Transformation Waco has hired a local pastor to mentor male African American students to encourage them to enroll in dual credit programs that can help them earn college credit while in high school.
The Rev. Gaylon Foreman of Carver Park Baptist Church gave the Transformation Waco board a brief presentation of his work so far Tuesday night. Foreman began meeting with students and their parents or guardians in mid-September.
Transformation Waco is the charter system within the Waco Independent School District that operates five schools as part of a partnership with the district. The five schools are Brook Avenue Elementary, Alta Vista Elementary, J.H. Hines Elementary, G.W. Carver Middle School and Indian Spring Middle School.
For now, Foreman’s work will focus on mentoring black middle school boys, helping them prepare for high school and beyond by discussing the students’ attitudes, behaviors and academic performance, of course. He started meeting with individual students at Carver Middle School one day a week and expects to begin at Indian Spring Middle School soon.
“We want to see them succeed, and we want them to know we believe in them and know they can succeed,” Foreman said.
For eighth grade students, Foreman specifically focuses on helping the students understand the possibilities of taking and making a good score on the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, an exam designed to help colleges and universities determine a student’s college readiness in reading, writing and mathematics. Students can take this exam to determine placement in college classes, whether they will need remedial instruction, or they can take the ACT or SAT.
Students must pass the reading portion of the TSI to enroll in any of the district’s dual credit programs, including the Accelerate Early Degree program. That program allows students to simultaneously complete high school diploma and associate degree requirements through McLennan Community College, and graduate with a 2-year degree two weeks prior to high school graduation.
There are 3,751 students enrolled in both Waco ISD high schools — University and Waco High. Out of those, only 557 are African American boys, or 14.8% of high school students, according to district figures.
Of the 311 students enrolled in the Accelerate program, 12 are black males, constituting 3.9% of the enrollment. Only two of the 12 are from Carver and Indian Spring middle schools.
“That is not representative,” Transformation Waco CEO Robin McDurham said.
To change that, the in-district charter system has devoted $5,000 to each middle school campus to mentor these underrepresented students. Transformation Waco has sent each student’s family a letter, explaining the benefits of taking the TSI in eighth grade and each year of school afterward, and held a parent-student meeting.
Foreman said he not only wants to help students achieve academic success but to instill an inherent love of learning in them so they value education for the rest of their lives.
“We want to see them rise up to the level of excellence,” he said.
McDurham said Foreman was the right person for the job because he is a stranger to no one.
“He’s a good fit because everyone knows him, and he has a history of volunteering and supporting our schools,” she said.
Transformation Waco Executive Director of School Leadership agreed with McDurham, reiterating that everyone in Waco knows Foreman.
“Anyone in Waco would let him in their house,” he said.