Texas charter school founder discusses significance of goal setting, philanthropy and collaborations for new year

dfwnewsa | December 31, 2023 | 1 | Dallas News

Texas charter school founder discusses significance of goal setting, philanthropy and collaborations for new year

As the new year approaches, learning institutions are reviewing their curriculum, looking for improvements and working towards getting what’s needed to help students in their educational journeys and beyond. 

Schools are doubling back in order to move forward with increasing student success rates and learning desires, even past graduation. With emphasis on the essential contribution of philanthropic giving and community collaboration, one Texas institution aims to keep students interested in knowledge and skill building even after they have walked across the stage. 

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“We want to give students that opportunity to kind of really look at what are some of the things that I want to accomplish in the future,” Cynthia Trigg, founder, chief executive officer and school superintendent of Evolution Academy Charter School (EACS), said. 

EACS is an accredited public charter high school that focuses on serving students in grades 9-12 who have dropped out, are at risk of dropping out or are seeking flexible instructional options. 

In 2002, EACS opened its classroom doors for the first time, and after expanding in 2013, today, EACS provides students with a unique learning experience with campuses in Beaumont, Houston and Richardson. Along with expansion, the school shifted their focus and developed to provide students with access to college, career and military readiness. 

Partnerships with community businesses and organizations give students at EACS the opportunity to get real-life experiences as they finish their high school studies.

“Really giving students access to what real life looks like,” Trigg said. 

This year for Giving Tuesday, EACS students organized a health fair and partnered with the city of Dallas to administer COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. The students were in charge of the marketing and orchestration of the event. This opportunity not only allowed students to collaborate with local entities, but also gave them life-long skills that they could take with them for their post-secondary opportunities. 

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EACS has worked with Planned Parenthood, the Texas Workforce and medical institutions like Children’s Hospital and University of Texas MD to offer students educational resources. In partnership with the state of Texas and with funds from philanthropy, the school has been able to provide students with an on-site resource counselor for any needs that may be making it difficult for them to concentrate in school. 

Trigg noted the importance of philanthropic giving, especially as it pertains to charter schools since the state funds received are based on the institution’s average daily attendance. Federal funds, which are supplemental funds based on enrollment, age and economic disadvantage status, only make up 5% of EACS’ budget, according to Trigg. Schools like EACS rely on philanthropic giving to provide for students and ease some of the financial obligations they may face in the midst of their personal social difficulties. 

With 95% of philanthropy going directly towards the programs at EACS, they have been able to pay for essentials like students’ graduation gear and hot meals for those that are suffering from food insecurity. 

“Some of the social issues that they face really does hamper them from moving to the next level academically,” Trigg said. “Our goal is to minimize any distractors so that they can really focus on finishing what they started.

Going into the new year, EACS looks to reevaluate some aspects of the school in order to better the educational environment for the students. After returning in January, teachers and faculty will engage in a wellness checkup where they look at what was done in the fall and see how it needs to be improved, adjusted and monitored.

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Just as much as they depend on collaborative efforts from local organizations, EACS also aims to reach out to one group that could help with a student’s consistency and development for next year: the parents. 

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EACS has an open entry, open exit concept, and students are constantly enrolling and leaving the school, and with enrollment dwindling still as a result of COVID-19, the institution looks to parents to help motivate students and ensure they are coming to class. 

A student can lose the desire to even want to learn, and with the limited time the school has to bring the student up to the level they need to be at, more assistance is needed. Trigg said to get a 17 or 18 year old interested again in the academic setting after they’ve fallen behind two to three grade levels can be a bit of a challenge. Even though they do analyze students’ deficiency plans and what they need in order to graduate, their fast-paced curriculum requires parental support. 

In the new year, students and parents get an opportunity to relook at the significance of education and see what they individually need to do in order to see the desired results in school. The saying “it takes a village” definitely applies each and every year in an academic setting. 

“Education is the greatest equalizer if parents continue to believe it, and if they continue to instill it and are willing to work alongside the schools, that is probably the most valuable asset,” Trigg said. 

Goals and resolutions are common stepping into a new year, but not everyone tends to stick to them. Before setting these goals, people may have to go back to the drawing board, understand what it is they are seeking and delve into what is necessary for success. 

This applies to all parties involved in a student’s academic evolution. 

Here’s some key points that Mrs. Trigg shared that high school students, parents and faculty should keep in mind when considering educational goals for 2024:

High School Students:

  • Understand their Individual Graduation Plan
  • Attend School Daily
  • Career Exploration: Identify interests and explore potential career paths to align educational goals with future aspirations.
  • Academic Planning: Develop a balanced course load that challenges and engages, preparing for both college and career options. Explore college credits that leads to obtaining an associate degree and or industry-based certification while in high school.
  • Community Service /Extracurricular Activities: Participate in activities that display leadership, teamwork, and passion to strengthen college applications. Always focus on giving back to support your community
  • Standardized Testing: Understand and prepare for standardized tests (STAAR, TSIA, SAT, ACT) if applicable for college admissions.
  • Research Colleges and or Technical Institutes: Begin researching, considering academic programs, campus culture, and location.

For Parents:

  • Encourage daily attendance
  • Supportive Environment: Foster an environment that encourages open communication about educational goals and aspirations.
  • Financial Planning: Discuss and plan for the financial aspects of higher education, exploring scholarship and financial aid options.
  • College Research Colleges and or Technical Institutes Selection: Collaborate with your child in researching and visiting colleges, understanding their preferences and goals.
  • Mental Health Awareness: Be attentive to the emotional well-being of your child during this transitional period.
  • Encourage Independence: Support your teen in taking ownership of their educational journey and decision-making.

For Faculty:

  • Student Guidance: Provide guidance to students on academic and career paths, helping them make informed decisions.
  • Monitor student daily attendance
  • Innovative Teaching: Integrate innovative teaching methods to engage students and prepare them for evolving educational landscapes.
  • College & Career Readiness Programs: Develop or support programs that prepare students for the academic and career challenges of higher education.
  • Professional Development: Stay updated on educational trends and technologies to enhance teaching methods.
  • Collaboration with Parents: Foster open communication with parents, keeping them informed about their teen’s educational progress and goals.
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