Week 5: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye..

Where did the summer go? As GovsPLUS entered the final week of the program, students worked hard to finish up their courses. They completed their final math and humanities projects and presentations. We also worked hard to prepare for our Closing Ceremony performances. We did stop to have one amazing last field trip to Canobie Lake Park though!


SI Miguel with his adorable little brother.


Valerie, Rixandra, Stacey, and Erika waiting in line.


Big crew shot #1.


Big crew shot #2.



Then on Friday, we celebrated the accomplishments of our GovsPLUS scholars with a Closing Ceremony.


The lobby of the Wilkie Center looked beautiful and ready for GovsPLUS families to arrive from Lawrence!


GovsPLUS ladies and their friends getting ready before the show.


Chabeli and Erika.


Dressing room selfie!

GovsPLUS students are so talented! From singing to dancing to sharing their poetry, these scholars really put on a show for their friends and families.


GovsPLUS 2015 staff.


Julian performing his poetry.


Erika, Stacey, Valerie, and Rixandra dancing.


Anderson on the piano.


Adeliza performing her poems.


Manases performing his poem.

After the show, we ate a delicious dinner from El Pez Dorado (a Dominican restaurant in Lawrence) and then headed to the award show. Ms. Cruz and Ms. Honorato were pleased to hand out certificate of completion awards to all GovsPLUS students, as well as special awards honoring the hard work of a handful of students. These included:

-Award of Academic Excellence in Math: Chabeli Garcia

-Award of Academic Excellence in Humanities: Adeliza Rosario-Vasquez

-Award of Excellence in Art: Ryan Coughlin

-Award of Academic Excellence in Creative Writing: Alisa Colon

-Most Academic Growth Award: Jeremy Cornelio & Maria Paulino

-Citizenship Award: Lisa Paredes

-Spirit Award: Ralfy Morales

We also said goodbye to our graduating GovsPLUS scholars who are entering high school. Please make sure to keep in touch so we can hear how you are doing!

We are so tremendously proud of the work GovsPLUS scholars accomplished this summer! Thank you all for an amazing year. We look forward to the the monthly events we will host during the academic year and hope all the 8th graders return next summer. Until the end of September!


Week 4: A Jam-Packed Blur!

The fourth week proved to be the biggest blur of them all. The entire week whizzed by in what felt like two or three days that were all pretty jam packed with activities. Not only was it a successful week but it was a productive one as well.

On Tuesday the students finished reading Kekla Magoon’s novel, The Rock And The River. The students loved the book. It was an emotional roller coaster as they watched the protagonist, Sam, grow up as a young black boy in 1968 Chicago. GovsPLUS students were generally pleased with the story’s tumultuous and bittersweet ending where Sam assures the reader that he embodies both the rock (steady and unmoving) and the river (always flowing and changing). Students were passionate about the book and welcomed the opportunity to learn about the civil rights movement and the Black Panther Party through a 13-year-old’s perspective.

GovsPLUS scholars highly recommend Magoon's first novel!

GovsPLUS scholars highly recommend Magoon’s first novel!

Later that day we were joined by Ray Long, Govs Associate Director of Admissions who gave GovsPLUS students a thorough explanation of what to expect in high school and job interviews and how to best prepare. The students put all these tips into practice on Thursday in a series of mock interviews that not only proved very helpful, but extremely fun!

Mr. Long uses Frankie to teach students how NOT to give a handshake at an interview.

Mr. Long uses Frankie to teach students how NOT to give a handshake at an interview.

On Wednesday, GovsPLUS took a field trip into Boston that was a huge success and filled with plenty of walking and sightseeing. GovsPLUS visited the Museum of African American History, which is hidden away in an alley on Beacon Hill. There the students learned much about the first African American groups, such as the African Masonic Lodge, which originated in Massachusetts, the first state to outlaw slavery in the early 1700s. They also spent some time in the African Meeting House, the heart of Boston’s 19th century freed black community.


Our tour guide Samantha Gibson teaches GovsPLUS students about the flourishing freed black community of Boston in the historic African Meeting House.


The main exhibit on African American writing at MAAH.

Francesca learns about black writing throughout history.

Francesca learns about black writing throughout history.

After the museum and lunch in the Boston Common, we headed out on the African American Patriots Tour (an African American history version of the Freedom Trail tour) led by amazing guides dressed in period costumes. It was an enriching experience, one that staff and students alike will cherish. While it was one of the most tiring days of the week, it was also the most educational and fun.


