Behind the Scenes of a Student Success Story

This past winter, a team from the Carnegie Corporation joined us in New Orleans to profile our work with local families and employers. The result is a terrific article in the current issue of the Carnegie Reporter.

The Harrell family is featured in the story. They’re the ones in the very first photo, sitting down to dinner. Kenny and Greta Harrell are both Marriott employees; they get support from us through Greta’s employer, the Residence Inn Downtown, where general manager Vanessa Jackson is passionate about supporting her employees on and off the job.

When we began working with Greta and Kenny last fall, they’d had a frustrating experience with schools. They were especially concerned about their oldest son Kenveon, a fifth-grader who had been diagnosed with ADHD and fallen behind in reading over the years. The Harrells were so desperate to get him back on track, they’d paid thousands of dollars to a private tutoring center and were considering spending more. The company told them it would cost $6,000 worth of sessions to get him back on grade level.

We weren’t so sure. To our Navigators, the problems looked significant but solvable: a disengaged school, inconsistent communication, and a lack of a team working toward clear goals.

It was clear that Kenveon was not thriving in his current school, so we started by reassessing the Harrells’ school options, then guided them through the process of enrolling him into a public school closer to home. We made sure Kenveon’s previous school transferred his academic records and Individual Education Plan (IEP) with him, which took some prodding, then joined the Harrells personally to update his IEP with staff at his new school, focusing on the addition of an ambitious reading goal and related supports.

Through these efforts, we began to build a true team around Kenveon. With the new IEP in place, everyone supporting him could focus on a shared strategy, including Greta and Kenny. We worked with them as they oversaw homework, kept Kenveon reading outside of school, and communicated with his teachers.

Kenveon (center left) with his team: Mom, Dad, and teachers and staff of his school.

Kenveon started the school year two grade levels behind in reading. We hoped that he might cut the gap in half. By the end of the year, though, district assessments indicated that he closed nearly all of it, performing on his expected grade level in most areas. When we got the results from his teacher, she said he “blew her mind” and called his writing “phenomenal.”

Turns out, getting Kenveon back on track didn’t take thousands of dollars of tutoring—just a good public school with dedicated teachers, the right supports, and two well-informed and engaged parents.

How many other students like Kenveon could change their paths if they had the same kind of team supporting them? When schools do their part, families know how to help, and everyone’s working from the same plan, amazing things are possible.

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