Whether students are drawn to college, entrepreneurship or a career in athletics, Rosemary Anderson High School wants to more intensively support each high schooler’s individual path through a new prep program launching in the fall.
“We’ve been doing some of this at a level for years,” Joe McFerrin II, president and CEO of the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Rosemary Anderson High School (POIC + RAHS), told The Skanner. “But now we’re going to formalize it, we’re going to put some staff and resources behind it, and really measure, modify, adjust. The real difference here is we’re going to be really, really intentional in pushing students beyond.”
The tuition-free pilot program will begin with a group of about 60 students. RAHS has an enrollment of approximately 450 students across its four Portland-area campuses.
“Rosemary Anderson prep currently is a program within RAHS,” McFerrin said. “But eventually this will be the program for all students. We’re just working out the kinks, we’re trying to figure out, ok, how challenging would it be to customize? We (have a small enough number of students in the first cohort) that we can be nimble and learn. But eventually it will be for all students.”
Rosemary Anderson High School is a tuition-free, accredited alternative education program targeted to students whose path to graduation has been complicated by factors including homelessness, a previous drop-out or incompatibility with the public high school system. Students of color comprise about 77% of those enrolled.
“We’ve always taken a holistic approach to educating students,” McFerrin, grandson of the school’s namesake educator, said.
“So it’s always been more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. So those wraparound services – that can be anything from rent assistance to working with a student that has to do community service, or helping a student get a summer job, or if they had a medical issue they needed help dealing with – we just look at each student as a full human being and ask, how can we best serve them? In addition to their academics.”
According to Portland Public Schools, RAHS boasts a 92% graduation rate. Statewide, the graduation rate for Black students is just under 80%.
RAHS and POIC serve about 3,000 community members each year, providing internship placement, training, career coaching, work re-entry support after incarceration and paid workplace training internships – along with culturally specific wraparound programs, including support for families impacted by the criminal justice system.
Long known for its individualized approach to student coursework, RAHS has structured a prep program with a more academically rigorous approach through advanced placement classes and college-level courses through Portland Community College.
“It’s a prep program because it is preparing kids for success in their whole lives, whether that’s (advanced placement) coursework, entrepreneurial mentorships or elite athletics,” Jeffrey McGee, principal of Rosemary Anderson High School’s Lents Campus, said in a statement. “This program is designed to meet the whole student where they are, provide unique wrap-around services, and get them ready to excel at the next level in their life.”
“We’re not putting together a cookie cutter, so to speak, or predetermined set of classes,” McFerrin said. “Each student will be assessed for where they are and where they want to go. We will build that holistic approach, we’ll build their customizable plan to meet their needs now. We are going to go beyond the traditional graduation standards.”
Tutors and additional educators will be brought in as necessary to support students’ interests in delving deeper into various subjects.
“Areas that we don’t have in our general education, we’re going to build,” he said. “And where I see this going in the future is that our traditional student that we love to serve, they’re going to come to the school and they’re going to be inspired. So those higher-level courses will be less a one-off, and more an integral part of our academic program.”
The entrepreneurship branch of Rosemary Anderson Prep will partner with community-based organizations like Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), McFerrin said, the school can create a space for students who have an interest in starting their own business, or nurturing their own entrepreneurial ideas.
The third branch of Rosemary Anderson Prep is Prospects, a boys’ basketball team and girls’ volleyball team with access to specialized training.
“We wanted to have a higher level of athletics to match what we’re doing on the entrepreneurship and the academic side,” McFerrin said. “Over the past six to eight years, we’ve seen kids from Portland who are leaving Portland, because there’s not a high level and intense basketball training program. And so I see this as an alternative on the basketball side for some kids, rather than leaving the state.
"If we can keep our homegrown kids here, I think that would benefit the whole community.”
“This is an innovative move for Rosemary Anderson Prep to provide opportunity and exposure to local student athletes to now have the ability to compete nationally without having to leave the state,” Nico Harrison, general manager of the Dallas Mavericks and POIC Board Member, said in a statement. “It continues to set the standard of excellence, creating a pathway for the next generation to be well-rounded and show their talents in a competitive space.”
Trisonya Abraham will serve as director of volleyball operations, with Latoya Harris-Alexander as head coach. Canaan Chatman will lead the boys’ basketball program as director of basketball operations.
The pilot program will cost an estimated $800,000 to launch and run in its first year.
“The additional muscle and strength around entrepreneurship and college prep and in athletics, all Rosemary Anderson students will benefit from that investment,” McFerrin said.
The program will be funded in part with a grant from the state Department of Justice, as well as from the state’s African American/Black Student Success Plan.
“We’re raising the bar, even for kids who historically have had poor attendance,” McFerrin said. “We don’t care. We’re asking, are you willing to take this to the next level?
Find more information on Rosemary Anderson High School's website.