There would have to be a compelling reason for students in the Truebright Science Academy Charter School to forsake their Saturdays. But for the seventh through eleventh graders in the school’s “Saturday Scholar” program, the good grades and extra tutelage are worth it.
“The real proof is my grades. Since I started coming to Saturday Academy, my math grades have improved, and I have a better grasp on what I am learning,” said Truebright junior Stephanie Norman. “I am particularly focused because I know the skills I am learning now will be important when I become a nurse.”
This is the first year that the North Philadelphia-based school has run such a skill-specific weekend session. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and they meet in small groups so students can receive one-on-one schooling. The relaxed atmosphere and laidback environment also aids the learning process. Instead of classroom instruction, Saturday Academy students and teachers sit on lunch benches situated in the hallways.
The sessions focus on science and math, and the effects the extra learning sessions have on the students cannot be understated.
“We introduced Saturday Academy to ensure all students can access the resources they need to unlock their academic potential. Often, making small changes result in major achievements,” said Truebright CEO Bekir Duz. “Just putting in extra time and effort can lead to these students enjoying successes they may have a one time thought impossible to grasp. For these teenagers, sacrificing their Saturday is a big deal and it demonstrates their dedication to their dreams.”
Teachers involved in the Saturday Academy show their own determination; after all, they sacrifice their Saturdays as well. Daphne Baker, who has taught at Truebright for three years and instructs in math on Saturdays, says that although some of the students are bleary-eyed on the first morning of the weekend, they are really into it and it speaks to their drive.
“Those that do come are dedicated to being there, and they are focused,” Baker said of the 50 students currently enrolled in the Saturday Academy. “It’s hard to get them to come in on Saturdays, but those that do are serious and on the ball.”
Carolyn Driscoll, a parent with a son in the Saturday Academy program, said the results are tangible.
“I credit the teachers and staff for implementing this program. I have seen improvement not only in my child’s grades, but in his self confidence as well,” Driscoll said. “Because of the individual guidance he receives, he believes he can do the work, which has put him on the path toward achieving his goals.”
Baker said that the weekend program is both for struggling students, and those who are excelling and just want to remain sharp, and believes the Saturday offering will help both types of students.
“I have a few eighth-grade students who come in to do their assignments, and they do very well with minimal help from me. They know what they are doing, and I’m mainly there to help them,” Baker said. “But we do have some that come in who are struggling, and I believe this is going to help them. The more they are proactive, the more they do well.
“At the end, it will help them on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.
“Truebright really is a gem.”