“Aloha is more than just a word or greeting,” Victory Place @ Coppell Principal Jeff Minn said. “It means mutual support and love, with no obligation in return. That’s the spirit that we have here [at Victory Place].”
Minn grew up in Hawaii, where he was familiarized with the concept of the ‘aloha spirit.’ Aloha directly translates to both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’; however, it means much more culturally. Minn noticed the trademark aspects of this philosophy at work in Victory Place.
Victory Place is a small, specialized school. It hosts a limited number of students who participate in one of two programs. The Compass program is for students with behavioral issues, and the Turning Point program is for students wishing to graduate early.
Students typically apply to Turning Point in their junior or senior years and go through a series of interviews before acceptance. Small class sizes allow for an increased sense of community and facilitates relationship between students, teachers and administrators.
“[The atmosphere at Victory Place is] different in the essence that kids come to the Turning Point program by choice,” Victory Place assistant principal Camille Porter said. “They choose to come here. We’ve got kids who are all serious about wanting to get this done, so everybody’s unified and kind of working together for that common goal.”
Since there are always students graduating and joining Victory Place, despite their limited acceptance rates, they are able to serve as many students as possible.
“That program has allowed some of our kids to graduate,” Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer said. “We would have lost so many kids who would have [otherwise] dropped out of school.”
Minn and his team at Victory Place incorporate social-emotional learning (SEL) and relationship building into their students’ lessons. Their goal is not only to prepare students for the world academically, but also to prepare them for problems and setbacks life may present them.
“We are continually looking at how we can not just help them academically, but help them to become a well rounded graduate. [The best way to accomplish that] is working on some of those social emotional skills that are so important,” Minn said. “Just like we build in time for [core classes], we feel that is important to build in time to build social emotional skills.”
This is the aloha spirit at work. Teachers and administrators know every student in school, and they all support the students and their goals. This level of connection would not be easily maintained at a school with class sizes as large as CHS.
“It’s a place where you’re not distracted so much by all the things happening in a high school as comprehensive as CHS,” Springer said. “There are just so many people and things [at CHS] to divert your attention from what is important.”
Not only do Victory Place students work at an accelerated pace, they also wear uniforms when attending in-person. Before the pandemic, they would also have professional dress days every Wednesday, for which the students would dress as if they were going to a job interview.
The uniforms, as well as the old professional dress days contribute to students’ preparation for entering the job force. After graduating Victory Place, they will have been taught what to wear and how to conduct themselves in the workplace.
To Minn, this is the most important part of the work done at Victory Place. The school provides an alternative to traditional high school, so they are able to teach lessons about being an adult to students who graduate high school early.
“What I love is that I’m able to get to know every learner’s story,” Minn said. “I get to know their names, what their goals are, what their dreams are. And then we build a program around how to support them for both Compass and Turning Point.”
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