Impact Essay – De Meita Vincent

We’re featuring Teach Plus Impact Essays from educators across Indianapolis, highlighting their Innovation Change projects. The work is ongoing and their essays will continue to evolve as the school year progresses. Look for new features throughout the spring!

***Student names have been changed to protect identities***

My name is De Meita Vincent.  I teach at Purdue Polytechnic High School, Englewood located in Indianapolis where I serve as a science instructor. In addition to my teaching role, I am also a current Teacher Leader in the IPS Innovation Teacher Collaborative working to analyze the effects of COVID-19 upon my school and what strategies we can use to improve the lives of our students.

Mingua, a student in my building, originally from Ethiopia, was adopted by American missionaries and has lived in the United States since she was a young child. Mingua’s parents are also educators, and she grew up with a strong educational and religious foundation. She started attending Purdue Polytechnic High School as a freshman and by the time she was a sophomore, she was on a solid path towards academic success. The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that.

As Mingua’s learning became remote, her grades and her well-being began to suffer. She needed academic support in classes and was socially isolated from peers and staff who had previously provided comfort. When she was able to return to school, her grades started to improve, and she was much happier and better adjusted. What caused this increase in academic performance and in social progress? I wanted to know what school-based programs provided her with support. As part of my project as a Teacher Leader, I began to track the programs offered in my building and their outcomes. This in-depth analysis would help me better understand how I and our school could more effectively share these programs to support our students.

First, Mingua interacts with her peers in a group called Young Life. She says: “Young Life reinvigorated my level of confidence. It gave me the hope to keep running this race which at times seemed impossible to finish.” The Young Life Program meets twice a week in the city and one day a week on our school campus for Bible study and for fellowship. It provides connections amongst students and a connection to something beyond the uncertainty that students face now.

Next, Mingua takes part in Gear Up tutoring, a twice-weekly after-school program offered at no cost through Purdue University. Through the program, students like Mingua participate in small-group and individual instruction to earn credits in their online coursework and can receive immersive, face-to-face instructional support during the school day.

Last, Mingua participates in third-party counseling offered through Damar Services. At the start of the pandemic, Mingua was anxious and apprehensive about reconnecting with others that she used to see each day. After a few sessions with a counselor, she learned how to identify her strengths and felt encouraged to grow and dream.

In analyzing the data collected from the programs offered at P.P.H.S., it is evident that Young Life, Gear Up, and Damar services have helped to improve the lives of many students. Young Life has impacted 15 students by giving them an opportunity to stay spiritually grounded in the face of trouble. They remain happy, connected, and focused on graduation while their peers are anxious and isolated from others.

Gear Up has offered academic support to 25 students who are now closer to credit attainment and to earning a diploma. Damar Services has offered mental health services to 15 students. The students have learned coping strategies for handling obstacles, a skill that will be useful to them in school and beyond.

When combined, the cumulative effect of these services has reflected a real improvement in the lives of students, specifically Mingua, who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks in the face of a pandemic.

The work I am leading as a Teach Plus Teacher Leader in the IPS Innovation Teacher Collaborative has taught me that small changes can lead to widespread change. Being bold for the welfare of our students is something that should never be compromised or put on the back burner. I plan to continue to look beyond the problems that present themselves in the lives of students to find and sustain viable solutions that result in positive change for them and for our school community.

The children are our future and without adequate preparation today they are not set up to overcome any of life’s woes of tomorrow. The concept of education has to extend beyond the classroom and I encourage teachers interested in better supporting their students to consider all the programs and services currently available in your school. Take into account the impact of these supports on student academics, social, physical, and emotional well-being—and continue to advocate for the programs and services that your students gravitate toward and can make a difference in their lives. 

De Meita Vincent is a science instructor at Purdue Polytechnic High School – Englewood Campus.

About Teach Plus

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