Starfish Stories No. 7/freshmen mentorsPublished 6:04pm Monday, February 4, 2013
Dowagiac Union High School has been so greatly blessed by the recent addition of a team of dedicated educators who are joining or rejoining the DUHS family to work with our at-risk freshmen.
Through careful research and student input, it was determined that students who are often considered to be “at risk” often are missing adequate supports in the school setting.
Freshmen who fail one or more classes during their freshman year are at much greater risk of not graduating high school.
These educators will work with selected freshmen to mentor their progress through the school year, to follow up on school work and to provide academic support.
Altogether, these mentors have well over 100 years of education experience, yet they continue to teach with passion.
The five individuals who will make up the five arms of this Starfish Story include:
• Karla Pruis, a retired DUHS special education instructor. Her experience in special education classrooms has both depth and breadth.
• Teri Frantz, a retired DUHS English instructor. During her career at DUHS, she often chose to teach the difficult freshman English courses. She has taught journalism and was yearbook advisor, as well as having been an instructor at Southwestern Michigan College for 2½ years.
• Bernard Thomas is also a retired Dowagiac instructor, bringing with him a long career in teaching social studies as well as on the field as Dowagiac’s former head football coach.
• Larry Bengtsson’s career at Dowagiac schools was in the science classroom of both the middle and high school. His years of experience will be greatly valued.
• Mike Dzakowic is a retired police officer from California working towards a second career in education. His area of strength is mathematics.
All of these mentors accepted the challenge of mentoring our freshmen, and are another piece to the puzzle of student success.
(Deputy Supt. Dawn Conner told Dowagiac Board of Education Jan. 28 that freshmen mentors working with 84 ninth graders are funded from $759,693 the district receives this year in at-risk funds. “We’re also having an eighth-ninth grade counselor help transition into high school. Before- and after-school programming will be available for freshmen. I’m going to come back in May or June with the results we’ll measure to see if this intervention makes a difference.”