Academy offers new beginning

0
159
Naugatuck High School sophomore and Genesis Academy student Jason Vazquez, right, shows off a computer program to, from left, Bambi Vazquez, his mother, Jillian Vazquez, his sister, and Naugatuck High counseling department secretary Lisa Krusko Sept. 24 at the academy on Rubber Avenue. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School sophomore and Genesis Academy student Jason Vazquez, right, shows off a computer program to, from left, Bambi Vazquez, his mother, Jillian Vazquez, his sister, and Naugatuck High counseling department secretary Lisa Krusko Sept. 24 at the academy on Rubber Avenue. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — For Naugatuck High School sophomore Jason Vazquez, a typical school classroom was a difficult place to attain academic success. With upwards of 30 students per class, Vazquez wasn’t receiving the individual attention he needed, and his grades began to drop.

Students like Vazquez are the reason the Board of Education created the Genesis Academy.

The Genesis Academy, which is located at the former Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association building at 600 Rubber Ave., is an alternative education program for Naugatuck High School students who are at risk academically, behaviorally or because of attendance. The academy follows the same calendar as the high school and students are held to the same standards.

“The curriculum is the same. The expectations are the same. But it’s a small environment and the students own this environment. They maintain it; they clean it; they decorate it; it’s theirs. They’re taking pride in it,” said Naugatuck High Principal Jan Saam during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the academy Sept. 24.

Naugatuck High Dean of Students Jim Leary said the academy takes a more hands-on approach with students. Because of the smaller class size, teachers and staff have a chance to work one-on-one with students, he said.

“These are kids that weren’t engaged in their education previously. So, we wanted to find different ways and different methods of getting them engaged and involved, and kind of take responsibility for their learning,” Leary said.

The district has run alternative programs in the past, but this is the first year of the Genesis Academy. The academy only serves freshmen and sophomores, right now.

“The goal, hopefully, will be to expand this program so it’s open for any grade, nine through 12. So, if the student did need to spend their entire career here, they could actually get their diploma through the Genesis Academy. But, that’s down the road,” Saam said.

For students who aren’t in the Genesis Academy and need help, the school offers individualized academic supports and behavior options that combine online and in-person instruction and tutoring, officials said.

There are currently 12 students in the academy. Leary expects there will be up to 20 by the end of the school year.

“We want kids to be successful. We know that learning in the 21st century is a little different than it has been in the past. We’re trying to cater to kids’ strengths and give them a little taste of success. Hopefully they will enjoy that and run with it and roll that into being more successful in the future,” Leary said.

The academy has hit its mark early on.

“I really took this as not so good in the beginning but now it turned out amazing. I love it. It’s helped me a lot,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez said his grades have gone up and he is retaining more information.

“I didn’t really expect to improve that much. I’ve become brighter in math and science from last year. I like this program a lot,” Vazquez said.

Nicola Barna said the academy is exactly what her son, sophomore Anthony Barna, needed.

Naugatuck officials cut a ribbon on the Genesis Academy on Rubber Avenue Sept. 24. The academy is a place where freshmen and sophomores from Naugatuck High School who are having trouble with traditional high school will attend until they are ready to go back to traditional high school. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Naugatuck officials cut a ribbon on the Genesis Academy on Rubber Avenue Sept. 24. The academy is a place where freshmen and sophomores from Naugatuck High School who are having trouble with traditional high school will attend until they are ready to go back to traditional high school. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

“He’d kind of fallen through the cracks. There’s a little too much going on over there (Naugatuck High School). This, being small and compact, really helps him,” Nicole Barna said. “He needs a lot less distractions and more one-on-one help.”

Nicola Barna wasn’t the only parent impressed with the academy.

Jennifer Rager said she’s noticed a “vast improvement” in the grades of her son, sophomore Devin Rager, grades.

“My son went from failing everything, even at this point last year he wasn’t doing well, to now he has ‘As’ in everything. It’s working,” Rager said.

Rager said her hope is this program will be able to put her son back to where he needs to be to graduate.

In the short time the academy has been operating word of what it is has done for students has spread.

“It’s really become a program that’s making a name for itself. We have students on our main campus who are requesting to come here,” Saam said.

Saam said the ultimate goal of the program is to help students gain the skills to succeed at Naugatuck High.

“The goal of this program is always to get students back on the main campus. This isn’t meant to be a forever placement, but it is meant to be a place where students can get back on track,” Saam said.