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Posted on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Roberto Clemente alternative school redefines itself: 'We're really about sending kids to college'

By Ben Freed

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Roberto Clemente junior Jaylevon Ginyard-Johnson, 16, reads from a textbook during an African American studies summer school class.

Photo by Melanie Maxwell for

(Related story: Roberto Clemente: Focused on closing the achievement gap, one student at a time)

High school graduation missed Roberto Clemente last spring because students at the alternative school in Ann Arbor don caps and gowns to walk with their former classmates at Huron, Pioneer or Skyline.

But that moment when they received their diplomas and looked toward their futures was generated at Clemente.

They spent the school year in the program located on Textile Road near Carpenter, in Pittsfield Township. They learned about following standards, like wearing uniforms. They learned about rules, like showing up on time. They had to bring their parents to an open house.

Their teachers do what it takes to get them into class, and they learn how to focus to achieve the goals set by newer Principal Ben Edmondson.

And during the last school year, the seniors leaving the school also learned about success, with one accomplishment that stands out above the rest: Graduation and acceptance to colleges.

Clemente reached a new milestone in 2011.

“Fourteen out of 15 graduating seniors got in to college,” Edmondson boasts. “And nine of them got into four-year institutions.”

That compares to 2010, when 16 of 29 graduating seniors were accepted to community colleges, and two actually enrolled. intern Ben Freed spent some time at the school right after graduation, listening to students and staff explain their experiences in the building and what this year's college acceptance rate means to them.

Here is his video report:



Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

Pat Lesko is a little off giving the school such a hard time. The admissions are a very excellent achievement and though a degree isn't their's yet, all journeys start with the first step. Given how hard Ben Edmundson is working with the kids and the results he's getting, I would bet on these kids. I am still ticked off that the kids weren't given more attention before they ended up at Roberto. That's the real problem.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

Patricia Lesko, Actually some of these students have gotten into Wayne State, Ferris State, HBCU's, etc. Some of them are not very easy programs to get into, though I'm not sure if you know that. Some of the things you speak have truth, however, before you go ranting, you should know a little more about the facts.

Basic Bob

Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

As Ms. Lesko stated, there is a big difference between _getting into_ a HBCU and being prepared to _complete_ a degree program. The State of Michigan study measures academic success, rather than merely admission. These are the "facts". It is in the best interest of these students that they enroll in programs that they can successfully complete.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

First, let's give three cheers for these students. At least they have their sights set on the right target, and have some momentum in the right direction. I do question the cost per pupil at this school, though. <a href=""></a> At over 23K per student, it's a wonder they aren't all taking AP courses. And I know all about the pay now, or pay the societal costs later argument. How exactly are the funds for this school being spent? Even Greenhills, with a seven to one ratio of student to teacher, is thousands less than Roberte. Why is the cost to great? Why is it even larger than many four year college tuitions? Let's be honest with the amount of money we are spending here. As a community, we must ask ourselves what is a reasonable cost to raise these students to successful college performance levels.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

I am pleased to read this story about Roberto Clemente School of Ann Arbor. Some of the readers are apparently unaware of Schools and buildings owned by Ann Arbor School District outside the city limits of Ann Arbor. I had visited this School several times in the past while Joe Dulin was the Principal. This story speaks about the intellectual potential of students. It is not about getting college degrees or trade school diplomas and certificates and finding jobs. It is not about success in life. I read it in terms of academic and intellectual potential of each student. This story illustrates that with proper motivation, and effort, students can realize their own academic worth. In India we had very great poets who had no formal school education. I would be happy if these young school graduates have the ability to think for themselves and ignore the information posted by Patricia Lesko about completing College Education. The purpose of Learning is not a degree, and it is not about earnings to support life. It is about sahping the intellect, to recognize the potential to stand on its own and define its individuality.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 4:07 a.m.

Thanks for that kind response. I have not given thought to the cost of tuition per pupil. However, I am not inclined to blame the students if the costs are higher at this School. The College as a place of higher education must also work towards similar goals and must plan to keep the students engaged to complete the courses of study that would give them the degree. I am speaking of the potential and it helps to shape and use that potential. The time spend in College would give them the skills to live life with a sense of purpose and they would find employment as they learn to meet academic challenge and overcome academic hurdles.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

BJ I beg to differ. If your education, at least in part, is not about sustaining yourself, then it has failed you. And, if the goal of Roberte stops at college enrollment, and ignors whether or not they will succeed at college, then I think it does the students a great disservice.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

Wow. Some of you can never be happy. Instead of criticizing the choice to go to college, why can't you simply applaud these students and staff members who have worked so hard. You should be ashamed.

