‘CHAMPIONS’ for Students at Broome Street Academy
An Interview with Dr. Barbara McKeon
JULY 26, 2016
BY: GREGORY PICARD, HARVARD UNIVERSITY FELLOW, MENTOR: THE NATIONAL MENTORING PARTNERSHIP
Broome Street Academy in New York, NY is not your typical high school. As Head of School, Dr. Barbara McKeon shares that the school’s mission is to “serve children who are homeless, in foster care, or have been involved in the welfare system.” The vast majority of Broome Street Academy’s student body comes from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and faces significant life barriers that can be linked to negative life outcomes. What makes Broome Street Academy so special is that over eighty percent of the students who attend this charter high school go to college, a surprising figure considering these factors.
How does Broome Street Academy promote these results? Dr. McKeon believes that the school’s mentoring program, the CHAMPION Model©, is largely to credit. She states that a major challenge she and other school staff faced in their work with students were students’ feelings of mistrust toward authority figures, as well as students struggling to believe in themselves. “To attempt to alleviate some of these problems, we developed what is now the DNA of our school, the CHAMPION Model©, where we paired every staff member with a group of students to develop relationships and build skills around problem solving, self-advocacy and self-efficacy. This is not a traditional advisory program that meets once a day for a prescribed period or amount of time, but rather a vehicle for creating legitimate relationships between the staff and students,” Dr. McKeon shares. Sure enough, after the program was implemented at the school, attendance increased, academic performance improved, and even the school’s boys and girls basketball teams won their local championship. The program was so successful that Broome Street Academy has now rolled out a peer mentoring program called Student CHAMPS©, where juniors in the school are paired with two freshmen. Every Friday in the school is “CHAMPION FRIDAY,” where students and staff wear their CHAMPION shirts to show their unity through this mentoring program.
When hypothesizing about what makes Broome Street Academy’s mentoring program so special, Dr. McKeon believes that “it is built on developing trust and respect and that the entire community embraces it. It is not an isolated program, it is the DNA of our school. Young adults need to know that someone believes in them and is a constant in order for trust to build. A good mentoring relationship comes from mutual respect.” Furthermore, she states that the program “can’t just be a piece of something - the ‘CHAMPION’ has to be a large part of the young person’s life.”
Broome Street Academy provides an example of how intensive school-based mentoring can change the culture of a school, and shape its outcomes, particularly with regard to college access. What are the most important elements of a successful school-based mentoring program from your work? Post a comment here and share your experiences.