Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Our kids couldn't read."

I recommend: "Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School that Beat the Odds."

This is a book on my high school, the very school that brought my dreams to life. The strict dress code, 9-5 school hours, tutorial sessions, and college readiness classes are only portions of the school's criterion in comparsion to the school's tremendous success. Located in the heart of downtown, San Jose—Downtown College Preparatory Charter High School (DCP) seeks to reach out to one target audience—the neglected urban minority students from low-income neighborhoods. And the mission is clear: to prepare those students not only for college but to thrive while in college.

Many DCP students arrive with a reading and math skills below average and the school's primary objective is to teach them above and beyond that. An interesting chapter that I came across while reading was our founders, Jennifer Andaluz and Greg Lippman, reflecting 4 years later, "Our kids couldn't read." It was a hard look at reality. But that didn't stop them and this means starting at the very basics. "We didn't understand how time-consuming remediation is. We are going to require all juniors and seniors to take AP classes. But by not having remediation in place at the beginning, we set them up for failure," says Andaluz.

Another interesting chapter is "The Shortest Basketball Team in America". I take personal pride in this chapter because the story is about my first year on the basketball team. Renaming my name to "Neary", the story follows my basketball team into an exciting basketball season and the game against EPA. However, the upset lost against them wasn't the moral of the story. What drew everyone's attention was our "Uncommon Hoop Dreams"—another story about our boy's team. On the basketball team, or any sport teams for that matter, we are "student-athletes". Student comes before athlete. This emphasize to put education at the fore-front is key. It inspired me to work harder so I can do what I love. This means maintaining above 3.5 GPA every semester, every year.

Looking beyond this, the motivation behind this basketball team drove us to many victories later in the season. After 3 years as a beginner team, we finally landed a spot at CCS (central coast section) in division 5. I remember so many years ago, my coach (also then Principal/co-founder, Greg Lippman) telling us, "Go out there, do your best, shoot the ball! I don't care if we miss a thousand shots or lose by a million points, we're all going to college!" And I remember sarcastically thinking, "Wow coach, way to motivate us." Well, he was right. In 2004, DCP graduated its first graduating class, sending 100% of their graduates to 4-year colleges or universities. And the tradition followed each year after that…2005, 2006, 2007…

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