(Image courtesy Nellie Mae Education Foundation)
Beatriz McConnie Zapater, the head of the Boston Day and Evening Academy, an alternative charter high school, was recently honored by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation with a $100,000 grant to the school.
The grant was part of foundation’s Lawrence W. O’Toole Leadership Award, given annually to recognize leadership and innovation in student-centered practices throughout New England.
“Beatriz has worked tirelessly to promote student-centered learning approaches at BDEA, developing and improving models of practice that work for non-traditional students,” Nicholas Donohue, president and CEO of the foundation said in a statement. “She has created a culture of high, positive expectations for all, working to promote equity and close the achievement gap for some of the most underserved students in Boston.”
The Roxbury based school will use the money to improve its curriculum and take what is learned at the school and expand it to classrooms throughout Boston and the country.
“We work with students who haven’t experienced success in other schools, failure is not an option here,” said Zapater. “For our students it means we can do more and build capacity to create student-centered education.”
With close to 370 students at the school that range in age from 16 – 23, Zapatersaid concentrating on what the students see as important and productive is one of the main components.
“We’re small and we’re focused on the mission of our students,” said Zapater. “We have a collaborative staff and we really listen to our students. A student [here] is able to tell you what they are learning, what they are working on, and what they need.”
From working individually with students to shape an academic path, pushing for success in all subjects, and providing alternative hours, the Horace Mann Charter School has seen success with students who want more than a GED.
With 80 percent of the students graduating in three-years or less, according to Zapater, she believes the success centers on encouraging collaboration and pushing students to share the responsibility for their success.
“I really believe that decisions need to be made and I can’t make all of them,” said Zapater. “I involve people who are smart, creative, and really know students.”
Now with the money Zapater will be able to share those practices with others, during the schools second-annual summer summit. The first one was held in 2011 and brought together educators from across the country to brainstorm on how to better serve their students and create success for youth who may not have found success in the past.
“It’s a personalized program and we don’t give up on them,” said Zapater. “They made the decision they want a high school diploma and want to accomplish something and we’re here to help.”