“Higher Achievement holds a special place in my heart because of the people,” says 8th grade scholar Zander. Starting both middle school and Higher Achievement in 6th grade was a big adjustment for Zander, and at first she didn’t know many people. Now, she feels a deep sense of community at Higher Achievement and counts a peer from Higher Achievement among her best friends.
Higher Achievement facilitates lifelong connections through community meetings, field trips, academic enrichment, weekly mentoring, and engaging electives. In particular, Higher Achievement’s “Love Out Loud” poetry showcase caught Zander’s attention. “Poetry really touches my heart,” says Zander. Last spring, she performed her poem alongside scholars from across Baltimore and got to know others in the Higher Achievement community.
“Everyone I’ve met here, at all of the Achievement Centers, is unique and everyone in the program is so expressive. Ten years from now, everyone in the program will be successful that’s why I love it – it sets you up to be successful.”
Zander is already setting herself up for academic success through her hard work and dedication, alongside the support of Higher Achievement. “Prepping for high school has been really intense, but I believe in myself and I’m so proud of my composite score,” says Zander. At Higher Achievement, Zander has the support of her mentor, Ms. Faison, to talk through preparations for high school, and has the opportunity for homework assistance that helps her tackle the challenges of Algebra 1. The obstacles that come with the middle school years aren’t keeping Zander down. “Even the people and situations I don’t like help me build myself up. They empower me to keep working and doing what I’m doing.”
As she looks to her options for high school next fall, Zander’s academic accomplishments that make up her high composite score will help her get into the high school of her choosing. She is already eagerly anticipating the activities and opportunities her top choice high school, Baltimore City College, has to offer. “I’m looking forward to success in high school. Also, good teachers, and fun and interactive classes.” Her love of the arts grew during her time at Arts for Learning Maryland’s Summer Arts for Learning Academy and she hopes to pursue extracurriculars in addition to academics. “I love to write, and besides writing poetry I like basketball, theater, singing, and playing violin,” says Zander.
Zander thinks back to just after her 5th-grade year when she was woken up early for her Higher Achievement interview. “I was so tired!” she remembers with a laugh. “But if I could go back and talk to my former self that morning, I would say, ‘The program you’re about to be entering is good. You’ll love the people, the mentoring–everything–from start to finish!’ Now that I’m in 8th grade I’m sad to be leaving the program. I have such a good connection and I love it.”