it’s number one at this school.”