Eye On Education: Boston Program Adds Year Of Learning Between 8th & 9th Grade

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Beacon Academy is a school in Boston that is the only one of its kind in the country. This is a non-traditional kind of education, adding a year of learning – between eighth and ninth grade.

Students there admit it’s tough, it’s relentless and it’s going to change their lives.

“It’s building me and it’s making me stronger and I just know that I’m going to be successful after this year at Beacon,” said 14-year-old Persia Cruz of Dorchester.

That confidence and faith you hear from Persia is the very reason Beacon Academy was founded more than a decade ago. This unique — privately funded program — chooses about 20 Boston students for an intense year just before high school.

The goal? A scholarship to an elite private school.

Persia says she knows she needed the extra time. “I wasn’t ready for high school academically, physically or emotionally,” she says.

To make sure they are ready for high school — these students hit the books six days a week. Jose Melo, now a ninth grader at the Cambridge School of Weston went through the 14 month program last year, and it’s demanding.

Students work on grammar, writing and math six days a week. Jose Melo – now a ninth grader at the Cambridge School of Weston went through the intense 14 month program last year.

“There was nowhere to hide,” Jose says, “so you were always speaking, raising your hand thinking hard of each individual problem and it felt really good.”

But head of school Mervan Osborne points out it’s not only about academic rigor. “It continues to be the most inspirational experience of my life.”

Inspiring the kids — also means introducing some opportunities they’ve often never experienced — like skiing, rowing and trips to Martha’s Vineyard.

“It’s that sort of exposure,” Osborne says, “that’s the secret sauce that’s the kind of – those are the keys to the castle that gets you comfortable when you enter ninth grade with the sons and daughters of suburban kids or kids of privilege.”

One of many keys these students can use to unlock a bright future:

“To my mind,” Osborne adds, “it’s a combination of the adults raising the standards and keeping it elevated and the kids believing in themselves.”

Persia appreciates everything Beacon means to her:

“Being surrounded by a community of people who want to achieve the same things as you and do the same things as you it’s really awesome because everybody participates and they give you feedback and it’s just heartwarming.”

The students are selected through a nomination process. And each family is responsible for a small portion of the tuition. Beacon Academy has produced 185 graduates who have earned $38 million dollars purely in academic scholarships.

If you have a story you think should be featured in our Eye On Education series, email us at EyeOnEducation@cbs.com or tweet @PaulaEbbenWBZ

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