Friday, April 29, 2016


By Stephanie Worthley

The Reach Higher initiative is the First Lady Michelle Obama's effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. One initiative of the campaign is to highlight College Signing Day. College Signing Day is a chance to rally around students and show them support. May 1st is National College Decision Day, as it is the deadline for students to make deposits to attend the college of their choice. Therefore, on Friday, April 29, 2016, MHS teachers and faculty wore t-shirts from their alma maters or a local college or university. It was great to see so many teachers and staff showing their support for our students!

Junior Parent Coffee

by Amanda Grillo

This past Wednesday the Guidance Department hosted an event for the parents of juniors to continue the discussing the future planning process. The guidance counselors gave an overview of the college application process and the parents of current seniors answers questions and offered some advice. Some of the important take aways from the senior parents are:

  • Make a spreadsheet that includes information like deadlines, application requirements, pros/cons etc.
  • Schedule one hour a week to talk about college so students aren't overwhelmed 
  • There's pressure to go to the most selective school possible- focus on where your child will be happiest
  • More schools on the list isn't better
  • Figuring out which high school activities your child will want to continue in college will help narrow down the college list
  • Naviance is a great tool
  • School visits and overnights are helpful
  • Be mindful of colleges that ask for additional essays 
The guidance counselors also noted that there are students every year who don't choose to attend college after high school graduation. No matter what your future plans are, the spring of junior year is a great time for students to meet with their guidance counselor so their counselor can help to individualize the process. There are so many exciting opportunities for students after high school and the guidance counselors look forward to exploring them their students each year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Vanderbilt University

by Amanda Grillo

I had the opportunity to attend Vanderbilt's Counselor fly in program last week in Nashville. Vanderbilt is a medium sized university that has a small liberal arts college feel with a focus on research. The campus is gorgeous and students have access to downtown Nashville where they can enjoy live music any day of the week. During the program I was able to go to informational sessions in all four schools within Vanderbilt: Blair School of Music, Peabody School of Education, The College of Arts and Science, and The School of Engineering. Something that stood out to me in all of the schools is the importance of putting what students are learning in the classroom into practice. By the Fall of 2018 there will be what is called an Immersion Requirement where every student will need to work with a faculty member on some kind of "hands on" project or experience. These opportunities can range from studying abroad, service learning or research. I heard from students about how supportive the faculty are at Vanderbilt. During freshman year students live in an area of campus called the commons and a professor has an apartment attached to each freshman dorm. He or she will offer homemade meals to students and help them to find their academic path. Vanderbilt is a highly selective university admitting 11% of their applicants each year. However, they meet full financial need for students without loans. I got the sense that the students are happy and enthusiastic about the school. I believe this is because of the level of faulty support, the close knit community, and all of the amazing activities that Vanderbilt and the city of Nashville has to offer. If you are interested in learning more about Vanderbilt feel free to contact me.

20th Annual 8th Grade Career Day

by Matt Marenghi

Blake Middle School held it's 20th Annual 8th grade Career Day this past Friday, April 8th. The day kicked-off with keynote speaker Dr. Denise Ellis, a professor of social work and international speaker on the topics of social and economic justice. This informative and inspiring presentation set the stage for students to attend three more presentations of their choosing.

Among the professionals that presented at the break-out sessions were: the owner of an energy efficiency consulting firm, a chemical engineer, the CEO of a pharmaceutical/biotech company, a physical therapist, a medical product regulation manager, a public health administrator, a television sports anchor and reporter, a nurse from Dana Farber, and independent beauty supply consultant, a pediatric oncology nurse, a product developer at an investment firm, an attorney, a global marketer, a meeting planner, a speech and language pathologist, and a police officer.

A big "Thank You!" to all the professionals that volunteered their time to enrich the development of the Class of 2020, no doubt providing them with even more motivation as they prepare themselves for the transition to high school.

Monday, April 4, 2016


by Anne Lodge


Want to learn about an easy way to earn money for college? Read on! is a new program that allows students in grades 9-12 to earn scholarships for their academic and extracurricular achievements throughout high school. These “micro-scholarships” award money to students for everything from perfect attendance, to earning good grades, to participating in clubs, to playing sports, volunteering, or any other number of things students are already doing. It almost sounds too easy!

Students in grades 9-12 can create a free account with, complete a profile and portfolio documenting their achievements from grade 9 onwards, and begin following colleges. By following a college, students are able to earn money that can be used towards tuition at that particular school. The money earned for a particular achievement may be different from school to school and students can view their earnings through their personal portfolio at any time. If a student then applies to a college where they have earned micro-scholarship money and they are admitted to the school, the scholarship money is automatically added to their financial aid package. The great thing is that students can be eligible to raise money from all of the colleges on at the same time if they meet the requirements and follow the college. is funded by the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, and Facebook’s charitable giving program, among others. It has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and NPR. There are over 100 colleges that participate in awarding these micro-scholarships through including University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Notre Dame, Merrimack, Colby, Penn State, Temple, Loyola University Maryland, Carnegie Mellon, and WPI to name a few.

The chance to earn scholarship money just by doing what you’re already doing? Sounds good to me!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Where does technology come in from a social/emotional learning perspective?

by Tracy Allen

Technology has brought wonderful and exciting new things to learning in our district. Last week's DLD day was an opportunity for teachers to share what they're doing with each other. It truly is amazing to see technology's impact from a student perspective. 

Where does technology come in from a social/emotional learning perspective? This question was addressed as part of a larger discussion about technology and schools with a panel moderated by Blake principal Nat Vaughn and made up of  IT Directors from other school districts as well as our own Superintendent Jeff Marsden. The S/E component can not be separated from the educational component, according to one of the panelists. Digital Citizenship and ethics around device use are part of that conversation. One place that we, as a department, will start exploring more are the programs, apps, and digital resources that guidance counselors, particularly at the middle school level, can be used in the guidance classes. 

One great presentation on DLD day was about an app called Social Stories. Students for whom previewing social situations helps could read and reread a story created by a teacher or counselor before actually encountering potentially scary events like the first day of school or when a teacher takes a maternity leave. This app was originally developed to help people with autism preview new situations. However, I think the app could appropriately used for a number of our students.

In my 6th grade guidance classes, I am asking kids to think back to things that made them nervous about entering Blake. They are using the app to create stories, all in the first person so the reader can imagine himself/herself in that situation, that would help answer questions and preview experiences that might be "scary" when entering the middle school. I hope to have a variety of scenarios available on the guidance website this summer to help quell pre-Blake jitters.

As the direction of technology in the classroom has been so exciting to watch, I think the journey of technology in S/E learning will be equally exciting.