Jefferson High School is a public school in urban Rochester that 1,100 students currently attend, but the majority of them are not proficient to their grade levels in math, according to state standards.

I went to Jefferson yesterday to cover their pending transition from a general-education school to one that integrates the foundations of entrepreneurship into all aspects of education. I had no idea what to expect when I walked in the door.

I was greeted in the office by Jefferson Principal Mary Andrecolich-Diaz, an exceedingly pleasant woman who seems to know every student’s name, grade and personality by heart. During my tour, she routinely pulled students aside to ask about the health of their father, or how a particular class was going. No subject seemed too small.

What struck me about Andrecolich-Diaz was not her professionalism or compassion, but rather her enthusiasm. She has worked at Jefferson for three years and it was obvious to even the most passive observer that she expects the greatest years of her tenure to be in the future.

While I take the Nature of Entrepreneurship course to fulfill a Political Science major, Jefferson’s teachers take it to change lives. To the teachers, the move to a new curriculum is about giving hope to the hopeless. Jefferson students are, by and large, unfortunate victims of circumstances beyond their own control.

I came to realize the seeds of achievement cannot be taught traditionally. To tell students of the benefits of a college education has little to no lasting value, especially when the alternative can be easy and comfortable to an impressionable seventh grader.

Through guest lectures, and classes at UR, the Jefferson faculty intends to bring influences into their community that are foreign to most of the school’s population. Coupled with the integration of entrepreneurship into their curriculum, the faculty intends to foster an environment in which students expand their horizons and learn to achieve.

This is why I expect Jefferson to find success in its new curriculum. On the tour, Andrecolich-Diaz told me that, as clich as it may be, she refuses to work with “dream-slayers.” What better way to encourage students to fulfill their potential than to encourage the best within them?

One way to encourage this is to get involved. UR is often accused of being a “campus on an island,” with insular students going about their day-to-day business and largely ignoring the city around us. JHS reached out to UR in order to tap into our vast store of knowledge and experience, and they are well on their way to providing benefits to thousands of local students. The least we can do is help them achieve their goal.

Majarian can be reached at mmajarian@campustimes.org.



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