Patricia Lesko

Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 3 p.m.

Ben, Months ago, the state of Michigan released the results of a study of the college-preparedness of graduating students at every school district in the state of Michigan (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. In Ann Arbor, Roberto Clemente presented an example of the most egregious kind of achievement gap. The high school graduates 93 percent of the its students, yet the state's Department of Education found that ZERO percent of those graduates are prepared to succeed in college. Enrollment is not academic success, as you know. You expect to graduate from your college. The kids from Clemente may have been enrolled in college, but the chances of them completing their degrees are much lower, because they are simply not academically prepared. Getting in to non-competitive college programs is the same thing as walking through an open door. These kids and their parents, as well as our community deserve better news coverage than this. You (and the folks at Clemente) tout a statistic that has little to do future academic and socio-economic successes of their students, and completely overlooks the study done by the Michigan Department of Education.

Tivon Kareem

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

What it takes to succeed in college is determination, and extreme hard work. You have to compete against people who are priviledged and have favor with the College professors because of their background and or ethnicity. Coming from Detroit Public Schools and attending WMU (29% minority graduation rate at the time) as an African American, I wasn't prepared for college either. I graduated though because I was determined, and wnet on to get my masters and took out student loans to do it. Why can't these kids fo the same? Why do you have to put down, these students and Mr. Edmonson's achievements? If he helped students get into college good for him, and as a high school principal, HE DID HIS PART. The rest is up to the students, and Ben does have the right to boast a little consifering the challenges he had to go through to get them to graduate, let alone go to college. Quit hating our kids lady!!


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

Amen Patricia, I agree 100% with what you said. It may look good and feel good, but it's just simply not a true reflection of what the kids are achieving. But it sure is self serving now isn't it? Gotta keep people believing that spending 23k per student is &quot;equitable&quot;.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

See there Pat, that's why I voted for you. You call 'em like you see 'em. (with data)


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

It's great that 14 out of 15 graduating seniors are going to college. How many started senior year but are not graduating? In 2010 there were 29 graduating seniors but only 15 in 2011? What happened?


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

Investing in children is very important to this country, but let us not confuse investing in kids with investing in a (teachers) union's healthcare and pension. As long as these type of programs are financially efficient and results driven, full speed ahead. Any monopoly is bad, including the public school monopoly, choices lead to better results.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

I'm laughing out loud right now, reading about soft and hard bigotry, what &quot;they&quot; need, etc. Man you people have been fooled. I can tell you what &quot;they&quot; need, and it's definitely not more handouts or coddling. I can tell you from personal experience. I was entangled in the whole COPE-O'Brien/Juvenile Justice web. Why? It had nothing to do with racism, for me or for anyone else. It had everything to do with terrible choices by ourselves and our parents, and most importantly, a complete lack of personal self-control and accountability. I know that we consicously and subconciously fed on the crutches being thrown at us: abusive households, learning disabilites, alcoholic parents, racism, etc. It made it so easy to make excuses for our horrible behavior. Then one day some of us figured out that a lot of people have it tough and they are fine human beings. So why weren't we? Then the excuses fall apart. I'm glad to see that FINALLY the bar has been raised and progress is being made. And I really hope the coddling stops and the gloves really come off permanently, for all kids at risk.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

&quot;the alternative school in Ann Arbor&quot; &quot;Textile Road near Carpenter, in Pittsfield Township&quot; So which is it?


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

The investment in the kind of education at Clemente is cheap compared to the cost of unemployment and incarceration and single parenthood. Ben Edmondson has done a great job turning the school into a place that launches kids on a successful path into adulthood. Congrats to him and his staff. And thanks Ben Freed.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Great video and story - one of the best I've read at this rag. Floyd: It's not the 1950's anymore where &quot;these kids&quot; don't need the same thing as everyone else. It's about having high expectations, especially for kids who have suffered both &quot;the soft bigotry of low expectations&quot; and the hard bigotry of daily life as an African American.

