Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Walking the Walk: YES Prep Northbrook Students Make Physical Connection to High School

If a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step then symbolically, at least, the first class of ninth graders at YES Prep Northbrook High have a leg up on high school graduation.

After participating in a promotion ceremony at YES Prep Northbrook Middle on Thursday, June 4, the rising ninth-graders braved the sweltering afternoon heat and walked the mile or so from Northbrook Middle School down Rosefield to Kempwood to Crestdale to Raider Circle, which encompasses Northbrook High School.

Leaders of both schools say it’s the start of a new tradition.

“We thought the transition would be so much more powerful walking from one school to another,” said Jeremy Jones, school director of YES Prep Northbrook Middle.

Adds Bryan Reed, Jones’ counterpart at YES Prep Northbrook High: “(The physical transition) would happen anyway in a traditional YES Prep school,” Reed said. “We wanted to recreate that symbolically.”

Some 125 of the 140 newly promoted YES Prep students will comprise the first class at YES Prep Northbrook High. Most of the students started at YES Prep Northbrook Middle in sixth grade.

At Northbrook High School, the students were greeted by Reed and his staff, then took part in a short program in the school’s auditorium where they heard an inspirational talk by former YES Prepper Mayra Valle, a graduate of Connecticut College who’s currently in graduate school at Texas A&M.

Perhaps more significantly, Valle is a graduate of YES Prep North Central, where Bryan Reed planned her eighth-grade promotion ceremony.

YES Prep Northbrook Middle and YES Prep Northbrook High, along with Spring Branch ISD and KIPP Courage at Landrum Middle School, make up the SKY Partnership, an innovative collaboration between the district and the state charter schools.

SKY got off the ground three years ago, and the YES Prep Northbrook Middle students will make up the first class at YES Prep Northbrook High. KIPP Courage started with fifth grade – those students will be eighth-graders next school year and will join the next class of YES Prep Northbrook Middle students at YES Prep Northbrook High to form the class of 2020.

But June 4 was for the rising freshmen from YES Prep Northbrook Middle. The promotion ceremony at Northbrook Middle was about looking back, Reed said, while the program at Northbrook High was about looking forward.

“The promotion is (just) a step along the way,” said Reed. “We wanted to set the vision for them (with the program at the high school)."

“(The rising eighth graders) are the founding class at YES Prep Northbrook Middle,” said Jones. “They’re the first group of students who have experienced this – across the country,” he added, referring to the SKY Partnership. “They’re setting traditions and expectations for groups behind them.”

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