Voice and Choice: Mount Tom offers students a supportive and non traditional road to success after graduation

Home E CES Stories E Voice and Choice: Mount Tom offers students a supportive and non traditional road to success after graduation
Article Author: Martha Maloney
Publication Name: Collaborative for Educational Services
Article Date: 12/12/23
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Led by Program Director Lynan Cerruti, additional teaching staff at Mount Tom Academy have provided deeper bench strength to the programming this year. The resulting energy at Mount Tom is striking. “We are adding elements to the program that are rich and engaging,” says Karen Reuter, CES Deputy Director. These additions have provided a more holistic approach to the students’ education that, in addition to core academic work and credit recovery, encourages students to reflect on and explore what their lives might look like post graduation. 

Educators who have joined the Mount Tom team are bringing fresh perspectives to their work with students, adding technologies for example that students are comfortable with, as well as expanding the educational mentor role which encourages students to explore options for their post school lives in a number of ways. Emily Shuster teaches an advisory group and meets with students to build educational plans – exploring their social and emotional strengths and mapping out areas where they can continue to grow and a timeline for progress.  She is excited about the student response to her work. “Mount Tom students are amazing! They’re creative, determined, adaptable, compassionate, and so much more.”  

Matthew Iffil brings a wealth of experience working with kids and an extensive knowledge in history. He has already begun running MCAS prep groups and is teaching the Current Events/Humanities electives. 

Justin Leaphart teaches an enrichment course focusing on writing, presenting and how these relate to topics the students are interested in such as music and consumerism. Leaphart is also an educational mentor, working with students on their future plans after high school.

Max Fripp works with Mount Tom  students twice a week.  Fripp also leads the CES Beacon program held at Greenfield Community College. His work at Mount Tom centers around student entrepreneurship.  Fripp guides students in learning what their skills are, how to talk about them, as well as market them in different ways to achieve growth and job experience. One student worked on building his own EPK, an “Electronic Press Kit”, used like a resume.

“We have all these people with great ideas – planning curricula together and getting students to the right place,” said Cerutti.  Mount Tom educators keep each other in the loop regarding how student work is progressing. This allows each educator to dovetail their work to support what students are learning in other classes. 

One ongoing goal is helping students to become more comfortable using their own voice to lead their choices about how each wants to move forward.  This can include how a student chooses to lay out their individual academic work each semester, as well as how they choose to explore options for their post graduation future. Students are assisted in this work by dual enrollment opportunities at HCC which has interested a number of Mount Tom students, as well as Jumpstart, another HCC program, which offers a variety of job training courses. 

There are currently nine students enrolled at Mount Tom Academy, with applications in process for four additional students. Students typically come from Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin county school districts, and students graduate from their sending schools. With the smaller class sizes, there is an additional level of flexibility that students thrive on – not possible in larger school settings. Seniors first focus is on academic work and ensuring the proper number of credits for graduating. Some seniors double up on academics in one semester, allowing them the flexibility for non traditional work the next. 

Learning that they have a voice to make the appropriate choices for their future school work, and what their lives might look like beyond remains an underlying theme of the work at Mount Tom Academy. Notes Reuter, “Mount Tom is so fortunate to have Lynan. She is the foundation and the core. She has the vision to allow these other pieces to fall into place and understand how well that can happen to benefit kids. A much more holistic approach that is going to touch all these different experiences for kids.”

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