Alternative program provides freshmen with a newfound relationship to education


SUCCEED students learn to skate at Leddy Park.

KCMalinda Hlords

SUCCEED is a new program in Burlington High School (BHS).  It is an alternative program for freshman students who struggle to attend class.  

“SUCCEED is a school within a school. It is a specialized program to support ninth grade students who need some additional one to one support and a specialized setting to help them be successful in school,” Principal Noel Green said. 

“It’s a much smaller setting, modified schedule from 8-11, with a lot more adult support,” Ashley Creighton, Behavior Coach and SUCCEED Coordinator, said. 

The hope is that low student to teacher ratios, smaller class sizes, shorter blocks, the half day, limited courses and more individualized learning will help students reengage in school, build positive relationships, earn credit, and start to develop a plan for success.  

“A few goals are to provide a social support network for the students; they begin each day with a check in and restorative circle to provide them with intensive support in regard to literacy and writing and provide them with individualized support in math.  It is also designed to help them with just the general tools in regard on how to do school well,” Principal Green said.

To that end, each day begins with a circle to transition students to school, check on immediate needs, and get students ready to learn.  

“The goal is to be able to address their specific needs as students and absolutely to be here every day, to be here, to be present, it’s part of the norm,” Josh Edelbaum, BHS social worker, said. 

Students who attend regularly have the opportunity to earn credit in English, math, health and wellness, and an elective.  

“It’s an option for four credits if you are in for the entire year. This is if you do all the work and attend regularly. If you come halfway in the year, you can earn half credits for each of those areas,” Creighton said. 

Green sees SUCCEED as a way to create opportunities for students who are traditionally left behind.  

“Schools like Horizon’s require students to have some credit in order to be eligible. The SUCCEED program is designed to do that and to get students highly prepared to stay, to go back to the general population, or at least they have enough credit if they wanted to attend an alternative school,” Principal Green said. 

Most SUCCEED students did not want to talk to the Register.  However, Jarred Merriot, a student who joined SUCCEED in December said the program is “chill” and the shorter classes help him focus.

Freshman Jarred Merriot says SUCCEED is “chill.” 

“[Without SUCCEED] I would be out of my classes in the hall. I wouldn’t be engaged,” Merriot said. 

Famo Haji, a senior at BHS and a Teaching Assistant, said her experience mentoring has been good.

“There are multiple teachers in the classroom and not a lot of kids, so it’s not too much,” Haji said.  “During my block, the first half is math and the second half is reading. I help with whatever math packet we are doing that day and then I help read with the student that I work with.” 

To keep students coming, the staff of SUCCEED try to make students as comfortable as possible by adding elements that are not always part of a regular high school classroom.  Students share tea or hot chocolate, often break for a quick visit to the weight room, or take some 1-1 time with a teacher as needed. For field trips they have summited Mount Mansfield, skated at Leddy Park, and visited the Fletcher Free Library.

Creighton said the program is working.  Students are changing their relationship to school.  

“Students are reaching these milestones that are set to make sure they are progressing with their learning.  We also see a student coming to a class regularly, showing that they are ready to be present every day when maybe there weren’t before,” Creighton said. 

The recent school closure due to COVID-19 is challenging for everyone.  SUCCEED teachers are focusing on relationships over academics. 

“Since SUCCEED is a very relationship based program we have had to get creative when it comes to maintaining relationships between teachers and students. We are working on ways to create opportunities for connection using email and text check ins as well as Google Hangouts and Google Meet,” Creighton said in an April 1 email to the Register. “In terms of academics I want them to not lose any of the skills that they have gained and made progress towards over the years. However, I mostly hope that they and their families are safe and well during this challenging time.”