Synergy students go ‘Above and Beyond’

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Sep. 27, 2013
Synergy High School 'Above and Beyond' Program
Some of the Synergy students who participated in the Above and Beyond program include (l-r): Matt Harris, Joseph Franklin, Brian Chaney, Chanel Lurry, Laiane Camacho, Kejuan Weaver, Brandon Chaney and Serenity Valentin, with teacher Joseph Broaden. Photo by Corey AmEnde.

Synergy High School recently capped a successful first year of the Above and Beyond program that was highlighted by a summer work experience. Twenty students from Synergy took part in the summer youth employment (SYE) program that paired the students with seven local businesses. The students earned $8.75 an hour for 120 hours of work.

“It was a really good experience,” said Matt Harris, who worked in the Youth Services Department. “I learned more personal things about myself, who I really am.”

The SYE began on July 15 with students working Monday through Friday, five hours a day for four weeks. An education week before the program started helped to prepare students for their work experiences. The local businesses that participated in the program included McDonald’s in Glastonbury, Senior Care, East Hartford Tire, Riverside Health Care, Parks and Recreation, Youth Services and the Ramada Inn.

Joseph Broaden, a teacher at Synergy, said the feedback from the business was positive, with most of the evaluations getting very favorable reviews. Broaden said the average evaluation was 85.5 percent on a scale of 100 and there were three perfect evaluations. Four students were even hired on to continue employment after completion of the program.

The Above and Beyond program began in the spring semester, with the students being hand-selected based on their leadership qualities. “It makes you feel good that people recognize things you do,” said Laiane Camacho. “It shows that you do have the potential, that people do recognize what you’re doing, and it just makes you feel good about yourself.”

“I felt like I was really a leader, a student leader, and that I could do things,” added Kejuan Weaver, who worked with Youth Services. Weaver’s leadership qualities were recognized by Youth Services, as they made him the first student representative to be a part of their board.

Synergy partnered with Goodwin College for the Above and Beyond program, and students had to meet once a week during the spring semester, when they developed pre-vocational skills such as interviewing, communications, conflict resolution and dress. In order to qualify for SYE, students had to show up to the weekly meetings.

“The students were told in order to qualify [for SYE] we’re going to look at attendance, we’re going to look at grades, we’re going to look at behaviors, and so you need to improve on these three areas if you expect to get this at the end,” said Broaden. “So the kids that got SYE made improvements and then they made improvements on those improvements throughout the summer.”

Camacho, a senior at Synergy, worked at Riverside Health care with the elderly. “I’m kind of selfish, so it showed me that you need to appreciate life more,” said Camacho. “You learn a lot from them and it helps you learn more about yourself.”

Joseph Franklin also worked with the elderly where he was assigned at Senior Care. Franklin said he gained a greater appreciation for senior citizens. “They’ve been through a lot and they can teach you more about life in general,” said Franklin. “Being there made me feel good because I wasn’t just working with my peers but with other people in general.”

Chanel Lurry, a junior at Synergy, worked at McDonald’s, where she worked on the grill and wrapped food. “I felt good because I felt like I’m maturing and getting older and I’m really starting to get an experience on how my life can really be like in 10 years,” said Lurry.

Twin brothers Brandon and Brian Chaney both worked at the Ramada Inn. Brian worked on the maintenance crew, while Brandon worked in the guest rooms, stripping beds. “I didn’t know I had that much patience,” said Brandon. “Like if I mess up a bed, they would come back and say, 'You got to do this,' you got to keep going back and forth and I just had to stay strong and do whatever they said, and I was happy at the end.”

Brian said he thought working with his brother wasn’t going to be “hectic,” but it worked out for the best. “It was a good opportunity to work with my brother and work at a hotel, so I got a lot out of it,” said Brian.

In addition to the monetary reward of getting a paycheck, Dr. Craig Outhouse, the principal at Synergy, said he’s noticed the positive results of this program paying forward into the current school year, particularly with attendance. “We challenged them on the attendance piece,” said Outhouse, who added that there were some students with an excess of 60 absences the year prior to being involved in Above and Beyond.

Camacho is one of the students that has improved her attendance. “My freshman, sophomore and junior year I would never come to school,” said Camacho. “I lost so much credit, and then I worked at Riverside and I was more on time. I mean it’s work, you’re going to work every day, but then the school year started here and I’ve been doing good on my attendance.”

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