Project BOOST (Building Options and Opportunities for Students) is a program targeted at late elementary, middle and high school students who have demonstrated academic talent but come from disadvantaged neighborhoods where they do not have the opportunity to develop their talents. Project BOOST’s main goal is to help participating students gain admission to quality high schools upon completion of the project (eighth grade). “Quality high school” is defined as competitive and specialized high schools, including local educational option schools and private schools, as well as independent schools (both commuter and residential) and parochial schools.
To accomplish this goal, Project BOOST provides students with academic and cultural enrichment experiences, test prep services, academic guidance, and community service opportunities. Currently, 166 schools participate in Project BOOST. All of the schools serve low-income students from diverse communities. Whereas many other enrichment programs accept only the “best and the brightest,” Project BOOST admits students with mid-range test scores who demonstrate commitment to success. Project BOOST is designed to serve the school and communities needs and can be integrated into the school day, afterschool and even includes activities on nights and weekends. Project BOOST fosters cross-grade collaboration through its “feeder pattern” model that pairs elementary and middle schools together to serve cohorts of students as they progress from the fourth through the eighth grades. This collaboration helps create alliances that extend beyond implementation of Project BOOST. It helps them address such issues as providing continuity in instruction and the social/emotional wellbeing of students as they transition from the elementary to middle school and into high school.
This past year, over 450 eighth grade students graduated from the program. All our 2014 graduates were accepted to high school, with a majority of them receiving their first or second choice. 85 of the graduating eighth graders were accepted to specialized high schools, parochial, or private high schools.
The experiences that students gain in these programs are often life-altering for them in many ways. Among the aspects of the programs that students remark on are the unique experiences that they feel are otherwise beyond their reach, the value of gaining one-on-one mentoring and guidance, a sense of increased self-esteem, gaining positive values, and a recognition of the importance of academic commitment and achievement. Examples of partnerships include but are not limited to:
CEI and Project BOOST also have an arts initiative, Early Stage’s Live Theater Program (LTP) that allows students to attend Broadway, Off-Broadway, dance and music performances for free. Since September 2013, LTP has brought over 6,000 students from more than 80 schools to multiple performances of The Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia!, Blue Man Group, Jersey Boys, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and many more. Over 80% of the students attended their first live performance through the program and 100% answered that they would love to return. Teachers and coordinators observed that their BOOST students showed an increased interest in the arts and in trying new thing after attending a show. Our coordinators also reported that 65% of them saw an increase in relationships among their students that attended a show, as well as increases in attitude (47%), attendance (37%), academics (39%), and willingness to share their ideas and opinions (50%).