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Focus group: For Guilford students looking for an edge — or keep it — this is the place
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Focus group: For Guilford students looking for an edge — or keep it — this is the place

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GREENSBORO — Doing homework on a laptop in the middle of a cafeteria full of teenagers might not seem like “me time.” But that’s how Grimsley junior Julienne Rusagara describes going to the “learning hub” after school.

“It’s a great time for me to have time for myself because I have a lot of things to do at home and I don’t have time for school work,” she said. “It helps me with my mental health.”

Last month, the district launched learning hubs in all 15 of its traditional high schools.

The hubs provide an opportunity for students to catch up on work and get help from tutors, teachers and other school staff. Students have the opportunity to earn a $200 Visa gift card if they reach at least 80% of their attendance goals for the semester, according to Chief Academic Officer Whitney Oakley.

Oakley said students work with staff at the learning hubs to come up with plans for what they look to accomplish.

She expects the district will be able to continue the hubs at least through 2024. Funding came from an $800,000 grant and the district was one of only six nationwide recipients.

“I think what has surprised me is the number of students who are excited about staying after school and getting additional help,” said Christopher Burnette, a Grimsley assistant principal who added that about 100 students showed up on Thursday night.

The program is an updated version of last year’s learning hubs, which the district first debuted as a way to provide in-person support to students at a time when high school instruction had shifted online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Originally, students were selected to participate based on being at-risk academically, but since then schools have reopened and the programs the hub offers are available to anyone.

Anna Hartgrove, another Grimsley assistant principal, said she thinks their learning hub has attracted an equal number of three types of students: those working to recover credit from failed courses from last year; those trying to get back on track from academic issues this year; and those wanting to keep up.

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“We are reaching a lot of the students that we need to,” she said.

All traditional high schools provide the program after school at least two days per week from about 4:30 to 6 p.m., with dinner and bus rides home provided. Some schools like Grimsley hold it four days a week. Southern High School has even held a couple of Saturday sessions.

Staff at Grimsley said many more students show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays (which include dinner and rides) than on Mondays and Wednesdays (snacks only).

Rusagara said she appreciates not having to have to plan what to eat or cook.

On Thursday night, English teacher Stephanie Allen checked in Grimsley students by having them swipe their school ID cards. If students were coming to the learning hub for the first time, they sat down with a staff member who helped them make plans for success.

Students could go to various tables or sections of the room to get help in different subjects.

At the back of the room, students could pick up hamburgers or pizza. Sophomores Tiyanii Parrish and K.J. Zellous worked on a research project while they ate.

Parrish said the opportunity to earn a $200 Visa gift card is a nice incentive, but she would have come regardless. She gets more done at the learning hub than at home, where she has a tendency to lie around and not be as productive. And with Zellous alongside, they help keep each other focused.

She has also appreciated getting math help from Hartgrove.

“I’m not really bad at math,” Parrish said. “I just second-guess myself.”

Hartgrove, who used to teach math, gets a stipend from the school system to extend her day and help students. Rather than wishing she was home, she looks forward to being at the hub.

“This kind of rejuvenates me everyday,” she said, “because you get to have that small group interaction and one-on-one conversations with the students and get to know them better. “

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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