Keeping up with assignments and maintaining test scores doesn’t come without hard work, commitment and plenty of time management. That’s particularly true for students at Holy Family Catholic High School, where students often carry a heavy academic load plus juggle multiple extracurricular activies.
What does it take to make sure students are performing at their absolute best when it comes to academics in this active, stimulating environment?
According to Principal Kathie Brown, it takes a unique program with an equally unique acronym—SAD, which stands for Student Assistance Day.
“The catalyst was the need to help students learn that everyone has times when it appears there is no way he or she can keep up with expectations,” Mrs. Brown says. “Opportunities to prioritize, organize and seek help are life skills that often must be experienced to be internalized.”
Unique Opportunity to Reset
Brown initiated the program over a decade ago, giving students the opportunity to push the reset button and get back on track when the demands of high school life get a little overwhelming.
“By the end of a Student Assistance Day, many students have caught up on their work or advanced their understanding of classroom concepts,” she points out.
Here’s how Holy Family’s Student Assistance Day program works, and why it has been extremely successful in preparing students to be proactive in their success after high school:
- Once a quarter, SAD is scheduled to coincide with Eastern Carver County Schools’ late starts.
- One-on-one appointments between students and teachers run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. All teachers, counselors and learning specialists are available to meet with students.
- Time can be used to make up work, receive group or individualized help, work on and set priorities for long-term assignments, or take exams missed due to absence.
According to Dean of Academic Support Melissa Livermore, students struggling in a particular class receive SAD appointments with teachers not as a punishment, but as an opportunity to get the individualized help needed, redo work that didn’t meet standards, complete additional assignments to improve understanding and, in return, improve their grades.
Students not required to attend SAD, but who feel the strain of an overwhelming schedule, often make appointments with teachers, as well.
“I have many students who are doing well in class come in to deepen and extend their knowledge. It’s like taking a deep breath,” Livermore says.
Translated: SAD is an opportunity for students to clear their heads of any classroom confusion, relax and focus.
“Learning how to balance academics with outside commitments is valuable,” Livermore says. “However, like in many executive function skills for this age group, it is a skill that many haven’t yet mastered and need guidance with. SAD provides the time for students to work with their teachers without needing to choose between school and an extracurricular activity.”
Extended Reach of SAD
“Over the years, we have found ourselves using SAD as service opportunities wrapped around educational experiences,” Brown says. A few examples:
- Robotics students often visit local grade schools to engage younger students in engineering lessons.
- The band director runs a middle school instrumental clinic to encourage young musicians.
- Groups of students serve breakfast for the homeless at Simpson House in Minneapolis.
Students who need even more assistance don’t need to wait for SAD to regroup. Sometimes staying ahead of the game is half the battle. The NOW program, which stands for No Outstanding Work, is for students needing weekly check-ins to keep up.
- Students missing assignments during the week stay after school on Wednesdays for a NOW appointment, giving them a chance to catch up and stay on track.
- Teachers make these appointments, and parents are kept in the loop.
- To accommodate NOW, extracurricular activities don’t begin until 3:15 p.m. on Wednesdays.
“I find pure joy in the fact these days have organically evolved to serve in many deep ways,” Brown says. “This is education at its finest—when everyone is learning.”
Mark Your Calendars
2019-2020 SAD dates
- Thursday, October 3
- Thursday, December 12
- Thursday, February 13
- Thursday, May 14
Click HERE to read about Holy Family’s game plan for student success.