APPLETON (NBC 26) — The STAR program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley is helping to close the achievement gap among African American students by helping students reach for the stars.
'STAR' stands for Scholars on Target to Achieve Results. The program pairs African American students at Appleton Area School District middle schools and high schools with an advisor who can act as a mentor.
“I have about 42 kids on my case load and I will meet with the kids individually and we’ll talk about their behaviors if they have them, attendance, grades, how they can advocate for themselves or how I can step in and advocate for them,” said Jessica Johnson, a STAR advisor at Appleton North High School.
The advisors help students achieve their education goals, make sure they're on track to graduate, and help prepare them for college.
"If something happens and they don’t reach all those classes that they need then I would communicate with the counselor, we would talk about summer school options to just make sure that they’re actually on track to graduate with their graduating class,” Johnson said.
Aside from providing academic support, the advisors also provide emotional support by advocating for students within the school system.
“I remind them that we have high standards academically because I think as a whole nationwide black students might be looked at as ‘oh they’re getting low grades that’s normal for them.’ We expect that so we don’t expect any higher of them,” said STAR assistant director Irineo Medina.
Advisors can advocate for students by acting a meditator between students and teachers.
“Sometimes the students and the educators might not see eye to eye on a certain topic. I’ll step in and just kind of be that bridge and just be like 'this is what the student is feeling' and let the educator know,” Johnson said.
Johnson says the program gives students a support system that can push them to reach their goals.
“I know what it was like to grow up and not have all the resources and tools that you need available," Johnson said. "I feel like this program is beneficial to the Appleton Area School District because it lets students know that there are people out there like them. It benefits them knowing that there are people there pushing them and helping them succeed with their educational goals.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley is currently seeking more STAR advisors. To learn how you can apply, visit bgclubfoxvalley.org.