Roosevelt students focused on goals in RPS 205

Roosevelt students march during graduation ceremonies last spring.

Skye Nichols wrote a letter of advice to underclassmen that appeared in Roosevelt Community Education Center’s student blog last year. She said she wished someone would have given her a checklist of dos and don’ts in school.

Roosevelt Principal Morgan Gallagher must have been listening.

His advice for Roosevelt students on the first day of the 2018-19 school year was blunt and unmistakable. “It’s real simple,” he told students gathered in Roosevelt’s auditorium. “You just need to show up and you need to do the work.”

If the advice was simple, Roosevelt students’ lives can be complicated. Some have children of their own. Some have gotten off-track in their school careers. Some have to work to support their families and can’t follow a traditional high school schedule.

A traditional high school schedule requires that students complete 14 credits a year. At Roosevelt, students must complete six credits every 90 days they are enrolled. And they must have 90 percent attendance, which translates into only one absence every other week.

Gallagher explained to the students what is and is not allowed. “If you have a job interview, that’s an excused absence. If your car breaks down on the way to school, that stinks. I’m sorry for you, but that is not excused.”

In spite of roadblocks that life can put in the way, 40 students at Roosevelt earned more than 20 credits last year—a workload that’s nearly 43 percent greater than traditional high school students at Rockford Public Schools. About 200 students at Roosevelt reached their goal and graduated last school year. Skye Nichols has only nine credits to go before she graduates.

Perhaps because of the obstacles Roosevelt students can face, the connection between students and staff is remarkable. In the most recent 5Essentials survey distributed to all Illinois public schools, 99 percent of Roosevelt students reported trust in their teachers and 97 percent of staff reported a commitment to their school.

The next assignment for Roosevelt is to get more students focused on continuing their education beyond graduation.

Jordi Sanchez doesn’t need any convincing. He’s only seven credits from graduation, and would like to pursue a two-year degree at Rock Valley College. A member of Roosevelt’s Engineering, Manufacturing, Industrial and Trades Technology (EMITT) academy, Jordi would like to study a construction-related field at RVC.

At Roosevelt, he will have a lot of support to reach his goal. Principal Gallagher emphasized the help in his first-day message.  “Whatever adversity or challenges you face,” he told students, “you will be successful here.”

Students learn the lesson well. As Skye Nichols advised Roosevelt underclassmen in her blog post:  “Every person has the ability to be whoever and whatever they want to be.

“One day, you will be standing here too, on your own two feet, stronger than before.”

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.