Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

Program Opens Doors to Success

Feb. 16, 2017 -- Students in the Heights High Open Doors Academy (ODA) program meet after school for activities that protect, inspire, nurture and challenge them to reach their full potential.

The students, or scholars, were part of the CH-UH middle school ODA program.

The Heights High program, however, is designed for high school students.

Four Heights High Open Doors Academy Scholars: Jemier Johnson, Yidiayah Box, Malik Winfried and Patriana Brandon, (L-R). 

“Our middle school program focuses on academic support and social skills, like how to get along with others and learning about themselves,” said Heights High Site Coordinator Gina Garrett.

“At the high school level, we focus on social responsibility, becoming more independent, exploring options for their future and learning how to access resources. College readiness is a big part of the high school program.”

Nick Poggi is the Assistant Coordinator.

The program runs four days a week in the school’s library where students complete homework, attend tutoring sessions, meet regularly with a mentor to track progress toward short and long term goals, learn self-efficacy skills and participate in ACT preparation.

The day ends with a meal before the scholars head for home. Fridays are devoted to field trips or service learning. Recent field trips included visits to the Maltz Museum, the movie Hidden Figures and Dave and Busters, a game filled restaurant. Recent guest speaker topics were devoted to Social Awareness with information about creating a personal network and an effective resume.

Weekend and summer activities include bus trips to visit colleges, local community service – they are currently collecting bottled water for ODA Middle School sites in Slavic Village. There is also an annual service trip to Kentucky where the group partners with local organizations to repair homes in Appalachia and a similar trip to Honduras.

The program shows significant outcomes. 75% of scholars who are in the ODA in middle school continue the program in high school. 100% of the scholars who have completed three years of middle school programming graduated high school.

ODA alumni attend Harvard, Purdue, Cornell, Ohio State and Columbia and many other schools. The program continues to support alumni after they enter college - with check in phone calls, emails, invitations to alumni dinners during school breaks and encouragement to join the annual service trip.

Several Heights High ODA scholars spoke about the program:

Senior Jemier Johnson says that the ODA has kept him on track and that he would not be where he is today if he had not been in the program – with a 3.5 GPA. The tutors helped him especially with his essay writing skills but the relationships that he has with the ODA staff are like a second set of parents for him. They mentor him and are always checking up to see if he is doing ok and if he needs anything. He plans to attend the University of Cincinnati in the fall, majoring in Business Management.

Junior Yidiayah Box has seen a big jump in her ACT score since attending the prep sessions in ODA. She has found the college tours to be very helpful and with the help of her mentor, is seriously considering Wright State for her college choice. She enjoys the community service aspect of the program and is looking forward to this summer’s service trip in Honduras. One of the most important things about the program for her is the ‘second family’ that she has in ODA. I have friends here and the adults help me get where I need to go. She as a piece of advice for all middle school students: “Join Open Doors. It’s the best!”

Sophomore Malik Winfried feels that one of the best things about the program is that he gets his homework done every day before he goes home. When he gets home ach evening he has time to practice his music and relax. Many of his closest friends are also in the program and he enjoys seeing them. He feels that since he has been in the program he has developed more confidence and become very comfortable in the program. Last summer he was a paid counselor at the ODA summer camp for younger students. A major highlight for him was going to Kentucky last summer to repair roofs and siding on homes of families in need.

Sophomore Jasha Brown has enjoys the college tours, she especially liked seeing the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. She also enjoys mentoring middle school students to encourage them to stay on track.

Sophomore Amber Gemmill appreciates the academic support and the opportunity to set goals and meet with her mentor who reminds her to stay focused.

Freshman Patriana Brandon finds the tutoring to be helpful and likes seeing her friends in the program.

Open Doors Academy began in 2002 as a program for middle school students in a Cleveland Heights church basement and has expanded to include 10 middle schools and three high schools in Cleveland Heights, Euclid and Cleveland. The program serves more than 450 students.

For more information see the Open Doors Academy website.

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