Summer Engagement at John R. Rogers High School

In pre-COVID-19 days, Rogers students meet with GU mentors at a SPARKS program in the high school.

September 04, 2020

John R. Rogers High School is one of Gonzaga’s cornerstone educational partners in Northeast Spokane. Our partnership, formalized three years ago, continues to evolve and expand to support area high school youth. Even in the midst of the pandemic, GU and Rogers found new and innovative ways to offer summer support and programming.

Building on the successful Level Up elementary to middle-school transition program, two GU Student Fellows were involved in helping eighth graders transition to ninth grade at Rogers. Using referrals from Shaw and Garry Middle schools, GU students connected by phone to incoming Rogers’ freshmen to help answer their questions and prepare them for high school. Fellows reached out to nearly 50 incoming Rogers students over the summer.

In addition to addressing questions one-on-one, the GU students produced a video to help answer questions and highlight the new environment that entering freshmen can expect.

The John R. Rogers Post-Graduate Outreach Liaisons Project, new this year, has provided similar support for students who are leaving Rogers for post-secondary education. Three GU students and one recent UW grad (who also graduated from Rogers) connected with Rogers’ 2020 seniors to discuss their upcoming plans, answering questions about college life, student loans, admission requirements and other details college students know through experience.

“It’s an important support to help our students get ready for college,” says Rogers’ Principal Lori Wyborney. “We have lots of experience with summer melt, when students leave us having applied and gotten into 2- or 4-year schools. They get away from us over the summer and lose interest. We were particularly worried about this because COVID has kept our students away for several months.”
“Students are easily confused by changes in the process,” Wyborney continues, “and for most, there’s no one at home who knows what to expect. They had a plan, now with changes because of COVID, they need to know what to do. GU students helped them find out what to do next, and they are eager to listen to people they see as peers.”

Funded by a private donor, the program was designed to demonstrate the power of personal involvement in helping others. The team surveyed participants and is compiling a report to help improve the experience next year.

These special summer programs augment Gonzaga’s ongoing involvement at John R. Rogers High School. Through GU’s Sparks program 25 Rogers’ students meet weekly throughout the school year with GU students in a mentoring program targeting college and career readiness, leadership skill-building, and supportive relationships to help high schoolers prepare for what comes next.

“It is especially meaningful for our students to work with a consistent group of GU students over several years, meeting once a week, working on academics, social/emotional development, going on field trips together,” said John Hammil, assistant principal. “They need to see what life is like outside of the neighborhood. And when they see young people who look like them in a college setting – well, it’s very motivating for them.”

Rogers High School also served as a pick-up location for summer meal programs, with Gonzaga providing free meals for adults to complement the federally funded program for students in K-12th grades.

“We have been able to deliver some meals to neighbors who couldn’t get to the school,” Wyborney explains, “and frankly, while we’ve always known needs were there, the experience magnified and deepened our understanding of the needs.”

“We saw so much gratitude and appreciation,” said Brandi Praytor-Marsters, who helped coordinate GU’s program. “"Warm greetings between community members provided a moment of connection during this isolated time."