A Collaborative Blog with Connecticut River Academy at Goodwin University

Over the past two months, Empower Leadership has shared blogs, podcasts, and resources/worksheets focused on goal setting and goal achievement in 2021. This article was written in collaboration with two staff members from Connecticut River Academy at Goodwin University (CTRA) – Wendy Gavin (Director of School Counseling and Early College Coordinator) and Kiley Testa (Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator).

Empower Leadership has been a partner of CTRA since the Spring 0f 2014 – leading a wide range of programming for their scholars, faculty, and staff. I have had the pleasure of being involved in all of our programming with CTRA and their community stands out due to their commitment to build relationships and a trusting community amongst scholars, between scholars and faculty/staff, and between the families of scholars and faculty/staff.

CTRA is a sustainability-themed early college magnet high school located in East Hartford, CT. At CTRA, students get a jump-start on their college career. In addition to a full range of high school courses, students have the opportunity to take classes at Goodwin University and earn more than 35 transferable college credits while still in high school — all at no tuition cost. Students are prepared academically and socially for college — laying an important foundation for future success.

Over the past two months, Empower Leadership has shared blogs, podcasts, worksheets, and other resources focused on goal setting and goal achievement in 2021. How has hybrid/distance learning impacted the ability of the CTRA scholars to set and achieve goals?

CTRA scholars, and young adults everyone, have had to cope with societal issues that have impacted learning. We have had to shift our way of teaching in order for short term goals to become the key focus of CTRA scholar growth. We have worked with our scholars to get through this challenging academic year successfully – changing our school schedule to semester courses, allowing scholars to focus on 4 classes instead of 8. For our duel-enrolled college scholars, we have supported each individually, setting short term goals to complete their classes. In those meetings, we are focusing on the day-to-day. How can we feel good about today? How can we feel accomplished and what do we need to do to get there? In order to be successful, we are always checking in on progress to support scholar growth and their goal achievement.

A big part of the operation at CTRA is relationship and community building – both very important in goal setting and achievement. Considering the challenges your scholars have faced with regards to goal setting/achievement, what strategies has the CTRA team implemented to build trusting relationships with scholars to support them on their goal achievement journeys?

CTRA is now, more than ever, focused on what our strengths are during this time. An important asset to our school is our advisory program. We depend on our relationships with scholars and their families, and together, through our advisory program, we have been able to continue to help scholars plan for their futures.

CTRA has used our professional development time to really focus on helping those scholars who are remote. We have become quite tech-savvy as we have navigated the world of online teaching and learning. Together, we have been able to learn form one another – sharing skills with colleagues and new ways of learning with our scholars.

If our scholars could not come to school, we went to them. We focused on connecting to families and their needs. We knew that addressing the most basic needs of remote learning allowed for our scholars to succeed.

What advice would you share with a student – from CTRA or not – who may be struggling to find their academic and/or social rhythm during the 2020/2021 school year?

This has been a hard time for teenagers – they are old enough to understand what is happening but they have not lived or experienced enough to know that this will end and life will proceed, differently, but improved. It is hard to teach a “big picture” perspective when young adults have been stripped of so much social time. This is where we play a large role in supporting our young people! A big part of our job is to “be a cheerleader” and give guidance on how our future will look. We tell our scholars, and would recommend students everywhere, to focus on doing the small things – get up, take a shower, go for a walk – the little things will guide the big things.

What advice would you share with educators, parents, and student support staff with regards to supporting scholars during their goal achievement journey?

Regular and consistent check-ins with scholars and their families! CTRA has been connecting with families during our biweekly virtual town hall meetings. It has been our goal, as a school, to connect with and check-in on each other during this time, and our biweekly virtual town hall meetings have allowed us to do just that. During our meetings, school counselors share information on how to stay present and healthy during this challenging time. Some suggestions have been to maintain a daily routine, stay connected (safely) with others, talk to someone about your feelings and emotions, do physical activities, limit new/social media if it distressing, and take up a hobby that brings you happiness and a sense of calm. Our advice would be to connect, check-in, take a moment to see how everyone is doing, and brainstorm ways to make today, the next day, week, or month a little better!

Connecticut River Academy at Goodwin University

My work with the CTRA scholars, faculty, and staff since 2014 has provided me the opportunity to get to know Kiley, Wendy, and the entire team and develop a deep appreciation for their tremendous work in building community and developing wonderful young adults. The ability of the CTRA faculty and staff to create meaningful connections with their scholars and families has created a safe, challenging, and supportive learning environment for all. Before one can lead, inspire, and empower, one must forge trusting relationships – and the CTRA team is second to none in their ability to do so!

Visit their website to learn more about Kiley, Wendy, and the entire CTRA community!

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