Reinventing high school for a changing world

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There are tons of great charter schools in New York and Connecticut going above and beyond for their students. This means staving off the summer slide, either with an extended year or a robust program to keep their students engaged in these summer months. Vertus Charter School in Rochester is exploring new ways to engage their students with year-round instruction.

If this year’s New York State test results told us one thing, it’s that Rochester families still desperately need more high-quality school options (read: the results for the city schools were abysmal once again).

For young men in high school, Vertus Charter School is seeking to be that quality option by providing year-round instruction to constantly keep students engaged.

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Vertus co-founder Perry White spoke about the importance of having an extended year, saying, “Many of our students generally come in years behind in reading and math. If we didn’t have a summer program, we’d be taking September and October to re-teach. Working year-round allows us to move the boys forward, and catch them up so they can graduate on time.”

One of the core missions of Vertus is to prepare students for college and good jobs after they graduate. As part of this summer quarter, Vertus students are broadening their horizons academically, and doing some incredible work that can provide a pathway to employment beyond the classroom.

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Part of that is through Vertus’ Maker Space, where a group of students use 3D printers to make prosthetic hands for children, the school’s second year doing this. The students do this as part of the e-NABLE Project, founded by Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Professor Dr. John Schull. The e-NABLE Project makes prosthetic arms and hands for people all over the world. A partnership with RIT allows an engineering student to come in and work with Vertus scholars on making the hands. The program is part of an amazing cause and aligns perfectly with Vertus’ program.

White said, “Our school’s curriculum puts a focus on either health care, IT or manufacturing. We want our students to be exposed to interesting technology and this program hits the trifecta. They learn about birth defects, work with software and 3D modeling, and manufacture the hands.”

The school has also partnered with Monroe Community College (MCC) to allow students to take dual credit courses this fall – getting credit for both high school and college. Some of the students in the e-NABLE program will be taking an introduction to machining course at MCC, and students can get college credit in a math for machinists course at Vertus as well.

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The summer work also includes a partnership with SUNY Brockport for a reading tutor program. For the second year, graduate students at Brockport are spending five weeks tutoring Vertus students. This provides students one-on-one attention they need to really improve their reading and writing, and also brings students and teachers closer together.

“It is a wonderful program,” White said. “Segregation is such an issue in Rochester. With this program you have people, mainly from the suburbs, who are teachers getting their masters, really getting to know our students and vice versa. And there is a rigorous curriculum that helps our students make some great gains with the support of a caring relationship.”

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With such a broken, struggling school system in Rochester, Vertus is showing young men that they can succeed. Providing these constant opportunities for growth and learning is essential in changing their mindsets about what they can be and do.

White said, “A lot of our students are unware of the opportunities that are available to them with a great education. At Vertus we give them a chance to discover their interests and talents, and see pathways to continue to develop.

“We really aspire to reinvent high school based on what opportunities are available in a changing world, and based on what our students need.”

Joe was the Deputy Communications Director for New York for the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
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Vertus Charter School is reinventing high school for Rochester students!
Reinventing high school for a changing world
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