This is the Year – Todd Derby, Director of Programs

In a few short weeks, Summer Academy will be here. To quote Courtney Wilkins, Center Director for Pittsburgh’s Homewood Achievement Center, “This is the year!”  Yes, this is the year of: optimistic, excitement, hope, growth, learning, and change.

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with a rising 5th grade scholar and his mother at a local library to discuss Higher Achievement’s upcoming Summer Academy. Near the end of the interview, I asked the scholar, “So, what makes you a good student for Higher Achievement?” Without hesitation, he confidently replied, “I like to have fun, I like to learn, and I like to help people.” I’ve been reflecting on this scholar’s words since that day, and little did he know it, but he provided our team with a short, but powerful mantra for the summer: “Have fun. Learn. Help others.” These words will be written on the whiteboard next week our teachers report for training.

In my reflections, I think about this scholar’s upcoming experience at our Homewood Achievement Center. Having fun: new friends, science experiments, wave pools, art projects, math games, print making, and sports. Learning: writing social justice themed essays within our new “One World” ELA curriculum, mock trials, STEM workshops, and college visits. Helping others: service projects, peer-to-peer learning, and teamwork through field games and the quiz bowl at “Olympics of the Mind.”

I am also hopeful about this young man’s experience after he leaves Higher Achievement when he becomes a high school student, college student, and college graduate. Maybe, one day, this young man will serve as a Higher Achievement mentor, teacher, or even Director of Programs. My hope is that he puts his “mantra” into action at Higher Achievement, within his community, and that he inspires others to do the same.

Higher Achievement’s Summer Academy runs Monday through Friday from June 25 through August 3.  The Homewood and Hill District Achievement Centers will be hosted at Pittsburgh Sterrett, and the West End Achievement Center will be hosted at Westwood Elementary. For more information, contact Todd Derby 412-206-2967.