THINK Together increases academic potential for student athletes at Valley High School
Student athletes at Valley High School in the Santa Ana Unified School District have been meeting their high expectations for academic performance without struggle thanks to the support they are provided from both school and THINK Together leaders.
“These student athletes are motivated by sports but academically are unsuccessful,” said Sergio Barragan, THINK Together’s Site Facilitator at Valley High School. “We use their interest in sports to leverage our academic efforts.”
Student athletes in particular, Valley’s football players, attend THINK Together everyday after school to study and complete their homework after practice.
This “athletic tutorial” time is led by Coach Larry Mohr.
During tutorial time athletes are provided the support they need to improve their grade point average and to remain focused on higher education.
“THINK Together’s program has been very beneficial for us in keeping our kids eligible to play,” Mohr said. “They have to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and with the support they get from THINK leaders, they have been able to accomplish that. So needless to say, it’s been very positive for the entire high school.”
Where would some of these student athletes be if this program did not exist?
Coach Mohr shares a perfect example.
“We had a student athlete play for us last year and he said he never thought he was going to college,” Mohr said. “He never thought he had the chance to go to college, he never thought he would have the grades to get into college and I demanded that he attend study hall and the THINK Together program. He then raised his grades and now has a better chance to go to college, which in turn, has given him an overall sense of hope.”
“That’s really what it’s all about, giving these students hope,” Mohr said.
So what makes a program like this work? Passionate partnerships, that’s what fuels successful programs like THINK Together at Valley High School.
THINK Together’s director of High School programs, Bill Fennessy, is the one who connected Mohr with his academic program.
This collaboration of efforts began on one afternoon in which Bill explains perfectly, “I wanted this, the coach wanted this, the principal wanted this, so we met each other half way in between the football field and administration building and struck a deal, it wasn’t hard at all, we were all on the same page.”
Fennessy came to THINK Together with a vast background in athletics that started at Blair High School. He played several roles there and sometimes all at once. He was the head football coach, athletic director, and ran the afterschool program.
Through Bill’s experiences at Blair High School, he designed and implemented a successful afterschool academic support program for high school athletes at Blair when he was there and now at Valley High School’s THINK Together program.
Bill’s knowledge, leadership, and passion make him a real game changer.
“High school athletes especially football players typically require more academic support,” Fennessy said. “Because, they are practicing afterschool and dedicating more time to athletics it cuts down on time that they could be using for academics.”
Unfortunately, football programs are sometimes more invested in the “game” then in the student athletes.
This common approach drastically affects their future and academic potential.
Mohr recognizes this. He is first and foremost a father. His son is in the program and he attends the sessions with his father, it works perfectly since his father is already there. Mohr recalls when he was in high school, and he thinks about the parent support that he had. He is extremely grateful for that. He believes that without his parents’ support, he may have not be as successful as he is today.
Coach Mohr thinks about the students who don’t have that support at home and wants to ensure that if he’s around and organizations like THINK Together are around, these students will have the support they need to reach their full potential.
This is just the beginning of a paradigm shift and THINK Together looks forward to implementing and supporting similar programs.
“Your greatest tool on the court or field is your mind,” Fennessy said. “You may not have natural talent but if you can think through a game plan you can win the game. Your brain needs to work, not just your body.”