4 Values I’ll Take with Me: A Great Oaks Charter Student Voice

On Tuesday, December 16, the Newark Charter School Fund hosted the Compact Re-signing at the Newark Museum. The program focused on renewing the charter community’s commitment to every Newark student and the hope for brighter futures. 

One Great Oaks Charter School student, said it best. Here are the words of 8th grader, Kyasia Mays.

Every morning since the 6th grade while shaking Mr. Taillefer’s hand I’ve said our four core values. Respect. Integrity. Self Discipline. Excellence. At first I thought they were a little cheesy, but they have made me into a different person.

I came to Great Oaks two years ago in the 6th grade. I had always made good grades, but didn’t have the best behavior. The attitude I had that was causing that behavior was thinking that because I had good grades I didn’t have to listen.

This attitude earned me detention almost every other day and I wasn’t able to participate in sports or do the things I wanted to do outside of school. My grades suffered. I went from earning As and Bs to earning As, Bs, and Cs.

In the 7th grade in my second year at Great Oaks, I was selected to participate in a discussion with lawyers who were visiting Great Oaks to talk about their profession with a select group of students. I was excited to hear what they had to say because I wanted to one day go to medical school and wanted to learn about the work ethic it would take to pursue an advanced degree. On the day of the visit, a student in one of my classes was being disruptive and I told him to “shut up”. My teacher, Ms. Blenman, overheard me and asked me to leave the classroom. On my way out, I brushed past Ms. Blenman, which she took as a sign of disrespect. My Dad was called to the school for a meeting with Ms. Blenman, myself, and one of the school administrators Ms. Minton. I apologized to Ms. Blenman, but I was told that I could no longer participate in the lawyer discussion.

I was crushed, but that experience helped me realize that my behavior had consequences. Throughout the rest of the year, my behavior got better and was noticed by my administrators and parents.

My grades improved. Most importantly my parents began to see that I was maturing and becoming a better student. They enrolled me in additional activities after school, such as the SMART program and sports, and gave me more responsibility as my behavior and grades improved.

This year in the 8th grade, I became a student leader at Great Oaks. I am now able to be a model to the 6th and 7th grade students who look up to me. I am proud to say that I have earned straight As for the first trimester. I am now a well-rounded student with good grades, good behavior, and good attendance.

I know that Great Oaks has set me up for success. I want to eventually attend Stanford University in California where I will study to become a doctor or biogenetic engineer.

Great Oaks has prepared me for college both inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to the rigorous curriculum, I have visited several universities. My exposure to young college graduates through the Great Oaks tutoring program helps me to believe college is attainable. I also feel supported because Great Oaks is a big family where tutors, teachers, and administrators are always ready and willing to help.

Because of Great Oaks, I know the person I want to be, a person with Respect, Integrity, Self-Discipline and Excellence. I will take those values with me everywhere I go. I’m not worried about high school, or college, or anything beyond because I will always push myself to excel and succeed. Thank you for listening to my story. I am thankful for being part of the Great Oaks Community.

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About New Jersey Charter Schools Association

Formed in 1999, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association (NJCSA) is a 501(c)(3) membership association that represents the state’s charter school community and, by extension, charter school students and their parents. We are committed to advancing quality public education for New Jersey’s children through quality public charter schools, with the vision that every child in the State of New Jersey should have the opportunity to attend a high-quality public school that best meets his or her needs.
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