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Posted on Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

Roberto Clemente offers life-changing environment to struggling students

By Guest Column

I attend Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and I am troubled at the idea of the program being moved to Pioneer High School.

I started Clemente in the beginning of September 2012 due to academic struggles I had in my first year at Huron High School. My academic troubles were due to distractions such as the size of the building, negative attitudes of some students, the large student population, and lack of personal attention from teachers.

There is no doubt in my mind moving into Pioneer, which is larger than Huron, these very same distractions will present themselves yet again.


Juwan Castrejón

Courtesy photo

Roberto Clemente has tremendously helped me by keeping me in the correct mindset to maintain a 3.7 GPA for the past two trimesters. There are qualities that only exist at Roberto that cannot be reproduced at Pioneer. One of the qualities is the size of the building which is small by design. No more than about 15 students can be in a classroom, which means no student can hide or disappear without notice.

Another one of the great qualities is the personal relationships between the staff and students. Having these personal relationships makes the school more comfortable to be in. At Clemente it is clear that students have similar issues but if we move to Pioneer these issues would be criticized and targeted by not only the students but adults as well.

The reason why most students attend Roberto Clemente is because they did not do well in their comprehensive high school. If Roberto is moved to Pioneer, the negative influence or temptations that students do not need is guaranteed to affect us in some way. This will destroy what Roberto Clemente tries to create — a hard-working individual that takes on issues in the correct perspective.

I spent my freshman year at Huron High School where I failed miserably with a GPA of 0.0. I was allowed to fall through the cracks because I was not a behavior problem. After meeting Clemente staff I felt that Roberto would be a good environment for me, as did my mom. Since coming here, I can now see the value of my education. Since coming here, I am a different person. I am motivated, I am a leader setting a great example, I am confident, I feel good about my future, and I have great direction.

It is the staff at Roberto Clemente that keeps students on their feet in the most truthful way, meaning that if you are messing up on grades a staff member will confront you directly yet with dignity and the truth may hurt. Where will this occur at Pioneer? Perhaps the hallways where everyone will know your business.

If Roberto Clemente moves to Pioneer High School, it will be a terrible mistake. Our 90 students deserve better.

Juwan Castrejón is a sophomore at Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and lives in Ann Arbor.



Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

Well said Juwan. Clemente shouldn't move to Pioneer or anywhere else for that matter. But in the event that it does, it is really important that you and the other students that have academic success do to the tools Clemente gave you remember that the student got a 3.7 gpa not the tools. The tools help but its way more about the student. Now that you have the tools and now that you have the confidence that it takes to be a great student, because depending on where you come from confidence is as big a factor in academic success as actually doing the work. But now that you have that confidence as well as the and any of your fellow classmates will shine bright like a prizim no matter where you go toschool!

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Mr. Juwan C (sorry I can't type your last name), this is an excellent essay! Congratulations on this and your 3.7! I wish you much success in good things for your life!

Ricardo Queso

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 4:30 a.m.

I for one am not impressed with at 3.70 at Roberto Clemente and I doubt many universities are either. This is anecdotal evidence, good prose, but anecdotal evidence none the less. The MEAP scores are pretty damning. I'd like to see the same financial resources to allocated to students who have earned the level of education we expect from AAPS.


Mon, Mar 25, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

I am a Roberto Clemente Student, and honestly he has one of the highest GPAs here at this school. And you should be impressed with a 3.7 here because that is hard to get. I bet your GPA was lower than that. The MEAP scores were low because the 9th graders here didn't really learn anything in middle school so thats why they were low. We aren't numbers you judge, just remember that. If you think this school is so bad, your wrong. If you think this school isn't helping students, once again you are wrong. This school has helped many people. Including myself and Juwan. I think Juwan is doing an excellent job. For you to say that your not impressed is ignorant. Its people like you that kill their confidence in doing well in school.

Samuel Burns

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Thanks for proving this brave kid's point. People like you are exactly the problem that kids like Juwan face in mainstream schools. I am impressed by the guts and intelligence shown in this article (which, despite being written by a kid whose academic achievements don't impress Ricardo Queso, is better than many of the articles written by professional writers around here). I am impressed by a high schooler who cares enough about his education to stand up and let himself become a target for people who just want to denigrate anything he might achieve. I am impressed, in general.


