May 24, 2019, San Jose, California: Moreland Middle School’s (MMS) Academic Empowerment Program has just been named the 2019 Goldin Foundation of Educational Excellence Exemplary Project, a distinguished honor that includes a monetary award of $5,000 that will go toward program needs. Founded by former Moreland parent volunteer, Amy Bencomo, and MMS’ Assistant Principal Hilary Gill, the Academic Empowerment Program is in its fourth year.
Academic Empowerment matches adult volunteer mentors to middle school students who have a 2.0 or lower GPA with the goal of giving students struggling in school the tools necessary to become better learners. This program has successfully achieved this goal year after year by mobilizing parents and community members to serve as volunteer academic mentors for at-risk students in 6th - 8th grade. Approximately 20-25 students per year choose to participate in this one-on-one opportunity.
Academic Empowerment is currently in its fourth year of providing students the tools and confidence to achieve beyond the classroom. The program started as a means to support students who didn’t qualify for any special program services, such as Special Education or Reading Intervention support, but who were failing classes and needed to learn how to organize, communicate with teachers, and advocate for themselves.
Over the four-year life of Academic Empowerment, almost 100 students have increased their academic performance, built a positive attitude toward school and developed critical mentor/mentee relationships to better develop their ability to achieve as they move on to high school. Below is a chart of the increase in attendance and grades for participating students:
“Many students need help with basics like organization of backpacks as well as planning weekly schedules, most need someone to listen so they feel supported, others need help with math
homework, science, or other subjects. Thanks to a devoted group of caring adults on our campus, we are able to reach out to these students in need.” said Vickie Miyaoka, Academic Empowerment’s volunteer lead organizer and mentor to four students. “A significant element of the program is that we work with students to create at least one overarching empowering habit that will impact their whole school experience, not just one class."
The Goldin Foundation for Excellence in Education Exemplary Projects Awards are designed to recognize excellence, expertise, and demonstrable achievement in education. These recognition awards to projects of excellence are awarded to programs that have the potential for replication and/or adaptation.
Moreland has had several individuals honored as Goldin Foundation for Excellence in Education educators in the past, including Director of Educational Services Theresa Molinelli (then Principal of Payne Elementary School), Assistant Principal Chelsea Armann (then teacher at Moreland Middle School), Latimer Middle School Teacher Wendy Johnson, and Moreland Preschool Teacher Susie Morales.