A free black woman turned tavern wench lead one group on the walking tour of Boston’s African American history. 


The headstone of Frank, John Hancock’s beloved slave.

Friday was another jam-packed day! Both students and staff were running out of gas as the week was winding down, but with a few guests visiting we all found the energy for just one more day before the weekend. Following math and humanities courses, rising 8th graders attended a presentation on Abbott Lawrence Academy, the new accelerated school at Lawrence High School led by Principal Stacey Ciprich and Assistant Principal (and Govs alum ’05) Raul Cruz. GovsPLUS scholars seemed very enthusiastic about this new, free high school option and many plan on applying this fall.


Mr. Cruz and Ms. Ciprich from Abbott Lawrence Academy.

Meanwhile, the rising 9th graders participated in a workshop with Govs Associate Dean of Faculty and Director of Multicultural Education, Trina Gary. During the workshop on identity and the transition to high school, Ms. Gary encouraged students to advocate for themselves, all the while reminding students, “mistakes are going to happen, and that is okay.” After a much needed lunch break, the rising 9th graders continued the “transition” workshop, while Govs Associate Director of Admission, Carolyn Kimball, visited the rising 8th graders to provide them with tips on finding information about independent schools and beginning the application process.


Mrs. Gary on the transition to high school.

Mrs. Kimball on applying to independent high schools.

Mrs. Kimball on applying to independent high schools.

In addition to all the hard work and speakers we had this week, GovsPLUS students also enjoyed their free time playing group games in the field house, cooling off in a water balloon fight, painting the “little free libraries” for Lynn’s REAL program, and tie dying t-shirts!

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Once again, week 4 was a success and both students and staff are more than ready to bring in the weekend. Next week, we anticipate a bittersweet ending to the program. We look forward to our Closing Ceremony, where thirteen 8th graders will graduate, students will present their creative writing pieces and give live musical performances, and where we will honor each student’s hard work this summer!


Celebrating the end of week 4 (and Carolina’s last day) with a group photo!

Week 3: Work, Service, Play, Repeat

The third week of GovsPLUS went off with an air of success! Week three marks the full integration of all students into the GovsPLUS family. Just about everyone is in high gear doing what they are supposed to and it seems like it will just get better from here on out.

On Tuesday, in Dawyn and Miguel’s “Fiction Shorts” class, students free wrote or wrote based on a prompt and proceeded to share their work with the class in order to get positive comments and constructive criticism. Due to the student’s constant remarks harassing the SIs to share their work, Miguel and Dawyn started off the sharing piece of the class. Meanwhile, in “Social Equity: Then vs. Now,” Bioribel and Ashley taught a class on gender equality. They organized skits where the students examined gender roles and double standards in society. This jarred the students awake on social issues having to do with gender more broadly. In Thursday’s “Fiction Shorts,” students were all riled up and excited to build a character of their very own based on one of their own peers. Using this character, the students prepared to write a story in the following class, prompting them to make this one as wacky and funny as they possibly could. Meanwhile, across the hall in “Social Equity” the students took on a more serious subject and watched a film on poverty. Rumor has it that the film was so powerful that a small number of students actually shed some tears.

On Wednesday the GovsPLUS crew put on their signature black tees to go to Lynn for some community service work with the REAL Literacy Program. There, the students interacted with young kids at a park overlooking the beach. It was a movie moment as GovsPLUS students played an informal game of soccer and games of “duck, duck, goose” with children that had smiles from ear to ear. One can say that that day was not only great but that left everyone, even our bus driver Moe who got a workout walking around the park, happy. We also took home some “free little libraries” to paint and fill up with books. For more on the REAL Program, see: http://www.therealprogram.org


GovsPLUS scholars with one of Lynn REAL’s littlest guys enjoying a game of soccer.


SI Miguel enjoying a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose!” with GovsPLUS and REAL students.


A great day for a GovsPLUS – REAL art project!


Jeremy G. made a little buddy.

After the morning of service learning in Lynn, GovsPLUS headed to the Pingree School to join Prep@Pingree students for a busy afternoon! Rising 8th graders attended a high school fair learning about local independent schools and admissions, while rising 9th graders met in small groups to discuss tips to prepare for the transition to high school. GovsPLUS scholars were thrilled to hang out with some of their P@P friends from Lawrence and make some new ones from Lynn.


