No one in Dashon Stockett’s family ever went to college, so Stockett, a seventh grader at Chapel Hill 7th and 8th Grade Center, felt proud when he earned a place in the National Junior Honor Society, a nationwide organization that honors middle schoolers for academic achievement and leadership skills. Stockett’s family believes such a prestigious honor will help him get into a good college.
“I was just really surprised that I got accepted,” Stockett said. “… So I went to go to tell my family members, my mom, my dad, my brother and my cousins, and they were all happy for me.”
Stockett is one of 216 Chapel Hill seventh graders who entered the National Junior Honor Society this year, a record amount for the school. During the previous school year, 155 students entered National Junior Honor Society. The increase is a result of Chapel Hill’s new goal of every student becoming a member of the society. To ensure more students can reach the academic requirement of a minimum 3.0 grade-point average, Chapel Hill employed an academic strategy that developed organizational skills and increased communication between students, parents and faculty.
Helping students with organizational skills was a key focal point of the strategy. According to Kelin Mark, Chapel Hill’s assistant principal who will become the principal next school year, disorganization is middle schoolers’ largest barrier to academic success. While disorganized students can still accomplish the demands of elementary school, middle school requires time management and the ability to juggle multiple assignments.
“They are now switching classes,” Mark said. “They are now having more activities compared to an elementary school. In middle school, you can go to an art club, you can go to a school dance, you can play a sport, so their time is being pulled at more.”
In order to help students stay organized and able to handle multiple time commitments, Chapel Hill held monthly student workshops that taught skills such as cleaning out binders.
In addition, every school day at Chapel Hill begins with a homeroom class where teachers can help students schedule their week, talk about missing work and create a plan to finish and turn in those assignments.
“I think this gives the students that sense of accountability to say, … if you have a missing assignment, what’s your plan?” math teacher Jas’minique Potter said. “Is your plan to do it today? Is your plan to do it over the weekend?”
Students also can receive tutoring from teachers before and after school. This year more teachers from Chapel Hill volunteered for tutoring sessions.
“The amount of students we consistently had for the after school tutoring was probably larger than in the past,” Cherie Sanders, a guidance counselor, said. “… And I think we did the tutoring this year a little bit better. Teachers were more active.”
Chapel Hill also increased communication with parents through bimonthly parent education sessions. Topics included how to help students with homework, create a home library, use the school’s online resource to track grades and more.
Mark aims to break Chapel Hill’s National Junior Honor Society record next year and each subsequent year until every student is in the society and has a 3.5 GPA or higher. Mark plans to implement new strategies such as posting online parent education sessions, which will be available on YouTube, and a mentoring program where eighth graders will advise seventh graders. For example, next year Stockett plans on teaching new students the layout of Chapel Hill because it’s a large building that’s easy to get lost in.
“When I go to eighth grade, I would like to try and do my best to help every seventh grader to get in the National Junior Honor Society too,” Stockett said.
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.