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Seriously??......I'm just curious because I honestly don't know (and maybe an AAPS person can chime in), do parents have no say in their child being moved up a grade despite failing all their classes?

Steven Taylor

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Because of the attitude of one person, "Seriously??" you blame him for the failure of kids...Way to use projection. No offense, but some kids just can't be taught. Some kids are destined to be ditch diggers.. "You want fries with that" and the like. Let me ask you.. Instead of putting the brunt of the work on the staff at RC, aside from you passing the buck to the educators what have YOU done for your son who obviously as you state has issues. Don't always place the blame on the system. Take some personal responsibility for the education of your child. Public schools are only part of the equation. I'm sorry your soon needs someone to hold his hand and say "Good job" every time he does what's required of him. I can only hope he won't be coddled when he's an adult because the world is a rough and tumble place and it sure as heck ain't fair. We're raising far to many delicate little snowflakes and I'm sure as other posters have mentioned, at 3.7 at RC isn't like a 3.7 at Skyline or Pioneer or Rudolph Steiner or Green Hills. We're still functioning in the 'No child left behind' shlock left to us by GW Bush and Co. And saying that only the staff at RC care about your 'special' child whereas they don't at Pioneer/Huron/Skyline or anywhere is a slap in the face to the teachers that work with 25-30 kids who turn out just fine and are run and maintained by the same system that your child is in... that being AAPS.


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

It is because of attitudes like yours that these kids don't succeed at the main stream Ann Arbor public schools. Im sure it has been very difficult for the author of this article to raise his grades and you just minimized every stride he made. Way to go kicking this kid in the guts! My son needs RC just like this kid did/does. My son failed every class in 7th grade yet he was passed to 8th. He struggles everyday and just going to school, where in his words "nobody wants him", adds to to the anxieties of feeling stupid because he learns differently. The teachers at RC don't see difficult children as a nuisance to their days as do the teachers and adminisators at the other Ann Arbor schools. By 8th grade my son now has a target on his back. He's FAR FROM PERFECT but he's crying out for help. He's smart and it takes him longer to produce what he's learned, he needs the guidance to turn the homework in, he needs someone to say good job even though the paper is half done because they understand the effort that half a paper took. Instead he gets sent to the office for asking questions because the teacher says he's being disruptive and he is suspended because little star baseball player straight A student BULLIED him and he stands up for himself. Yes, Roberto Clemente needs to stay open so kids like my son have a fighting chance to survive high school because the alternative is terrifying to me and the other parents who are in this position. Putting our children (yes high schoolers are still CHILDREN) with teachers and administrators who don't want to work an ounce harder because our children take more work won't help anyone.


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 3:05 a.m.

Keep Clemente open. The problem is that the school doesnt serve enough students. and neither does Stone. Clemente should have a population of 150 and Stone 200. If you took the struggling students out of Huron, Pioneer and Skyline, those schools would have even more success. The problem with struggling students at those schools is they do fall through the cracks because the schools are bigger. So it would better if they moved them out to a smaller alternative school. Keep Clemente open, just fill it to it's capacity. It's ridiculous to to claim great success at a school when all you are talking about is 90 students. If it's that good, make available to 150 or 200 struggling students.

Steven Taylor

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 3:14 a.m.

Perhaps rather than widening the net, perhaps the schools should look harder at what's 'making' those kids 'fail'.. I'd doubt that it could be pinpointed to something as specific as 'OMG Class sizes are awful at 25-30 per teacher'.. I'd love for my own son if he was in A2 public schools to be afforded the 18K per student benefit.. Because he's not a special needs student, so he functions quite well on a lesser budget and excels.


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

Great article. It's too bad we can't afford for every child to have that experience, whether or not they struggle with academics. A small school with classes where you can't fall through the cracks -- sounds like what all schools should be like.


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Yes, KMHall, I totally agree with you. It's crazy from every angle to pay billions to have other people kill and mutilate our young people - and for what?


