CISP Summer Program Goes Beyond the Classroom

 

In recent weeks, a national conversation has centered around the need for more unique, diverse and equitable voices in education. The AIU’s work in the Community Intensive Supervision Program (CISP) was ahead of the curve, as it infused a gripping work of nonfiction from a talented Black writer, as well as a question-and-answer session with the author that engaged and energized the students. 

Spearheaded by principal Ronald Graham and teacher Brad Clark, the six-week summer school that ran from June to August went virtual for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing a blend of Zoom and Google Classroom, the 14 high school students logged in each day for core courses and electives. Two of those students fulfilled their graduation requirements. 

The highlight of the summer program was the group reading of “A Stone of Hope: A Memoir” by author Jim St. Germain. The Haitain immigrant grew up in Brooklyn and overcame a rough start to become an author, social entrepreneur and Presidential Appointee. 

At the end of the six weeks, Mr. St. Germain joined the group for a virtual Q&A session that lasted more than two hours. His story met the state standards for an English course and, perhaps more importantly, it connected with the class on a personal level. 

“It resonated with the students because there's relatability with the material,” said Mr. Graham. “At first, the kids thought it as just a book. This wasn't a guy that just sold a book; he lived it. He was a youthful guy and they could relate to his social-economic situation and poor decision making. Overall, it was just excellent.” 

Program director Licia Lentz had met Mr. St. Germain at a previous event, during which the seed was planted to use his memoir as a cornerstone of the summer program. 

Graham added that he was not only proud of the core requirements met, but also the electives. The social justice class frequently featured lively and thoughtful conversations that inspired the students to use their emotions to promote positive change. Physical education was another important class, especially during the pandemic, that broke up the amount of screen time.

The CISP program was designed for first-time and repeat male offenders between the ages 10-18 and typically operates in community centers. By moving the program online, the class also benefited from a crash course in technology and digital citizenship.

“It was fantastic,” said Mr. Graham. “The kids learned other skills, too. You needed computer skills and to learn the Zoom etiquette so you weren’t talking over somebody. There were so many lessons."