To Help Seniors Succeed, Camelot Education’s Chicago Excel Academy of South Shore Hosted Weekly Facebook Live Meetings
When the coronavirus pandemic forced Camelot Education’s Chicago Excel Academy of South Shore seniors to stay home,
Director of Student Services Tirrell Taylor made sure the switch to distance learning didn’t ruin their graduation plans.
Before the current COVID-19 disruption to students’ daily routine could have a domino effect on their lives after high school, Taylor turned to Facebook Live.
“This is a way for me to stay engaged with all the seniors,” he said.
Taylor led Senior Meetings every Monday at noon since the start of the 2019-2020 school year. The weekly meetings ensured that each senior was taking the incremental, yet necessary steps towards solidifying their post-secondary plans.
Excel Academy of South Shore, part of the Chicago Public Schools’ Options Network, is an accelerated school-of-choice for students, ages 15-21 years old, who have fallen behind in their studies. Students can earn up to 5 credits per semester and 10 credits per year. This allows students to graduate in two and a half years or less. Camelot’s Excel Academies are dedicated to creating a challenging, academically rigorous, and safe environment for all students.
“You can pass all your classes,” he said, “but if you don’t have your post-secondary plan, you cannot walk at graduation.” Taylor added, “It lights a fire under the students and puts accountability on the schools too.”
Every Monday, he raised students’ attention to scholarship, internship and job applications, and gave them assignments.
The students learned how to structure a resume, write emails to professional contacts, and apply for financial aid. It also provided a venue for them to collaborate with classmates who share the same ambitions.
“All those interested in college, or the military or the workforce, they all work together to get their applications done and to share advice,” Taylor said.
When local and state officials issued shelter-in-place orders in March, graduation was just 12 weeks away. Taylor immediately made the switch to virtual Senior Meetings.
“The majority of our students are on Facebook,” he said, explaining staff sought out a smooth transition so the school went where the students already are. “If they have questions, they can shoot us direct messages and parents are able to join too.”
While the methods changed slightly amid the current public health crisis, Taylor said the goal remains the same.
“When our students graduate,” Taylor said, “they have everything in place for a successful transition.”