Great Path Academy welcomes new principal

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Sep. 29, 2011
Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez was appointed principal at Great Path Academy in Manchester as of Aug. 8, 2011. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez was appointed principal at Great Path Academy in Manchester as of Aug. 8, 2011. Photos by Martha Marteney.

Doctor Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, the newly-appointed principal at Great Path Academy, said she was attracted to the school because of the opportunity it affords students to be immersed in a college environment. GPA, which is located on the campus of Manchester Community College, is a magnet school through the Capital Region Education Council. Torres-Rodriguez started at GPA as assistant principal in May 2011, and was appointed as principal effective Aug. 8, 2011.

“We’re a middle-college high school,” explained Torres-Rodriguez about GPA, which enables students to accelerate their post-secondary education by earning college credits while at GPA, both through direct enrollment in MCC classes and through articulated classes at GPA. GPA students can earn up to 30 college credits by the time of graduation.

Equally important for Torres-Rodriguez, though, is the role of GPA in reducing social and economic discrimination. She is committed to providing higher education opportunities for all students.

Torres-Rodriguez herself is a good role model for her students. When she was 9 years old, she moved from Puerto Rico to Hartford, and she calls herself a “product of the Hartford school systems.” She also took classes at MCC. She now holds a bachelor of science degree in human development and family relations, a master’s of social work degree from the University of Connecticut, and a doctorate of education in educational leadership from Central Connecticut State University.

Prior to GPA, Torres-Rodriguez was the grade principal for the Freshmen Center at Manchester High School. “What drew me to the Manchester area was the diversity of the student body,” she noted. Several of her students from the MHS Freshmen Center are now students at GPA, a connection which Torres-Rodriguez feels is helpful for both the student and the parents.

Approximately 260 students are enrolled at GPA for 10th, 11th and 12th grade. GPA’s theme this year is “Excellence with a caring and connected community.” In order to foster the home-school partnership, GPA hosts monthly gatherings during the day and at night for parents and students to discuss a variety of topics.

In alignment with this theme, the “Sophomore Academy” was developed for a more cohesive team approach. The students have the same teachers every day for the core academic classes, and the core teachers meet multiple times each week to conduct student common assessments, discussing both academic and social needs of the students. According to Torres-Rodriguez, this provides greater consistency for the student and increased responses for intervention, as needed. The goal is to quickly build community for the sophomores so that they are comfortable at GPA, as well as at MCC, so that they will be better prepared to achieve their goals.

For juniors and seniors, the “Center for Excellence” prepares the student to be ready for college or a career through an advisory course. Each student is responsible for a capstone graduation project, which is a two-year inquiry-based project that includes service learning or community work based on the student’s area of learning. This also provides social and emotional connections for the students.

Torres-Rodriguez especially likes working with adolescents as they are transitioning from youth to adulthood. “They’re ready to become members of the society,” she said. “There is a certain skill set that everyone needs in order to be successful,” she said, regardless if the person decides to pursue a college degree.

Since 1992, Torres-Rodriguez is a resident of East Hartford, where she and her husband, Nick Rodriguez, are raising their sons Niko, 9, and Kaden, 4. In her free time, she enjoys running and practicing yoga.

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