Salisbury students work with Knox middle schoolers to ease transition to high school
SALISBURY – Students from Salisbury High School sat across the table from peers just a few years younger at Knox Middle on Tuesday morning, getting to know each other while eating a hot breakfast.
It was the beginning of a friendship that officials at both schools hope will make the transition to high school a bit easier.
Students from Salisbury’s IMPACT and PEARLS mentoring groups will travel to Knox every Tuesday and Thursday after school to provide tutoring and conduct book studies.
IMPACT, an all-male group started this year, stands for inspiring males, promoting achievement, character and trust. PEARLS stands for positive, educated, respectful ladies.
“We’re going to do our best to encourage and help them in any way possible,” said senior Patrick Jones. “We want them to know they don’t have to be part of a gang or particular group to be accepted.”
The Salisbury students will work with a total of 32 students from Knox who need a boost academically and socially.
“Our biggest thing is student achievement,” Salisbury Principal Dr. Avis Williams said. “Oftentimes, high school teachers look at middle school students coming in and find a gap academically. We want to work with Knox to fill some of that void and also let them know what it takes to be successful in high school.”
The idea for the partnership between the two schools came from Salisbury sophomores Ronald Robison and DeLondon Hamilton, who asked at the end of their freshman year what they could do to make sure their peers were more prepared.
“When we came to high school, we weren’t ready,”Robison said. “We had problems understanding the work, and I know that’s a struggle for freshman who are here now.
“We decided to do something together, so that when they do come to high school they will understand what the teachers and administrators will expect of them.”
Hamilton, president of IMPACT, said moving on to high school was a big transition for him.
“I’m glad we get to help these students so that it will be easier for them,” he said.
Knox Principal Terrence Snider said he’s excited about the program, which is being called Moving Beyond Everyday Expectations.
“It will give them a better perception about what’s coming and how they need to improve in terms of grades and behavior,” he said. “We’re building a bridge to the next level.”
Snider said it’s good to have a program with students helping students.
“They know each other, so it means a lot,” he said.
Beyond academics, Salisbury Assistant Principal Chris McNeil, an IMPACT adviser, said he hopes the students can build lasting friendships.
“We want to make sure the transitional piece is successful, but we also hope to form positive relationships,” he said.
Salisbury teacher Scott Maddox, who also serves as an adviser to IMPACT, said the program is proactive, instead of the typical reactive approach.
“We are trying to get out in the community and be positive,” he said. “This is a chance to give these kids someone to identify with so they realize there are people who care about them.”
Maddox said what’s most impressive is that the students who are part of IMPACT aren’t necessarily the ones who make straight A’s or run for class president, they are people the Knox students can actually identify with.
“These are students who decided they want something more out of themselves in life,” he said. “They are working to become a success story.”
Williams said she’s proud of those who stepped up to the plate.
“I think it’s so powerful to have young people who are taking the lead,” she said. “And not just being a leader in our school, but reaching out to the community.”
Williams said the tutoring and book studies are just the tip of the iceberg. The schools are also planning to host a series of parent information sessions on Saturdays.
“We’re looking forward to working with parents to help get them engaged and stay engaged,” she said. “At the elementary level, they are very involved, but when they get to high school that parent involvement drops off.”
Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church and Livingstone College will also join the partnership in the future, Williams said.
“We really want to make this a community effort so that neither school has to stand alone,” she said. “The success of all of our students is going to have a great impact on the community as a whole.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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