Power of the Plan: Finding their fit at Campus International High School

April 18, 2018

Power of the Plan: Finding their fit at Campus International High School

Nikita Boyd, center, with her daughters Nikiah and Lonneyah, at Campus International School.


Story by Justin Glanville     Photos by Julie Van Wagenen

There are more than 170 public schools, both district and charter, located within the boundaries of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), and parents living in the district can choose schools across residential boundaries within the city.

“I think a lot of people are still unaware that they can look around for a place that’s right for their kid, but it’s so important to do it,” says Eloy Gonzalez. The father of five sends his children to a school in Ohio City even though the family lives in Tremont.

Empowering parents to choose where to send their children to school is part of the bedrock of Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools, the comprehensive reform strategy to ensure every child in Cleveland attends a quality school.

This story is part of a series about how families chose their schools.

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When Campus International High School opened for its inaugural school year, 2017-18, there was never any doubt in Nikita Boyd’s mind that it was the right fit for her oldest daughter, Lonneyah Greer.

Even though the high school was brand new, 14-year-old Lonneyah had already thrived at the associated Campus International K-8 School, which she’d attended for several years before.

Boyd was convinced of the effectiveness of the Campus International model, which emphasizes college preparedness, community engagement, and international travel to expand students’ cultural references.

“She’s a different young lady today than when she started,” Boyd says. “The involvement that she’d had, the activities she’d taken on — Campus International allowed all that.”

Where previously Lonneyah had struggled with self-confidence, she now “she definitely gives me her opinion,” Boyd laughs. “Which is good because one of the things I teach my kids is you should always convey who you are.”

These days, as a 9th-grader, Lonneyah participates in the high school’s debate team — which won a competition this year — and plays both viola and violin.

She also joined a field trip that the high school organized to China. Boyd says the trip opened her daughter’s eyes to a part of the world she’d never before imagined she could visit.

“It’s one thing to read about a place in a book, but it’s a totally different experience to go there and have the experiences yourself,” Boyd says. “She’d call me from there and tell me all these things she was learning and seeing. It was amazing.”

Boyd followed the progress of Campus International K-8 School for a year after it opened in 2010 before choosing it for both Lonneyah and her younger daughter, Nikiah. (Both schools are on or near the campus of Cleveland State University, facilitating academic partnerships that help prepare students for college.)

As a teacher at John Adams High School on the city’s east side, Boyd has high standards for what she was seeking in a school.

“It felt open but disciplined,” she says. “I liked that the teachers were teaching students how to be leaders themselves, not just telling them what to do.”

Nikiah has also thrived — despite the fact that school administrators initially worried she might struggle to adapt to the school’s curriculum because she was joining a group of peers who’d already been at the school for several years. (That wasn’t an issue for Lonneyah, who started at Campus alongside a cohort of other new students.)

The fears have proved unfounded.

“It actually hasn’t been hard for her at all,” Boyd says. “I think the reason is because she feels engaged. It’s the right place for her, so the challenges are manageable.”

That’s a lesson Boyd encourages other parents to keep in mind if they’re doubting whether their own children can make the transition to a different school: Choose the fit that feels right, even if it’s unfamiliar.

Or even brand-new.