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High School 101

New CHS course aims to help new students succeed

Posted: October 13, 2011 5:58 p.m.
Updated: October 14, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Ashley Lewis Ford/C-I

This year, all Camden High School ninth graders are required to take the high school’s new High School 101 course. Taught by Stephen Sutusky and Casey Faulkenberry, the High School 101 course gives students a “basis to succeed” while focusing heavily on academic and social skills. In the picture are CHS teacher Stephen Sutusky, assistant principal Lesley Corner and teacher Casey Faulkenberry.

Most college freshman are familiar with their university’s College 101 courses, usually referring to it as a guaranteed “A” that requires little, if any, effort.

But for rising ninth graders at Camden High School (CHS), the new mandatory High School 101 class is anything but an “easy A.” According to CHS teachers Stephen Sutusky and Casey Faulkenberry, the school’s two High School 101 teachers who teach the course at CHS, High School 101 gives students a “basis to succeed.”

“In the High School 101 class, our focus is on academic and social skills. They do a great job in the middle school, but basically they are kind of older eighth graders right now that are still making that transition,” Faulkenberry said. “If we can create that support system early -- if they can succeed as freshmen -- then it’ll give them a lot better chance at succeeding in the next three years. We know we’re not going to be able to prevent all problems, but we hope that we can give them a better chance to overcome any issues that they might have when they transition from middle school to high school.”

“We’re trying to prevent these kids from getting lost at Camden High School, and not just in terms of just the physical environment, but within their own minds and within their classes,” Sutusky added. “It’s so easy for a kid to come in and kind of be embarrassed about not knowing what’s going on around here, and they’re too shy to speak up. But then, all of a sudden it’s too late and they’re so far behind. It’s almost like we’re giving them a small outlet in terms of a class that gives them a basis to succeed.”

Before the end of the school year, every CHS ninth grader is required to take the course that is divided into four sections -- introduction to Camden High School, note-taking and reading strategies, test-taking strategies, and career inventory and assessment.

“And it sounds like, ‘Well, can’t they get that in other classes?’ But the difference is that we can spend two or three days on how to take a test or the proper way to take notes,” Faulkenberry said. “And we can assess them on their note-taking skills, while in other classes they have to move quickly to meet a standard with that information. We try to give them that base so that they’re stronger in their other subjects.”

After Camden Mayor Graham recently visited the school and spoke about where he envisioned the city going, Sutusky said he the students “study themselves” and set personal goals.

In another lesson, students will create resumes and cover letters. Afterwards, human resource community members will come into the class and interview each student and decide which student is the best interviewee.

“In my opinion, this course matters more for the rest of your life than English or math, because if you don’t have the framework to live life successfully, and if you don’t have the work ethic, discipline and skills that we’re going to teach you in this class, then you can’t be successful in math and English,” Sutusky said. “Shakespeare is a great thing to be taught, but it does little for you if you don’t have the framework to excel when you leave Camden High School. We’re doing these kids a disservice if they graduate from here and flunk out of college their first semester because they don’t have the study skills that are needed.”

Faulkenberry said one of the misconceptions about the class is that students “just sit around and talk about their feelings all day.”

“No, they work. We hold them to a high standard. If you’re just a body, you’re not going to do well in this class,” he said. “It’s not just showing up, there’s substance to this class.”

Although the program just started, Sutusky said he and Faulkenberry will compare the data between current freshmen and sophomores at the end of this semester and at the end of the year, in an effort to find out if the course needs to be tweaked for next school year.

In the meantime, Sutusky said, their goal is to have at least 70 percent of each class meet four goals: a grade of a C or better, no disciplinary write-ups, no more than two unexcused absences and to participate in outside events.

“By participating in outside events, we mean that you’re on the football team, or you go to a football game. You go to a band concert or you’re in the school play,” Sutusky said. “If they meet all four, they have game day in the library. On (Sept. 23), all five classes got to go to game day. As a class, they all had decent grades, good behavior, they’ve been in school every day and they’ve been involved. So when you ask whether or not this class has been successful, well we’ve already met our goals for the interim.”

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