It may be 16 years away but Stonehill already has a strong crop of prospective students for its Class of 2028. They are the first-grade students of proud alumna Amy Ferrer '06 at Success Academy Upper West in New York City.
Like all members of the Success Academy Charter Network, Upper West follows the tradition of naming all its classrooms after their lead teacher's alma mater as a way to inspire students toward attending college.
"The minute scholars walk through our school's doors, they know they are on the path to college," says Ferrer, who is in her second year at Upper West.
"Scholars are members not of the class year that they will graduate eighth grade from, but instead they are members of the class year they will graduate college. The classroom names and class years foster the idea of college as a destination that they will reach with hard work."
For her student scholars, Friday afternoon's are one of the highlights of their week, not because the weekend is approaching, but because Ferrer announces who the "Scholar of the Week" is. Winners of this coveted honor get to take home a Stonehill sweatshirt for the weekend.
"My scholars literally hold their breath at the end of the week to find out who the Scholar of the Week is. You wouldn't think it would be possible to have a silent classroom of 30 six-year-olds on a Friday afternoon at 4:15, but when I'm announcing Scholar of the Week, it's what we call "pin-drop silent," says Ferrer, who also outfits her classroom door with Stonehill paraphernalia .
Each classroom at Upper West also has a "College Corner," where pictures and facts about lead teachers' colleges are posted. Ferrer notes her students love to ask questions about college and Stonehill in particular.
Ferrer's "Stonehill College" classroom is filled with students who are among the highest-achieving in the state of New York. Success Academies are free public charter schools that use a random lottery for entrance. There are currently 14 Success Academies in New York City and six more set to open next academic year.
An accounting major while at Stonehill, Ferrer (left) decided to pursue her passion for education after working as a financial services accountant for Ernst & Young for three years following her graduation in 2006.
She notes it was her experiences at Stonehill that helped push her to follow her dream even if it meant giving up a successful business career.
"Stonehill encouraged me to be true to myself and follow my passion. It was an environment where I felt giving time to others, working with others, feeding creativity, and building relationships were more important than making money," she says.
A year after leaving the accounting field, she earned a master's degree in education from Lesley University and soon after landed her first teaching job at one of Success Academy's schools in the Bronx.
"I love that teaching is a profession that showcases the most meaningful parts of life - making connections with each other, growing one's mind and passion, discovering curiosities, working through challenges, and reaching goals. These are things that happen in other professions, but as a teacher you get to witness them through young minds. It amplifies my appreciation for life and challenges me to keep up," says Ferrer.
"I feel fortunate and proud to belong to a college and work within a career that both seem to emphasize the things that matter most in life."
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