On a cold February evening, eighty eighth-graders made their way down the gym of James Weldon Johnson Middle School in a well-dressed procession.
Months before the traditional graduation season, the students were there to celebrate an academic milestone. They’ll be advancing to the 9th grade.
The students are part of Duval County Public School’s new Bridge to Success Program, developed in partnership with local non-profit Communities in Schools Jacksonville.
The program, offered in 12 district middle and high schools, provides individualized support to overage and struggling students.
The group of new graduates are the very first class in the program to make the ceremonial walk across the stage.
A beaming Alexander Young was among them. The 15-year-old said he used to be a C and D student and spent much of his six grade year getting into trouble.
“We got a flyer in the mail from Bridge to Success and my mom was like ‘Oh, you’re going to be in that program’ and I was like ‘No, I want to stay at Northwestern (Middle School.)’ but since I’ve been in the program I’ve been making A’s and B’s.”
By next January, Young will be ready for 10th grade. His Bridge to Success math teacher Ellis Brown has witnessed his transformation and others like it since the program began in Fall. He was there to cheer the students on Wednesday night.
“Before this program, everyone just thought ‘Well, we’re just going to fall off,’” he said. “And I think this is a mark of hope for our kids.”
Currently, there are about 1,195 students enrolled in the Bridge to Success program. Another set of students will get the chance to celebrate their promotion this Spring.
You can follow Rhema Thompson @RhemaThompson.