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 1:11 a.m.

maybe schools could have some of that $$ being wasted on war that can't be won

Steven Taylor

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

At least they are reducing their costs, I noted from googling Roberto Clemente a post about it here on Ann stating that as recently as 2010-2011 the average per student cost was 23K per year.. That's more than enrollment at Green Hills or Rudolph Steiner here in town.. At least they've cut costs down to about 18K.... :)

Tony Livingston

Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

This is a great first person account. I did not know that moving Clemente to Pioneer was being considered. I thought the consideration was to combine it with Stone/Tech. That would make a lot more sense to me.

Steven Taylor

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 12:15 a.m.

While it's a great 'first person' account, do you honestly think, someone, who's benefited from a program and is still a part of it would advocate to have their rug pulled out from under them? I doubt we'll see any of the 90 enrolled students at RC advocating from moving them out of their 'safe' environment back into the system as a whole.


Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

If we could spend $18,000 per student at Pioneer, Skyline, and Huron, the class size would be 15 students per class, teachers would have a better chance to have 'personal relationships' with their students, and every student in Ann Arbor would be successful. Why do these 90 students get this advantage, and the other 4500 at the comprehensive high schools do not?


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

While I completely get your sentiment, I doubt anyone would really like to trade places with these 90 students just to have more money spent on them, imo.

Susan Hasselbach

Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

I support the maintaining of Roberto Clemente in its current location where it has been so successful. I am sure that the vision that Joe Dulin, founder of the school, had at its inception would not be served if moved to Pioneer's campus. It is imperative that the students of Clemente receive an opportunity to succeed in an environment that serves their needs


Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

It could be argued that ALL students deserve better, but at what cost? "According to AAPS, it costs $18,941 per pupil to operate the Roberto Clemente program. A2 Tech costs $14,804 per pupil. Community costs $8,253 per pupil and Huron, Pioneer and Skyline cost around $5,000 per pupil, district information says." ---

Steven Taylor

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

I think most of the cost goes into the teachers and certainly unique programs Community High has been known to offer.. With community high almost functioning like an AAPS private school. I know they've got a rather unique journalism program in the past, that produced the likes of Ken Burns of PBS documentary fame


Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

Is community's extra $$ all in transportation? I didn't think they got anything extra except buses between there and the comprehensive schools.

Resident A2

Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

Don't you think that Pioneer and Huron would have great statistics if they only had 90 students to worry about? The comprehensive high schools always get a bad rap, but think about it....every student should be successful if you only have 90 students in a school.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 9:46 a.m.

"Generalizing" is how statistics work. The test scores for that school are horrible--the majority of the graduates do not read at high school level. I didn't say that every single person fails the tests.


Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 2:05 a.m.

Angry are generalizing students there to assume they are all the same. Obviously the student who authored this well written article is talented and intelligent. It seems he can do more than read. Obviously you do not understand the diverse learning disabilities and capabilities of so many students.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

It's pretty obvious that Roberto "succeeds" by lowering the standards. Students who transfer there suddenly get much higher grades, but still can't demonstrate basic reading skills on a test. I don't see the point of handing out diplomas if it doesn't even show that the student can read.


Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 9:25 p.m.

The author is so right! Roberto should be the second to last high school to close, not the first. Much greater savings closing the community building and moving it to Pioneer, Huron or Skyline. It is vital that we get distracted, failing students out of Huron, Pioneer and Skyline and give them a better environment to learn in, both for their good and to keep them from detracting from the education of others. It is bad enough if they are distracted and not benefiting from the opportunities in high school themselves, but their presence in Pioneer, Huron or Skyline breeds an atmosphere of failure that sucks others down with them. Please keep Roberto open! Give every student a chance to learn and succeed.


Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

Nice piece, Juwan. Well said. It seems to me, as well, that moving Clemente to Pioneer would, by definition, defeat a lot of the purpose of creating Clemente in the first place.

Angry Moderate

Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

This is a nice anecdote, but it doesn't make it any less financially disastrous for a small school district to operate 2 alternative high schools in separate buildings far below capacity. Move Roberto Clemente to Stone (or whatever they're calling it now).


Sat, Mar 23, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

I enjoyed reading this article. He makes good points. While Huron and Pioneer and Skyline are great schools, I think we must acknowledge that "one size doesn't fit all". Thanks for sharing your thoughts.