Boston Collaborative High School serves 86 students, aged 16-21, who are enrolled in three distinct Alternative Education Programs within BPS: LogOn Academy; Otro Camino, “Another Path” for recent immigrants; and St. Mary’s, for expectant and parenting young women. The school has recently been assigned space in the basement of UP Academy in South Boston.

BCHS uses a combination of blended, online, project-based, and traditional instructional strategies to meet the needs of its students. Since all are working toward individual academic goals, and some are lacking only a few credits, the school holds graduations three times each year. There is no art or music, but students can participate in sports and other specialty classes at Excel High.

Each Alt. Ed. Program has a designated space, while four teachers rotate to serve each group. Humanities teacher Josh Katzman begins the day with his Otro Camino students in a restorative circle, using a talking piece to have students share their thoughts and feelings about a variety of topics. They tell me:

“Circle has taught us how to be respectful, speak better English, and understand different perspectives. We’re learning about each other’s struggles, ideas, and ways of being.”

I listen in as each young man talks about how and why he came to the United States; an introduction to Enrique’s Journey, a book they will read together about a boy’s determination to reunite with his mother.

Flags of different countries hang along one wall of the other Otro Camino classroom, and ESL teacher Zoe Morosini helps her students complete a variety of assignments focused on vocabulary development and basic structures of the English language. When the period changes, Stephanie Valerio includes students’ names in her math lesson as she teaches them how to figure out what they will pay when an item is discounted by a percentage off the original price.

LogOn Academy students are working diligently on their individualized assignments using Acellus, the BPS online learning platform. One young woman is reading an Edgar Allan Poe story as part of a gothic literature unit in her ELA course. Only a single St. Mary’s student is present, watching and discussing an educational video with science teacher Ana Cardona.

I am inspired by the staff at BCHS, who are committed to supporting the fragile and marginalized young people in their care, and by all YOU do every day in your schools. Please invite me to visit!

Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.