Freshman Academy

Armstrong High School

Progress Snapshot

2016 here we come! What a wonderful time to celebrate one full year of Freshman Academy programming (Happy Anniversary Board Members!) and how, with YOUR support, so many aspects of this vision continue to become a reality.

Since gathering our first group of 60 in the school auditorium, to coordinating daily tutoring sessions in the school library to now teaching daily math & English class in our own Freshman Academy classrooms, a lot has happened.

In addition to 10th grade leaders from our initial cohort, our partner congregations continue to provide talented tutors (Carol, Reyn, Laura & David), individual and collective mentors (Brenda, Natalie, Lillie, Tashika, Jahnae, Paige, Kimberly, Taylar, Infinity, Courtney, Brian, Chris A., Darryl, Gail, Evangeline, Marsha, Marilyn, Ron, Eliot, Herb, Jim, Booker & Rashad), volunteer training sessions (Asbury & St. Bridget's), as well as parent-engagement opportunities (Good Shepherd, St. Peter's & Faith Community), delicious edibles for our after-school workshops and students' daily snack requests (St. Peter's, St. Bridget's, Asbury, Good Shepherd & Holy Rosary), monthly motivational and celebratory tokens plus birthday cupcakes (wow, Vickie!), current events (Chris H.), school supplies (Holy Rosary & St. Bridget's), monetary donations (St. John's) as well as invitations to student leadership dinners and public speaking opportunities (Destiny's Daughters) to the Freshman Academy. As we continue to compile and analyze our data (David w/VCU & MERC, Karla's templates & school staff) we look forward to revealing how all of this support is making a measurable impact on our students' success.

During School

Students are settled into the routine of daily math and English classes.

Mrs. Dandridge has led the students to realizing that they CAN do math and maybe even like having it every day! When you walk into her room, the lights are low, the space feels like home and the focus is apparent - some students are even volunteering to show the class how to solve the next equation.

Around the corner, you can hear Mr. Maples' class brainstorming as he encourages the students to find personal meaning in the intersection of their daily experiences/interests with life-long English concepts, a multigenre research project, in-class workshops by the Quill theatre and even a Freshman Academy Spelling Bee!

Small group settings and cohort-based learning have students recognizing and addressing their areas of need. December 2015 presented an opportunity for some to retake 8th grade SOLs and with remediation support (thanks Courtney & our weekly tutors), 14 Academy students were motivated to retake the test for no personal gain aside from knowing that an "Academy student should always try to put their best foot forward"!

The growing presence of mentors, briefly stopping by the classroom before meeting with their mentees for a lunchtime game of Scrabble or a simple chat, contributes to the Freshman Academy model of truly surrounding each student with a circle of support.


Seven weekly sessions down, about 35-40 students each session, a mix of current and last year's cohort, all increasingly eager to see what the next Tuesday has in store. Thanks to Destiny's Daughters and Men About Positive Purpose we are facilitating weekly interactive workshops and mentor-based reflection activities on the five Community of Caring values of Respect, Responsibility, Trust, Caring and Family.

In 2015, our kick-off was hosted by the magnificent Minister Melody Pannell, followed by speed talks, scavenger hunts, then a uniquely motivational funeral service hosted by Michael "Maestro" Turner on the topic of "Average Must Die". Mr. Dick Commander from Holy Rosary closed the year on "Success Begins with You" and we co-hosted a holiday celebration with the Armstrong Leadership Program.

Many of our students are self-identifying with a desire to lead positive changes in our school culture as some have become Freshman Class Officers, joined clubs such as Robotics, various sports teams, and even securing employment with GreenWorks. Just last week, a select group of 16 students (eight 9th & eight 10th) participated in their first of five conflict resolution trainings with the Richmond Peace Education Center in partnership with the Armstrong Leadership Program.

Ongoing Support

Tutors (math, English, all subjects!), mentors, workshop facilitators, and supplies (AAA batteries for calculators, pencils, pens, color printer paper, and healthy snacks) are in high demand. Please communicate with your liaisons re details on how to sign up here. We also need volunteers who can assist with monthly motivations, newsletters and printing photos. Thanks in advance!


Upcoming Events & Requests (needs noted in italics)

January 2016 - COC theme is "TRUST_SELF"

  • Thurs 1/7 Student Conflict Resolution Training (Jan 7, 12, 19, 21 & 26) facilitated by Iman Shabazz of the Richmond Peace Education Center

  • Tues 1/12 After-School Workshop on Personal Assessments facilitated by Michael "Maestro" Turner on the topic of establishing your "BASSline". Hearty snack provided by Good Shepherd.

  • Tues 1/19 After-School Workshop on Appearance & Personal Upkeep facilitated by Destiny's Daughters & MAPP. Hearty snack provided by Holy Rosary.

  • Tues 1/26 **SNOW DAY**

***Requests are further detailed where you can sign-up, here***

February 2016 - COC theme is "TRUST_OTHERS"

  • Tues 2/2 After-School Workshop on Trusting Peers/Personal Relationships facilitated by DD & MAPP (hearty snack provided by St. Peters)

  • Wed 2/3 Parent Committee Meeting

  • Friday 2/5 EduConcert w/Richmond Peace Education Center - dinner and outing for students completing training last month

  • Tues 2/9 (end of 2nd Qtr) After-School Workshop on Creating a Freshman Academy Videography facilitated by Booker Chambers (pizza provided by program coordinator)

  • Tues 2/16 After-School Workshop on Trusting the Future w/AHS Future Center in prep for college trip (additional group leaders/VSU alumni)

  • Wed 2/17 Report Cards Sent Home

  • Thurs 2/18 Last Day of RPEC Training w/Armstrong Leadership Program & 8 Freshman Academy students leave for Project Inclusion Retreat

  • Fri 2/19 - Sun 2/21 Coordinator attending Community Trustbuilding Fellowship

  • Tues 2/23 Day Long Trip to Virginia State University - (trip sponsors, transportation and snack provided by volunteers)

  • Wed 3/2 Volunteer Training with Virginia Mentoring Partnership 7 - 9pm @ VUU (last training opportunity for this academic year - we need 60 mentors!)

On deck...more workshop facilitators from our partner congregations, Blue Sky, Richmond Slave Trail, Parent Engagement Session, Amtrak train station tour, Westview on the James Retreat, and a grand End of Year Celebration!!! Ideas welcomed :)

Contact Information

Volunteers, please communication directly with your congregation liaison. Thank you! ~Ms. Jessica Anderson, Program Coordinator