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Surrounded by their parents, teachers, principals and a double row of cheerleaders and flag performers, the students chosen for Collins University, a school within a school at Collins Middle School, got an exciting if early start to the school year Monday.
Collins University is a project for high-achieving students to be able to take demanding classes in a way designed to bring out more creativity, curiosity and leadership. It’s called project-based learning, according to Jima Montfort, counselor and coordinator for Collins University.
“It’s very student-oriented, focusing on leadership potential,” Montfort said.
The concept came from Herbert O’Neil, former principal at Collins and the new principal at Corsicana High. O’Neil brought the students to Collins University on Monday and introduced them as they came off the bus.
In order to help create the curriculum, some of the educators went to a training seminar at Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta this summer. Clark is a former Harlem teacher who became famous for his work with inner-city students. His methods are based on strict discipline, very hard work, and big rewards, including travel, scholarships and technology in the classrooms.
Brett and Phyllis Reagan’s son Bryan “jumped on the chance,” to apply for the program, Phyllis Reagan said.
“He really wanted to do this,” said Brett Reagan. “It makes it easy when it’s all them.
“He’s really into academics, and he wanted to be part of an elite group, a unique group,” Brett Reagan added. “I think it’s going to be pretty project-based. We’ll see how that works. It’ll be a good experience for the kids.”
In order to apply for the program, the students had to fill out an application, write an essay, go to a student mixer, where they had to shake hands and converse intelligently with adults, and then there was an interview.
“This is helping him get ready for the world,” Phyllis Reagan said.
Of the 130 students who applied for Collins University, less than half made it in. Collins University is starting with two small classes, 29 from each grade.
Aniq Chunara couldn’t sleep the night before orientation because he was so keyed up, according to his mother Shahnoor Chunara.
Steve and Kim Hayes said their Trent was also nervous and excited.
“I was very impressed with the process,” Kim Hayes said. “Everybody who applied learned something. I’m excited to see what they’re going to learn.”
Making the program work requires the participation of parents, according to Montfort, but parents who were on-hand Monday said they were committed to doing whatever it takes to make their kids successful.
“I think we have a lot of questions about what it’s going to be like, but I think we feel honored more than anything,” Steve Hayes said.
The lessons learned in Collins University may someday spread to the rest of the school, Montfort said.
“Long-term, we’d like to extend it throughout the school,” she said. “To establish the program, we’re starting with a small group of students.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com