Some of the GovsPLUS – Prep@Pingree rising 9th graders after a discussion on the transition to high school.


GovsPLUS and Prep@Pingree scholars.

On Friday, the students finished up three weeks of hard work that culminated in their research papers  on the civil rights movement for Ms. Cruz’s Humanities class. We were so proud of their final papers!  After hours putting the final revisions in, students took a much needed break from the high caliber academics and went down to the field where Paola organized a massive game of kickball. It wasn’t even a close game where points are concerned because Miguel’s team blew Bioribel’s team out of the water.


After a long hard week of academics, what is more fun that a good old-fashioned game of kickball?

It was a fitting end to the day as the students mounted the bus, hot and sweaty after an emotional roller coaster of a week and ready for a weekend of rest.

Week 2: GovsPLUS on Fire!

The second week of GovsPLUS went off without a hitch! GovsPLUS scholars and faculty alike found themselves jumping into their tasks with not only a slightly quicker step but with more enthusiasm. Everyone is becoming more and more integrated into the GovsPLUS family. Even the most shy students have started showing a sort of affection for the program itself.

Our week started off with a friendly competition between advisory groups over who could make the best GovsPLUS theme song. Each group made a great song, but it came down to Team Columbia (led by Paola) and Team Harvard (led by Ms. Cruz). It came down to the wire, but in the end Columbia pulled away. It was so much fun! Hopefully they can perform it at our Closing Ceremony for GovsPLUS families.

On Wednesday, everyone at the program hid away their books and donned their black GovsPLUS tees to head into Boston! Students and Staff enjoyed a day at the Museum of Science where students were eager to jump off the bus and head into the air-conditioned museum. Once all students entered the museum, both students and staff went off to enjoy the hands on science activities.


GovsPLUS at the Museum of Science Lightning Show.



Many of the students were especially excited for the lighting show and to “race the light,” an interactive station at the Museum of Science that challenges students to run as fast as they can to get to the other side of the room before the “light” does. Another favorite at the Museum of Science was the “Conserve a Home” exhibit, which focused on showing students how they can make their homes more green friendly! The last part of our day was an Omni Show in the Museums’ IMAX Theater. We watched “Airplanes: A World In Flight,” a show that captured the important role that airplanes have played in interconnecting the world.


Shea on a bed of nails.


Jeremy, Guillermo, and Manases.


At the Omni Show, Airplanes.


Litzie, Maria, Stacey, Kaeden, Emanuel, and Francesca.

After a day of fun at the Museum of Science, students and staff continued what seemed to be a science filled week by going to the science labs at the Governors Academy. Govs faculty member, Tracy Stickney met with GovsPLUS and talked with students about chemistry! Many students were extremely enthusiastic about the material and many were knowledgeable about the subject. Mrs. Stickney held the attention of GovsPLUS students by giving doing “mini” experiments in between her lessons. The most exciting part of the day was when Paola was asked to light her hand on fire! At first both Paola and many students were weary of what was happening, but once they did the experiment and the flame rose from her hand almost every student and staff member was begging to join in on the fun! Thank you Mrs. Stickney for patiently lighting each GovsPLUS student’s hand on fire!


Lead SI, Paola, gets her hand on fire by Ms. Stickney!


Student after student lit their hand on fire. Here is Steven with a massive flame!

GovsPLUS scholars really enjoyed week two, as it is clear that they are becoming more comfortable with each other and staff, which in turn creates a great family dynamic to the GovsPLUS program! We look forward to next week as we head to Lynn, Mass for a service project with the REAL literacy program and students finish their research papers that they have been working on for few weeks!

GovsPLUS Summer 2015 Kicks Off!

GovsPLUS was thrilled to kick off the third summer of the program on Monday, June 29th. This year, close to 40 GovsPLUS scholars from all across Lawrence arrived on The Governor’s Academy campus and, after a very filling breakfast in the dining hall, they walked over to the French Student Center, which will be our home base this summer. Each morning begins with two core classes. Ms. Cruz, the Director of the program teaches the humanities course while Ms. Honorato, the GovsPLUS Program Assistant, teaches the math course.


GovsPLUS scholars arrive on campus!


Getting a tour of campus from SIs Paola ’13 and Ashley ’15.


