This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Hannah Grossman, COL ’16

This summer, I spent time at two non profit organizations, New Leaders in New York City and Springboard Collaborative in Philadelphia, which are devoted to closing the achievement gap in our schools. New Leaders develops educators across the country into effective school leaders by helping them create a vision of student success that engages the whole staff. Springboard Collaborative sets up a reading program for inner city elementary students.

My jobs at the two organizations varied greatly. At New Leaders, I assisted in moving a handbook for school leaders towards publication. The book outlines the organization’s leadership development framework, making it an accessible tool for schools across the country. As I helped collect data on student progress and spoke with some of the leaders who had worked with the organization, I was inspired by the clear and positive impact New Leaders was making; it could be seen through both the numbers and personal feedback.

It was through my internship with Springboard Collaborative that I was able to see positive results come to life. As an Operations Lead intern, based within Belmont Charter School in West Philadelphia, I was responsible—along with a school leader and eight of Belmont’s teachers—to implement Springboard’s reading program for Pre-K through 2nd grade students. The program served as a reading day camp for these students, many of whom were required to attend summer school in order to move on to the next grade. The Springboard model also coaches teachers, trains family members, and incentivizes learning in order to ensure reading success for each student. Every Wednesday, a parent or guardian attended a workshop with their Springboard scholar. Each workshop supplied them with a tool or strategy to use when reading with their child at home, ranging from asking questions before starting a book to reading like a storyteller. Springboard’s goal, through daily instruction and weekly workshops, was to transform a six week period in the summer that is usually characterized by reading loss into an opportunity for reading gain. The results were clear: the majority of these students demonstrated a three-month reading gain, allowing them to move forward in school more confident than they had left off in June. For many families, it introduced home as a new learning space for their kids.

While through very different outlets, there was a unifying characteristic of these organizations that undoubtedly contributed to their success: they were both resourceful. They provided power and strategy to people that had previously been underutilized. By fostering internally, both organizations are recognizing the value of people who are part of a school’s culture in creating sustainable change. School leaders and families of students are too often written off in discussions on how to improve education. While I was not fortunate enough to work with New Leaders’ principals directly, I did see firsthand the undeniable dedication of many parents at Springboard. When a family workshop was missed, I had parents meet with me immediately after their nightshift and cousins come in place of parents who did not speak enough English to feel comfortable alone. I had a mother who called me each week for extra reading tips in addition to those taught during workshops. This only made it clearer that the love parents have for their children cannot, and should not, be ignored in the search for sound solutions to the achievement gap.

I am incredibly grateful to Penn Career Services for granting me the funding that made my summer with New Leaders and Springboard Collaborative possible. Although the current state of urban education can be discouraging, I feel fortunate to have been able to contribute to two organizations that are bringing innovative and successful initiatives to education reform.

Author: Student Perspective

Views and opinions from current Penn students.