How CREC Choice benefits the whole school

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For most students at Granby Memorial High School, the school day begins at about six in the morning. This gives them enough time to eat breakfast, get dressed, and catch their bus, the earliest of which comes around 6:25 a.m. They go to school until 2:20 p.m. and then go right home. Any student that has an extracurricular activity after school can either stay after or, if they have time, go home in-between. These are everyday occurrences that GMHS students, myself included, take for granted. Some of our classmates lack that luxury.

For those who come here from Hartford by way of the CREC Choice program, the time commitments and sacrifices are greater. Andel Smith, a junior at GMHS, has been coming to Granby since he was in kindergarten. During football season, he wakes up at 5:30 in the morning, goes to school and then gets home anywhere from 7 to 8 o’clock in the evening. By the time he showers, eats dinner and helps his mom with chores, it’s 10 o’clock. Knowing this, Smith tries to get the majority of his homework done in study hall. Often times these study halls are not enough time to get all the assignments done. Smith thus finds himself staying up to 11 or even 12 at night.

These sacrifices are not in vain. Smith has made honor roll a number of times in high school, and is a two-time All-Conference track star for his performance in the triple jump and the long jump. Smith is also a returning starter to a promising Granby football team seeking its first winning season since 2015.

Another junior, Keon Lawrence, provides a unique perspective because he started as a CREC Choice student, until his family moved to Granby this past October. When asked about the major differences, Lawrence replied, “I get to wake up later, I can sleep in during PLC*, I can participate in more after-school activities, and I can actually develop a social life with the kids I go to school with.” Lawrence claims that one downside of the move is having to miss sports in order to help his sister off the bus and watch her until his mom gets home. This is something that was never possible back in Hartford.

GMHS’s principal, Mike Dunn, had nothing but praise for these sacrifices made and the diversity that these kids bring to the high school. “The hundreds of students who have travelled to Granby from Hartford over the past several decades that the Open Choice program has been in existence, have impacted our school in too many ways to mention. Whether through academics, extracurricular clubs, or our music and athletic programs, our Granby Bears from Hartford have strengthened the fabric of our school,” he explained.

One particular experience that has touched Dunn in his two years as principal here was seeing Fola Taiwo, a senior, receive a standing ovation from the entire school when she recited her poem relating her experience, not only in coming to Granby from Hartford, but in coming to the United States from Nigeria, her birthplace, and The Gambia, where she was raised. “That’s just one of many examples of what the Choice program is all about,” Dunn concluded.

Senior Rusty Stone summed up the feelings of most students nicely. The AIC lacrosse commit told me, “The Choice program is a opportunity for great kids from less fortunate backgrounds to get a strong education in a solid town. I feel like myself and my grade have been inclusive and we hope this continues.”

Both students and faculty at GMHS look to strengthen this program for years to come.

*PLC is an hour of meetings that teachers have every Thursday from 7:30-8:30, allowing students the opportunity to get an extra hour of sleep.