Students hard at work in Ms. H’s math class!

This summer, GovsPLUS scholars are expected to complete a five-paragraph research paper on a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Students work on their research and writing in two workshops, “Writer’s Workshop” with Ms. Cruz and “Research and Public Speaking” with Ms. Honorato and Lead Student Instructor, Paola Otero ‘13. The morning classes and workshops are aided by five talented Student Instructors (SIs) which include Ashley Portorreal ’14, and three recent Lawrence High graduates: Bioribel Castillo, Dawyn Henriquez, and Miguel Ponce. We are also supported by Govs faculty and staff. For example, in our first week, Director of Information, Mr. Mandel, was gracious enough to help students log on to laptops as they were doing research for their paper, which is due in a few weeks!

After a full morning, students were excited to eat lunch and move into the fun elective courses. In “Hip Hop 101,” Paola dove right into Harkness-style class discussion on hip hop culture and its effects on social movements. In art class, Ms. Honorato led students in a personal project using charcoal. Later in the week, Ashley and Biorbel began teaching “Social Equity: Then vs. Now,” an elective focused on issues of inequality like poverty and women’s rights. Dawyn and Miguel also began teaching an elective course called “Fiction Shorts,” where students began developing characters for their short stories.

Manases hard at work in art class.

Manases hard at work in art class.

Rixandra working on her painting.

Rixandra working on her painting.

With all the hard work and critical thinking in the classroom, students are enthusiastic to head outside as much as possible. On Monday, we began our lacrosse program on the turf field. Govs lacrosse coach, Tim Winslow ’10, along with Emily French Breakey from the Alumni and Development Office, and Govs student Pete ’16 taught GovsPLUS scholars the basics of throwing and catching with a lacrosse stick. Our students enjoyed it so much that some even took the equipment home to practice on their own! A special thank you to our lacrosse coaches and to Mr. and Mrs. Gary and their nonprofit for donating the GovsPLUS program over forty sets of lacrosse equipment! When not in lacrosse, students often head to the Govs Field House in the afternoon for some free time. Most students spend their time playing basketball while others toss a football or a soccer ball around.


Coach Tim teaching GovsPLUS students the foundations of lacrosse.


They had fun learning how to throw and catch!

Each Wednesday, GovsPLUS takes a break from the rigorous academics and heads on a field trip. In our first week, we were planning on going canoeing on the Charles River in Boston, but unfortunately we had to cancel because of the thunderstorm. Instead, students were more than happy to watch one of their favorite movies, Divergent. Needless to say our students can watch that movie a million times! After the movie and lunch, we headed to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where the students spent countless hours wandering around with their SI groups, touring most if not all of the Museum in one walk through adventure. The contemporary art and ancient Egypt/Asia exhibits seemed to be the students’ favorites.


GovsPLUS at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

On Friday after morning classes, GovsPLUS headed for a bonus field trip in the woods at Project Adventure in Beverly. There we all bonded in strategic team-building exercises and as we tried to navigate the low ropes course. Students learned the meaning and power of teamwork and by the end of the day, SIs and students alike had gotten to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully our students and staff will bring what they learn into the GovsPLUS classroom!


GovsPLUS at Project Adventure, Beverly.


Team-buliding in the forest!



What a whirlwind of a first week here at GovsPLUS! We look forward to the start of week  2 after the 4th of July weekend!

May 2015: Transition to High School & Movie Night!

It was a beautiful day this past Saturday, May 9th, when GovsPLUS scholars came together for our final event of the school-year. We were so excited to reunite with six GovsPLUS alumni in the 9th grade. Our alumni go to a variety of high schools including: The Governor’s Academy, Central Catholic, the Cambridge School of Weston, Lawrence High (MST), and Methuen High. We met in the Frost ballroom at Govs to hear about how they navigated their first year of high school.

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The alumni were honest and each had a unique perspective on the transition to high school. They discussed some of their biggest surprises and challenges. They also gave some really helpful tips for our current 7th and 8th grade scholars, including:

1. Be open to meeting new people and try to put yourself out there/be social at the beginning of school – everyone is nervous and looking to make new friends!

2. Step out of your comfort zone to try new things/activities (sports, clubs, etc) – you never know what you will like or excel at!

3. High school is all about time management – make sure you are balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities and stay organized!

