Spartan Academy Students Raise $600 for Local Children’s Hospital with Innovative Student Achievement Program

 In Camelot Blog

Social studies teacher Cynthia Sweet posed a hypothetical question to her Spartan Academy students in the fall: What would you do if you suddenly came upon $1 million? Student after student responded they would use the money to help people in need.

Pictured (from l to r): Mrs. Cynthia Sweet, Jy’nya Pryor, Scottasia Smalls, Mr. Eric A. Martin Jr., Ms. McKenna Underwood, Day’von Bryant, and Mr. Johnny Patrick. The students are all members of our student government. (Photo by ciera.anai)

This got Sweet and student government leaders thinking: How can we help our community in a time of need? As student leaders thought through different options, they arrived at one they could not turn away: helping Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University’s MCV campus. The students felt a personal connection with the hospital, in many cases having been served there themselves over the course of their lives.

“Growing up in the area, we felt an obvious connection to the children’s hospital,” student leader Dayvon Bryant said of the decision to raise money for the hospital over a three-week period.

To raise the funds, Sweet designed and student leaders promoted an innovative new incentive system. Students would receive benchmarks for attendance, academic module completion and physical education goals. If a student had perfect attendance over a two-week span, community donors would reward the accomplishment with a $5 contribution to the children’s hospital fund. If a student completed an afternoon physical education requirement, donors would contribute $10 to the fundraiser. Completion of a summer module earned kids a $15 donation to the fund. Many students racked up multiple such accomplishments to increase the amount donated.

All 120 students in the high school embraced the program. Student leaders Bryant, 9th-grader Jynya Pryor and 10th-grader Scottasia Scott – each part of student government – played a key role in motivating their classmates to meet the challenge.

For Pryor, the key to motivating classmates was positive reinforcement. “At our townhouse in the morning, I called on people to offer praise and enthusiasm,” Pryor said. “My peers are up to anything. You put something in front of them, they will do it. Support and care from staff also motivated everyone to meet the challenge.”

Pryor particularly appreciated that the challenge was made to be fun for her classmates. “They made it into something enjoyable. Everybody likes to earn money. My first feeling was, ‘We’re going to do this, we will give greatness and help people smile and be happy.’”

When Scott learned about the opportunity, she was excited to help people feel good about themselves by giving back to the community while accomplishing academic goals at the same time.

Bryant led by example. “When student leaders take positive actions, it becomes an ‘I do, you do’ kind of thing.”

Camelot Education’s Spartan Academy is a transitional program in partnership with Richmond Public Schools (RPS) in Virginia. Spartan Academy serves RPS high school students who were referred by the district for significant behavioral challenges and often risk not matriculating, or not graduating on time or at all.

“I am so proud of our students,” said Sweet. “They are kids that are full of light and hope and they exuded that throughout this effort.”

Last week, Bryant, Pryor and Scott joined Sweet and executive director Eric Martin to present the check outside the hospital’s facilities. Pryor said the moment was emotional. “It was so exciting to be there and present that check,” she said. “At that moment we knew that we did some good for those who need it.”

“It was truly a heartfelt moment,” Martin said. “You saw the smiles of the students, and the appreciation of the hospital staff member. Moments like those inspire our students and staff to continuously impact our community in positive ways.”

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