Benson Middle School student, Tyrique Wright's, favorite football team is "whoever's winning," but a year ago Tyrique couldn't be placed in a winning category at all academically. A "D" student, he had little hope of bringing up his grades until he was selected to participate in SAIL (Students Achieving through Independent Learning). Both SAIL and AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination), at Benson Middle School, are national programs that identify students who need extra encouragement in order to realize their full potential. With the help of SAIL, Tyrique brought up his Language Arts end-of-grade test scores to within three points of the highest achievable score and also boosted his math, science and technology scores. He's looking at college now and would like to play sports when he gets there. "I would like to get a scholarship and maybe go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," he said, "or maybe to Harvard if I study real hard." Benson Middle AVID coordinator Wesley Rich and SAIL site coordinator Lu Ann Gregory both agree that neither program would have flourished without the help of student volunteers from the Campbell University School of Education. "Approximately 26 students spent more than 300 hours tutoring, mentoring and generally helping the middle school students improve their grades," said Rich. "We couldn't have done it without them." Gregory added that the Campbell students built a wonderful rapport with the middle school students and were the main component of their success. "They really worked hard and it showed," she said. An after-school program that runs throughout the school year, SAIL focuses on reading, math, science and technology remediation and enrichment, whereas AVID, which is conducted throughout the day, targets the academic middle. "…The 'C' student who just needs a little extra push or a leg up," explained Rich. Both programs merge in that they share tutors, but neither program teaches by rote, Rich explained. "The programs teach students how to ask themselves the correct questions to glean meaning from texts or other materials," said Rich. "They teach levels of inquiry, judgment, applying principles and evaluation." For example, students are required to examine projects from many different perspectives, using math, writing and other skills. For one of his projects Tyrique Wright chose Pittsburgh Stealers wide receiver Hines Ward. Among other activities, Tyrique wrote a biography of Ward's life, constructed charts using Ward's statistics and presented a Power Point presentation on Ward. "We are very pleased with both programs," said Benson Middle School Principal Barry Honeycutt. "They provide opportunities that students haven't had in the past in terms of giving students a means to getting on the college track and to be successful." Both AVID and SAIL are funded by a federal grant, the 21st Century Learning grant, obtained by Chris Godwin, Middle Grades Coordinator for the Johnston County Schools and adjunct professor at Campbell University. "We've had ongoing collaborations with the Johnston County Schools for many years," said Dr. Karen Nery, dean of the Campbell University School of Education. "This relationship creates positive outcomes for both Campbell and the Johnston County Schools. We're pleased with our association and its results."
Photo Copy: From left, Wesley Rich and Lu Ann Gregory, coordinators of two enrichment programs at Benson Middle School, helped 8th grade student, Tyrique Wright, center, and other students ace end-of-grade tests. (Photo by Shannon Smith)