Five Questions for Abby French

Abby French, Director of Crossroads/Aim High

Abby French, Crossroads/Aim High Program Director

Abby French is the Crossroads/Aim High Program Director. She has been involved with Aim High for the past five summers, first as a teacher and now as Director. She is thrilled to join MA this year as the Crossroads Program Director and believes that access to a quality education opens doors, especially for students from low-income families.

What are Crossroads and Aim High?

Crossroads is a program at Marin Academy that was founded in 2001 to address issues of educational equity in San Rafael. The program provides academic support for under-resourced students with the goal of closing the achievement gap.  MA students serve as tutors and teachers for Crossroads students, the majority of whom attend Venetia Valley and Davidson Middle Schools. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, MA tutors go to the middle schools to support students with their homework and studies. On Wednesdays, Crossroads students come to MA to take elective classes led by Crossroads Fellows. Some of the exciting elective classes this year include Drawing, Cooking, Astronomy, Ethics, Broadway Performance, Computer Graphing, and a class called Around the World, which focuses on culture and politics. The Crossroads Program also provides educational workshops for families of our students that cover topics such as success in high school, college access, and health and nutrition.

Aim High is a non-profit organization that offers a free summer academic and enrichment experience to under-resourced middle school students to better prepare them for high school, college, and beyond.  Aim High was founded in 1986 and now has 15 sites across the Bay Area and one in Tahoe. Marin Academy and the Crossroads Program partnered with Aim High five years ago with the goal of providing an excellent and life-changing summer experience to even more students in the San Rafael area. While the Crossroads Program serves about 35 students during the academic year, MA hosts over 100 students during the summer who are part of Aim High. Students enter the Aim High program as rising seventh graders and continue in the program over three summers. There is a focus on academics, arts, athletics, and college and career awareness. Many Aim High and Crossroads students will be among the first generation in their families to go to college.

Describe your role with Aim High and Crossroads

I have been involved with Aim High for the past five summers, first as a teacher and now as Director of the program. I was very excited to join MA this year as the Crossroads Program Director, and happy to be able to work with many of the students and families during the school year that I have worked with in previous summers.

As the Director of the Crossroads and Aim High Programs, I organize everything from logistics and scheduling to curriculum and teacher development. Prior to joining MA, I worked as a classroom teacher for nine years. I particularly enjoy supporting MA students and newer teachers who are just beginning to develop their skills and practice as educators.  I also really enjoy being able to act as a support and resource for the Crossroads students and families.

I want to be sure to mention that both Crossroads and Aim High would not run nearly as smoothly without the dedicated work of our Crossroads and Aim High Program Coordinator, Lisa Tsubouchi ’06. Her amazing organizational skills and great rapport with students contribute a lot to the success of the programs.

How can MA students get involved with Crossroads and Aim High?

MA students can participate with Crossroads as either tutors or Fellows. Tutors work with Crossroads students once or twice a week. They can choose to participate from season to season and are not obligated to commit for the entire year. For those looking for a larger commitment and more prominent leadership role, there is also the option to become a Crossroads Fellow.

Fellows have the opportunity to teach an elective class, and are responsible for developing a curriculum and supporting lesson plans. This is a more intensive option but a fantastic opportunity for students who are interested in leadership and teaching. The Crossroads Fellows program is open to all juniors and seniors, but sophomores who have had Crossroads tutoring experience are also welcome to apply.

Applications for students who want to become Fellows are submitted at the beginning of the year and are due in mid-September. The application includes a proposal for a class they’d like to teach and goals for the course. If the proposal is accepted, Fellows begin teaching classes in October on Wednesday afternoons. The program is divided into fall, winter and spring seasons and Fellows can choose to teach a class every season or just for one season.

We’re thrilled to have 25 Fellows and over 40 tutors this year supporting the Crossroads program.

If students are looking for an opportunity during the summer with Aim High, they can apply in January and February to become a Teaching Assistant.

What are your goals for the year for Aim High and Crossroads at MA?

One of my goals is to provide Crossroads and Aim High students with excellent academic support so they feel confident and engaged in learning. My hope is that they are challenged and supported in ways that positively impact their academic and personal growth. I want them to leave our programs with confidence in their potential and knowledge of how to achieve their goals.

Another goal is that the MA students involved as tutors and Fellows will develop their leadership skills as well as gain some new insights and perspective about themselves. It’s a great way for students to become involved with leadership on campus.

Why do you think Aim High and Crossroads are important for MA and the larger community?

I believe that access to a quality education opens doors, especially for students from low-income families. By supporting the Crossroads and Aim High programs, MA is providing important academic support and opportunities for students who may otherwise not have access to them.  Many graduates from the Crossroads and Aim High programs go on to do important social justice work in the larger community.  Marin Academy students and young educators who are involved with Crossroads and Aim High are also inspired to pursue careers in education and other fields that support community development.

Both of these programs also offer the opportunity for people to develop inspiring and meaningful relationships with one another. Crossroads and Aim High students really look up to their tutors and teachers, and MA students have the opportunity to be mentors and to influence the development of the Crossroads and Aim High students. They also often find that they learn a lot from the middle school students. While these programs may only span a few years, I know that the impact of the experience students have and the relationships they form last much longer.

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Senior Julia Pickel leads a Broadway Performance class focused on dance, acting, and singing.

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Junior Spencer Zeff co-leads a class called MARTH. MARTH combines elements of math and art. In this class students used protractors to create 3-D shapes.

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About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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