Basic Bob

Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 10:48 a.m.

&quot;Think trade school. Learn a skill.&quot; Community colleges and the various for-profit technical colleges teach skills. I imagine these are the kind of &quot;college&quot; that these graduates are attending. And the best part, it doesn't cost $x00,000 to earn a degree and enter the workplace.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 10:39 a.m.

&quot;there is a college bubble. College is way over priced, these kids, as well as the vast majority of kids don't need to go to college and would be way ahead if they didn't. Think trade school. Learn a skill.&quot; Leave off the &quot;these kids&quot; and I might agree with you. I don't know these kids and I don't think you do either. Personally, I think it speaks well of the program. Not sure why it has to be off in the boondocks though. Don't we have 4 other high schools who's job is to send kids to college as well. Can't we roll this program into one of those buildings?


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 12:15 p.m.

These kids are the kids that disrupt the learning environment for the other students with fighting, skipping school, drugs, and bullying. That's why they can't roll this program into the other schools. They wear uniforms and are taught to be respectful and follow the rules. They receive the discipline they don't get at home. For many it is the last chance before they drop out of school and society.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

Agree, eyeheart. Real educaiton reform would entail a complete restructuring of our K-12 system that would entail moving from an emphasis on entrance in to college toward a skills based approach. There are many many well paying jobs that do not require a college education but do require substantial training in a specific skill. Many teens do not have either the aptitude and/or the desire for a college prep program. A skills-based program is far more apt to keep them in school and to prepare them for a successful future. Good Night and Good Luck

Floyd Griffey

Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 10:23 a.m.

It appears that Ann Arbor doesn't get it ... there is a college bubble. College is way over priced, these kids, as well as the vast majority of kids don't need to go to college and would be way ahead if they didn't. Think trade school. Learn a skill.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

For some people, trades are the answer. But the cold fact is this: most trades will live you with debilitating injuries by the time you are in your mid-30s. Then what? Think about it: how many old mechanics do you know? I also thought the solution was a trade--I was an auto technician our of high school. I spend hours working in unnatural, contorted positions. By the time I was 28 I could barely tie my shoes and I had severe injuries to my neck. Thankfully I had the foresight to attend college. It took forever to finish as I was working, but now I have a comfortable corporate job with an excellent salary. Employers don't care if your degree is in English or Business. It's supposed to be proof that you are disciplined, have excellent communication skills, and you are socialized. If you have a 4 year degree and you can't do anything with it, you should take inventory in yourself.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

djacks24, some people are better suited to clean streets, while others may be better off running a fortune 500 hundred company. The point is that a liberal arts education, unlike a trade school, gives you options for later in life. For example, my field draws talent for a variety backgrounds and majors, but everyone of them has an undergraduate degree when they arrive and then go through additional, specialized training to earn their Masters. It is about options and positioning yourself for our ever-changing IT sectors.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

@grye I understand your point. But at the same token who is in the better position to actually have a successful business? The college educated bank teller that can maybe start a business selling something like widgets that can be bought anywhere like Wal-Mart or online and probably cheaper than he/she could sell them. Or the plumber/electrician that has an actual marketable skill for a service that consumers need and and will seek out and pay for. Also that service cannot be outsourced or bought for cheaper at Wal-Mart/online?


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

The idea is not to get a business degree and be a bank teller forever. Getting at least an associates degree along with a trade will help in the event you want to start your own business. Need the skills taught in these business classes to understand business operations, financing, bookkeeping, etc.


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

&quot;Really great... let's try to raise the bar a bit here instead, huh?&quot; @ A2 Wookie So its better to get a business degree and maybe get a job making $30k annually as a bank teller, when for a fraction of the time and cost you could learn a trade and become a plumber, electrician, or a heating/cooling tech and make $60 a year? I've got a 4 yr degree and while I'm glad I graduated (with honors), it has done nothing for me financially. There is way too much emphasis placed on college in this country when places like Germany are putting a lot of emphasis on trades and are pretty much eating our lunch when it comes to keeping their economy going and residents employed.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

Really great... let's try to raise the bar a bit here instead, huh?


Tue, Jul 26, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

That's why I'm in trade school!