The Renzulli Academy for High Performing/Low Income Students in Hartford Receives Grant for Summer Enrichment Program
by: Kristina Goodnough
With a $250,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Renzulli Academy in Hartford will establish a robust summer enrichment program for its high potential/low income students.
The academy, which opened two years ago, serves 110 students in grades four through eight using an approach to learning designed to affect the entire culture of the school and reach into the home lives of its students. Instead of a remedial and compensatory focus, the academy uses a learning theory called the Enrichment Triad Model that makes curricular topics more interesting and meaningful.
“The student success we’ve achieved has been unprecedented in Hartford,” says Joseph Renzulli, professor in the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talented Development, who developed the learning approach used at the academy. “In 2010, 89 percent of the student body scored either at goal or mastery level; and in 2011, 95 percent of the student body scored either at goal or mastery level.”
The academy, which recently moved out of a wing of the Simpson Waverly School into its own small building on Cornwall Street, will use the grant to establish a six-week summer program focusing on art, science and math, followed with an independent or small group project.
“One of our greatest challenges is helping all of our students have a background and context in which to understand big ideas in literature, history, geography, mathematics and science, so they can apply this knowledge to challenging academic work,” says Renzulli. “Most of the students attending the academy have never traveled to historical venues, have not attended live theater performances or visited a major university,” he says, adding that when the academy took students to a performance at the Bushnell, it was the first live production for 99 percent of them. “We have not had the resources to deliver the same types of opportunities to these students that their middle class peers enjoy on a regular basis.”
The program will begin this summer for students in grades six, seven and eight,” says Renzulli Academy Director Ruth Lyons. “We are going to work with the Bushnell, Talcott Mountain Science Center, Connecticut Public Television, and with alumni from the University of Connecticut. We are excited that this grant will allow the academy to broaden the horizons of our students. For example, this year we are planning a trip to Washington, D.C. It is our hope that this grant will provide our students with as many opportunities as their academic counterparts in more affluent areas.”
“We’ll expand the program over the next two years, so it is available to all our students,” adds Lyons. The grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is renewable for up to three years. Located in Virginia, this private, independent foundation is dedicated to helping exceptionally promising students reach their full potential through education.
“These enrichment activities help the students apply and transform factual information into usable knowledge,” Lyons says.