360 Degree Student Support
posted on December 16, 2017 by Center Staff
It takes a special kind of school to get students out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, it even takes a staff member knocking on the door. This is precisely what Steve Sanchez did when he and one of his fellow social workers at ACE Leadership High School decided to pick up a student who had been missing class. “His mom just could not get him to school, and we had been working with the student extensively, and the mom as well,” Sanchez told us. “When we knocked on the door and he saw that we were there, he was shocked. He was floored. So we picked him up, brought him to school and said, ‘So now you know that we’re for real. So you know that we’ll come and get you.’”
This kind of support is vital at a school with a hands-on approach to architecture, construction, and engineering (hence the name ACE), which attracts students who may not have succeeded in traditional classrooms—students who are often experiencing difficult circumstances outside of school. Social workers like Sanchez are often involved in all aspects of students’ lives to ensure they receive the best support possible. “We’re highly visible, and we’re available. We’re constantly walking around during passing periods. We’re with them in class. We have a morning workout so we’re involved in the morning workout. We’re greeting students when they come in the door. We do lunch duty. We’re constantly visible if a student needs us,” said Sanchez. Besides being almost everywhere all the time, Sanchez also counsels students individually, acts as a contact point for families, and conducts home visits.
This approach, called 360 Degree Student Support, is one of three pillars in an innovative new school design. The three pillars—360 Degree Student Support, Community Engagement, and Learning by Doing—work together to support student success in classrooms where students are often experiencing difficult or adverse circumstances. “I think the main idea behind [360 Degree Student Support] is that you can have all these resources and you can have a great curriculum, but if your mind is not right and your heart is not right you’re not going to be able to work.” Though the Three Pillar model began at ACE, it is now being replicated and applied to charter schools across Albuquerque. “I think one of the challenges for APS schools and traditional high schools is their [student] numbers are a lot larger, so to be able to justify more social workers they would have to spend more money to hire those people,” said Sanchez when asked if he thought that students support should be a greater priority in other schools. “But I think that it would definitely be worth it. If had they had that extra student support, I think the drop-out rate would be a lot less.”
A sophisticated support system may not be the only answer to getting students out of bed into school morning after morning, but Sanchez has seen this method work. “There was a student who was here [at ACE] for five years. We started at the same time. And there were many times during that five years when we weren’t going to give up but at the same time we weren’t sure when and if this was going to happen,” Sanchez said with warmth in his voice as he also told how the student’s dad had thanked Sanchez for his support. “Seeing the student’s dad, the student’s mom and grandma just so thrilled that the student made it, and seeing that student walk the stage and come off the stage and take pictures was a really good moment. It felt like I made a difference.” Steve Sanchez is leaving ACE to be a medical social worker at Presbyterian hospital, but he says he hopes his new job will be just as impactful and just as fun.