School of the Week: Detroit Institute of Technology College Prep High School at Cody

DIT 101- What does it mean to be a student who attends DIT at Cody?

Every single student who walks through the doors of Detroit Institute of Technology College Prep High School at Cody must register for “DIT 101.”

Similar to a freshman level introductory course at a college or university, this mandatory class—held each day for 40 minutes—pairs students with an academic advisor. The students will maintain a relationship with this person for the next four years of their high school career.

The primary task charged to each advisor is ensuring his or her students are on track to graduate and are prepared to enter a two- or four-year post secondary institution that offers a strong program major matching their career goals.

But the advisors aren’t the only ones with mandatory tasks.

Every student must draft an educational plan of what he or she intends to do for the next four years to prepare for college. The plan is reviewed and updated monthly. Beginning in 9th grade, students must write college essays. In the 10th grade, they begin practicing for scholarship interviews. By the 11th grade, students begin building senior portfolios and the 12th grade is spent prepping for the next four years: college life.

This is in addition to the traditional course work requirements.

“We want you to know that we’re going to give you a rich social experience, a rigorous educational experience, and we’re going to get you into college,” said Principal Mary Kovari. “When you’re ready to graduate, it’s a seamless transition. One grade builds upon the other with the fanatical belief that you are going to college.”

Each advisor is assigned about 12-13 students per course to ensure they are able to give their undivided attention to the small group.Advisors also use Restorative Practices to address behavior issues and build community involvement through the advisory program.  

“Here, we make sure that each student is known, acknowledged, affirmed, challenged and empowered,” said Flomenthia Lambert-Hayes, Special Education Lead Teacher who advises about 12-15 students. “We want each student to know that they’re special. And, it’s a part of my job to ensure my students graduate and go on to college.”

The school’s mission is all about college readiness, career readiness and the rigor involved in building students’ capacity to excel in both areas—college and career—once they exit DIT. Staff members also work to provide “real-world experiences that students wouldn’t necessarily get otherwise,” said Kovari. “And we build relationships. Relationships are so important to what we do as a school.”

“Because of our mission, we have a high success rate—not in just graduating our kids, but putting them into a university or other post-secondary school,” Kovari added. “In other words, it’s not enough to just graduate kids. We’ve experienced success with college enrollment.”

“Rising” to the challenge

DIT at Cody will celebrate its first graduating class on June 4, 2013. As one of the newly organized nine self-governing Detroit Rising College Preparatory Schools, DIT at Cody currently has 352 students and is committed to putting every student on a path to graduation and college.

To date, more than 75% of the senior class has received college acceptance letters and DIT students have garnered more than $2 million in scholarships. As a small school within the Cody Campus, this speaks volumes.

“That is a really, really important indication that we are on the right trajectory to be successful,” Kovari said. “We really believe as a team of teachers and educators that we are doing the right thing by our students and by our mission.”

A member of the Detroit Public Schools family of schools, the Detroit Rising schools offer a demanding college prep curriculum that features small class sizes, individual attention and opportunities for internships, scholarships and college visits.

With support from the community and expert educators who are in the driver’s seat, Detroit Rising College Preparatory Schools are held to high standards of accountability and rigorous performance expectations, including these academic targets:

  • 90 percent of all seniors will graduate by 2016
  • 90 percent of all graduates will enroll in a post-secondary program
  • The average ACT score will be 21 by the class of 2020

Educators who ‘really care’

Senior Quentin McKinnon scored an 18 on the ACT the first time he took it. But after receiving free tutoring from Justine Sheu, DIT College Transition Advisor, he scored a 21—the necessary ranking to earn many of his current scholarships.

Sheu assists all seniors with college readiness such as filling out applications, enrolling into schools, and with FAFSA assistance. She also organizes field trips, college assemblies, mock interviews and more.

“I went to her, and she really helped me,” McKinnon said of Sheu. “I’ve become a better writer, just a better student overall… My teachers saw potential in me, and they helped me to become a better leader.”

McKinnon has served as Junior Class President, current Youth Voice President, Student Council President, National Honor Society member and takes part in the Horizons-Upward Bound Program at Cranbrook. He has been awarded multiple scholarships from several universities— totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars— including a full ride to Bowling Green State University and the $10,000 Skillman Foundation’s Promising Youth Legacy Scholarship.

McKinnon aspires to become an accountant, earn his law degree and become a Chief Financial Officer.

Senior Malik Clifton also received the Skillman Foundation’s Promising Youth Legacy Scholarship and is a finalist for the H. T. Ewald Foundation’s $16,000 scholarship award, as well as a $14,000 scholarship from Bowling Green State University.

Clifton plans to study psychology. He hasn’t announced his university of choice yet, but is leaning toward the University of Michigan-Dearborn or Western Michigan University to become a psychiatrist. After obtaining his doctoral degree, Clifton plans to come back to the city and open a community center that offers family therapy.

Without a doubt, these students have their futures all planned out.

“I can’t be a short-sighted person,” Clifton said. “I have to know what I’m doing, and I have to have a plan for it.”

Connecting technology to future careers

Adhering to the technology portion of DIT’s curriculum, students are required to take courses in the DIT at Cody STEAM Initiative (C-SI), which encompasses Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

Chad Segrist, Lead Science Teacher and STEAM Facilitator, coordinated the C-SI program in September of 2012 to incorporate more STEAM courses into the school’s overall curriculum including: Innovative Vehicle Design (IVD); Operating an Underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle); Bridge Design; Urban Forestry, a service learning project on Belle Isle; Investigating Climate Change and Remote Sensing through a program offered by Wayne County RESA, and much more.

Students participate in projects such as “Capture the Wind,” where they are challenged to develop a device that transforms wind energy into electrical energy. Another C-SI program is “Cabin Insulation,” where students design, construct and evaluate an insulating panel from recycled materials. This project involves Technology, with basic tools, thermal resistance and energy conservation; Science, with heat transfer and properties of materials; and Mathematics, with equation manipulation, graphing, linear and non-linear relationships, according to Segrist.

Each STEAM program requires four phases that students must take part in: Design, Construction, Evaluation and Re-Design, if necessary.

“These students are learning the concepts they need to become engineers, but it goes beyond that,” said Segrist. “They begin to realize that they can overcome obstacles. When problems arise as they’re designing and constructing, they have to resolve those problems. That can be applied to life in general.”

Sophomores Trevon Stapleton and Royce Williams know this process very well after helping to construct the school’s Team Robot 4768 and by helping to transform a gas-powered Go Cart into an electric powered vehicle.

Both students, along with their team members Brehonia Reese, Dayshawn Calhoun, Shambrica Walker, Gregory Scott and Hassan Almalke, will compete in the Michigan International Speedway Innovative Vehicle Design Racing Day competition on May 4.

“Real-world experiences and the rigor of a college prep curriculum have to connect,” said Principal Kovari. “The connection for us is technology. Through technology, we will prepare our students for 21st Century careers.”

Something you didn’t know…

DIT at Cody will become a Cisco Networking Academy next year. Through a partnership with Henry Ford Community College, students will have the ability to take courses while in high school that will put them on track to becoming a certified I.T. Technician with one year of additional training at Henry Ford after graduation.

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