Dream Catchers

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    Golightly Education Center supports students’ goals, dreams and aspirations 

    Student aspiration is a critical dimension in effective schools and something that the educators at Golightly Education Center strive to support in classrooms every day. Evidence that the focus is working is reflected in the school’s 93 percent attendance rate and the fact that its test scores remain solid and consistent.

    When Dr. Sherrell Hobbs, principal of Golightly Education Center starts talking quickly about a dissertation in the halls of her Midtown school, she likely is not talking about her own doctoral thesis, but instead one of the hundreds of dissertations that she requires from her students.

    Golightly’s mini-dissertation, which in an in-depth writing exercise on a lesson, is just one of the many tools Hobbs uses to create a col- lege bound culture and a collegiate mindset among students and staff, pushing her 504 “scholars” to excel.

    “When children come here, they find themselves learning what their goals, dreams and aspirations are because we help them be creative in their own choices,” Hobbs said.

    Golightly Education Center, an application school which also accepts a percentage of students from its immediate neighborhood in Midtown, has a storied history of innovating educational practices. Originally named Balch School, Golightly was the first city elementary school built to use the “platoon teaching system” and attracted observers from around the world.

    Platooning is a model in which elementary students leave their homeroom to be taught by teachers in their area of subject expertise instead of staying with one teacher all day who teaches all subjects, as is typical in many elementary schools.

    Now, parents seek out the Golightly because their children, many of whom are high-achievers, have dreams to become doctors, engineers or other professionals, and Golightly overflows with different programs to help them pursue these dreams, Hobbs said. Programs include Accelerated Reading, National Beta Club, National Honor Society and Doctors Inc. (Distinguished Responsible Scholars who Initiate a Need for Change), honors classes for the highest- achievers in which students are encouraged to pursue their career aspirations through hands-on learning and projects sponsored in part by local professionals and business owners.

    Heavy writing assignments, like dissertations, are incorporated into practically every lesson. If a student goes on a field trip, they come back and write about it. At the end of each lesson, they write about what they’ve learned. And they are taught, just as they would experience in college or a career, that writing is a process, Hobbs said. That’s means that they are encouraged to write drafts, edit them and rewrite them before their final, “published” product.

    Demographics Do Not Define A Child’s Destiny

    The school’s culture of high expectations was on display recently in the Honors Math Class, in which the 20-plus students, girls and boys alike, were wearing deep navy sport coats emblazoned with a gold embroidered Golightly Education Center logo. Golightly’s administrators work hard to keep its high-achieving students motivated.

    To accommodate the accelerated students, teachers must alter their individual curriculum and lesson plans to incorporate more advanced learning, said Social Studies Teacher Candice Petross, who teaches fifth/sixth grade English Language Arts. For instance, her honors students took a lesson on Ancient Egypt to the next level through hands-on projects in the construction of pyramids.

    One student designed and crafted a pyramid of gold-colored sugar cubes. Science lessons come alive! In the spring, students harvested vegetables in their outside garden boxes and then used the plants in the winter to create healthy snacks, like seasoned baked kale, in the school’s kitchen. Bringing all Scholars to the Next Level “Our motto is that demographics do not define a child’s destiny,” Hobbs said.

    “Whether you have a 1.0 or 4.0, you can find your place at Golightly. We aim to bring the scholar out in every child.” Though high expectations are a mandate at Golightly, Hobbs and her staff are also committed to ensuring a child’s success and that also means working with children who struggle to meet the school’s demands. “What makes Golightly special is the commitment of staff, our administrators, the people who work with kids hourly, the custodial staff and the lunchroom staff,” Petross said. “It’s a family-committed environment. No matter what their role is, the goal is the same in that we want the kids to do well.”

    If a child is struggling, Hobbs and her team employ a four-tiered disciplinary process to work with the student and parent, starting with the teacher, students and parent, then the counselor, followed by the Assistant Principal and finally, Hobbs herself. “Even when we are disciplining, we use a systematic model of support,” she said.

    Its systemic method also includes using every resource at its disposal and exploiting it for the benefit of all students. Community and university partnerships abound at the school, including those with Michigan State University, Detroit Renewable Energy, Wayne State University, University of Michigan, Action Photo, Hartford Memorial Church, law firms and more. Thanks to Target Corp. volunteers and the Heart of America Foundation, the school has a bright, cheery newly-renovated library stacked with more than 2,000 books, eco-friendly design features, technological upgrades including iPads, and colorful new furniture, shelving and carpet.
    To meet the needs and goals of all children, the school also offers a wide range of extra-curricular activities like volleyball and football.

    Teaching children “holistically” is a core dictum at the school, Hobbs said, in order to help every child attain their goals, and she credits her excellent, staff, partners and parents for making that happen. “Each One to Reach One,” Hobbs said. “That’s our motto”

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