Isabella Dominique, Higher Achievement Program

My name is Isabella Dominique and I am a freshman at American University. I am currently majoring in CLEG (communications, law, economics, government), but I’d also like to double major in Political Science and minor in German. I am connecting my CSLP credit to my Introduction to CLEG class. I felt this was the most fitting of choices because we are exploring the avenues of America’s education system, as well as the logistics of free college. My knowledge gained from DC Reads would apply well to the content I am learning in Introduction to CLEG.

I volunteer at the Higher Achievement site for DC Reads. Higher Achievement is program that is offered from 6-8pm on select weekday nights. Scholars from grades five through eight are welcome to attend. Each night, we are given a curriculum that supplements what the scholars have already learned during their normal school hours. However, we teach them different ways to better retain that information and apply it to their own lives. As a volunteer, I form bonds with my scholars and I ensure that they are actually learning all the curriculum asks of them. Since the groups of scholars are generally small, it’s easier to make sure every student is confident with what they are learning.

I have been most surprised by the sheer eagerness of the scholars that attend Higher Achievement. Before I had ever gone to site, I was expecting the scholars to be less excited about spending more time after their normal school days to only do more school. However, these students do an excellent job at being kind, courteous, and passionate about becoming more knowledgeable. It makes the experience for both parties (mentor and mentee) much more enjoyable. This also works to create a strong bond between both the mentors and their scholars.

In my Introduction to CLEG class, my professor encourages us to not only find the flaws in our education system, but also how we can better fix them. She happens to be one of the individuals who helps create the social studies curriculum for the scholars. The connections are clear. Many of these students come into Higher Achievement eager; however, it’s clear that perhaps their teacher to student ratio is far too high for them to be able to succeed to the best of their abilities. Additionally, the eighth graders that attend HA are working on applications for special placement into D.C.’s top high schools. Much like the way college has systematic restricted access to minorities and poor students, private high school placement is likely just as difficult for these students to obtain. This ultimately works as a greater barrier for these students to have access to college when the time comes. In my CLEG class, we are encouraged to see how free college isn’t necessarily the right answer. Legislators must begin by evaluating these students from the beginning, which is something I’ve been able to achieve by volunteering with Higher Achievement.


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