Most unintended consequences seem to be negative. We consider ourselves fortunate that some excellent unintended consequences have already shown themselves in connection with the Steve’s Scholars program at Tehipite Middle School.
When we set up our scholarship endowment there two years ago, we did so with funds from our late son’s estate, as a memorial to him. We hoped and expected that it would result in students adhering to the criteria that we established in conjunction with administrators from Fresno Unified School District for students to do between grades 7-12:
-- Maintain an average of at least B.
-- Have an attendance rate of at least 95%.
-- Take the California A-G college preparatory courses.
-- Perform annual community service.
Meet that criteria and you will receive a $1,000 scholarship for each of two years. So far, the two classes that have been initiated into the program have produced about one-third of their students who appear to be on-track to be a Steve’s Scholar at the end of their high school career.
But we just learned from Tehipite principal Yvonne Zysling that other advantages have accrued to the entire school.
Last year, Tehipite had the most improved attendance rate of any Fresno Unified middle school, increasing by 3%. Since the state pays the school district for average student daily attendance, that resulted in about $80,000 more to Fresno Unified. The students now know that attendance is important and are concerned about living up to the new criterion.
A significant percentage of students in the school had fewer D’s and F’s on their report cards. The talk about maintaining a better average is not falling on deaf ears.
There were 100 fewer requests than usual for transfers from sixth grade to a middle school other than Tehipite. In other words, more families are seeing Tehipite as a desirable school with high standards for their children.
This year, the first class of seventh graders in the program has moved on. While the majority are now attending Roosevelt High School, which is their home region school, there are Steve’s Scholars at each of the six other Fresno Unified high schools.
Our task is to maintain their affiliation with the scholarship program, to assure that they stay on track for a scholarship and that they feel connected. At meetings with the principal and Steve’s Scholars at each school, the standards are being reinforced and the students have been promised that at least twice each year, their cohorts will be brought together for both service and cultural activities.
Meanwhile, a new program has begun at Tehipite to reinforce and increase attendance even more. Mike’s Bikes is named after our other son Michael, who also passed away at a young age. Both he and his brother, Steve, were bicycle enthusiasts. Thanks to Rubber Soul Bicycles of Fresno, two bicycles have been donated to Tehipite. All students, whether a Steve’s Scholar or not, who have an attendance of 95% or better at the end of the year will have their name put into a lottery. Then one name from seventh grade and one from eighth grade will be pulled, and those students will win brand new bikes.
Recently there were two assemblies at Tehipite: an awards assembly for eighth-graders, including those who finished last year on track to be a Steve’s Scholar; and an induction assembly for the entire class of seventh-graders, all of whom have the potential to be Steve’s Scholars.
The featured speaker was Ruthie Quinto, the deputy superintendent and chief financial officer for Fresno Unified. She told the students that she came from a similar background to most of theirs, and that she has had to overcome adversity in her life. She spoke about a serious car accident when she was in college which resulted in 100 stitches in her face. She recovered after several operations and went on with her studies, resulting in her professional achievements to date.
After the eighth-grade assembly, we served a special “Steve’s Scholars” cake to the on-track eighth-graders. My personal reward, as I handed a slice of red velvet dessert to a young lady, was when she smiled and said, “Can I hug you?”