4. Start thinking about college and doing preliminary research in your first year but don’t overwhelm yourself since you have a couple more years to figure it out!

5. Don’t be scared – high school is not like the movies – it’s so much fun and you will enjoy the independence!

Our alumni also encouraged our current scholars to take advantage of the GovsPLUS summer program to keep their minds active and improve their academic skills and confidence. Thank you so much to our GovsPLUS alumni for sharing their wisdom!


Our 9th graders are too cool for school! Here’s Youssef, Joshua, Brichelle, Leonelys, Martha, and Jessica.

After talking about the transition to high school, we headed to the dining hall for dinner.

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Then we headed back to Frost for our movie night. We watched Mad Hot Ballroom, a documentary that looks inside the lives of NYC public school students in the 5th grade who participate in a competitive ballroom dance program. Our students fell in love with the Dominican students from Washington Heights in particular, and were cheering on the “indigo team” as they won the city championship!


It was a great evening! Thank you to all the GovsPLUS students who came out. Special shout outs go to the following students for perfect attendance in the GovsPLUS 2014-2015 school-year program: Julian, Nicole, Chynna, Ralfy, Jone, T’yana, and Erika! We appreciate your commitment to the GovsPLUS program and effort to make it out to every single monthly event!

It’s time to start thinking about our summer program, which will run from June 29 – July 31. GovsPLUS scholars returning to this summer’s program and their families are invited to our next event, a “Meet and Greet” pizza dinner on Sunday, May 24th at YDO in Lawrence. There they can meet the 14 newly accepted GovsPLUS students and their families, meet the summer staff, eat dinner and hang out, and learn all about this summer’s program (as well as received all the important required paperwork!) Scholars should expect an invitation in the mail this week. Please make sure to RSVP to Ms. Cruz!

¡Hasta la próxima mes! (Until next month!)

Apr 2015: Spoken Wordfest

On Sunday, April 12th GovsPLUS scholars joined Govs students and students from other local independent high schools for the 2nd Annual NEIS Spoken Wordfest. It is always fun when our students get a chance to reconnect with one another, but it also a great opportunity for Ms. Cruz and Ms. Honorato to get to know more about each scholar and their upbringing.

Urban Word NYC artist Chris was an energetic facilitator, leading GovsPLUS scholars in a spoken word workshop that explored their identities. Chris shared a bit of his own work first so we could get to know him and then scholars read some model poems. After that, they each crafted their own poem about where they are from.


Some students were excited to share their work with the group, while others were a bit hesitant. In the end, every student shared at least a line of their poetry. It was amazing to see how open and honest everyone was. We learned about students’ families and what typical Sunday mornings look like in their homes. Many students incorporated detailed imagery using all five of their senses. We had a great debate on how incorporating other languages could be a powerful literary tool.

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GovsPLUS scholars are talented, budding writers! After the intimate workshop, we headed to dinner in the dining hall. We ended the night with the Spoken Wordfest open-mic. High school students who had worked on their poetry all day performed their work on stage and the Urban Word NYC artists entertained the crowd.

Here is Ish tearing up the stage.

Here is Ish tearing up the stage.

Unfortunately we ran out of time so none of our GovsPLUS scholars managed to get a turn on stage. Many breathed a sigh of relief when we let them know it was time to head to the bus. I guess we will have to save our spoken word performances for the summer program!

Speaking of the summer, the GovsPLUS staff are hard at work planning for this year’s program which will run from June 29 – July 31. We are happy to report that we have received over 50 (!) applications from 7th and 8th graders throughout Lawrence who would like to join GovsPLUS this summer. Ms. Honorato and Ms. Cruz are reading through these applications and conducting interviews and hope to admit students in the next couple of weeks.We are excited to have some new, ambitious students join our group!

GovsPLUS is looking forward to out next event on Saturday, May 9th at The Governor’s Academy. Scholars can reconnect with GovsPLUS alumni in the 9th grade who will talk about their transition to high school, followed by dinner and a movie.

DinnerMoviePhotoSince it is our last event of the school-year, we hope everyone will be able to make it! GovsPLUS scholars should also be on the lookout for an invitation in the mail for a “Meet and Greet” in Lawrence towards the end of May where their families can meet the staff over dinner and get tons of information (and required paperwork!) for this summer’s program.

¡Hasta la próxima mes! (Until next month!)