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La Serna High School Earns Golden Bell Award for Mentoring Programs


La Serna administrators, teachers and student mentors La Serna High School has earned a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association for its innovative mentoring programs that have spurred an increase in student achievement.


“This is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition of the dedicated efforts of everyone at La Serna to ensure that all students are given the resources and support to reach their full potential,” said Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson. “The CSBA’s Golden Bell Award reaffirms our commitment to do everything within our power to provide all of our students with the best education possible.”


During the last seven years, La Serna has developed several successful mentoring programs that combine teacher and peer support for students who need assistance. The effort began with

Link Crew in 2005, a program that links upper classmen with incoming freshmen to help ease

the transition from middle school to high school. The success of this peer mentoring program led to district-wide implementation. Now each of the district’s five comprehensive high schools has a Link Crew program.


La Serna then added its Guided Study/OASIS program for freshmen and sophomores who need additional support. Guided Study is for freshmen and provides extra academic and social support from teacher leaders and junior and senior academic mentors who are utilized in the classroom to facilitate learning, organization, and study.


La Serna then developed an intensive academic, social, and emotional support program

called Organized Academic Support in School (OASIS) in the fall of 2007. In OASIS, sophomores who need extra support work with student mentors and receive guidance and counseling two periods a day from teacher and former La Serna football coach Ken LaVigne, who was named a state Teacher of the Year for 2012 based on his success with the program.


In OASIS, students, academic mentors, parents, and teachers all work together on a daily basis to impact the performance and behavior of these students in a true team effort and the program has resulted in improved behavior and academic achievement for those students enrolled.


The success of these peer academic mentor programs prompted La Serna’s educators to expand the effort to core academic classes such as Physics and English and there are plans to add peer mentors to more classes in the future.


The Guidance office staff, in an effort to increase student success, facilitates the placement of hundreds of mentors that positively impact students’ lives.


“Link Crew Leaders and academic mentors go through a rigorous selection process and must possess excellent academic, social, and leadership skills,” said Assistant Principal of Guidance Rita Stevens. “Students qualify for these coveted positions in both junior and senior years, allowing these college-bound upperclassmen to develop confidence and direction as they build relationships with students who need extra support.”


La Serna school officials attribute much of the school’s gains in academic achievement to its wide-range of mentoring support programs. Since the implementation of Link Crew in 2005, La Serna’s D/F rate has dropped from 19.6% to 12.5%. The school has also seen a 15% increase in the percentage of seniors who successfully complete the courses required to enroll in a four-year college or university. La Serna’s CAHSEE pass rates have grown from 86% in English Language and 88% in Math to 93% and 91% respectively. And the school’s API score has risen 100 points during that time.


“We have seen dramatic gains during the past seven years in all measurable targets of student learning and success and we believe this is a result of our highly effective academic mentor programs and the support of our Board of Trustees and Superintendent,” said Ann Fitzgerald, La Serna’s Interim Principal. “But the impact of our mentor programs goes beyond measurable data,” she said. “A strong bond develops between the students in these programs that often are described as life changing.”


The great thing about La Serna’s programs is that they can be replicated and more that 800 educators from throughout the state have visited the campus during the last few years to learn more about La Serna’s efforts, Fitzgerald said. A few school districts have begun similar programs on some of their campuses as a result of these visits.


“Student mentors make a positive impact and they are one of the greatest untapped resources in education,” Fitzgerald said. “It is our goal to share this resource with schools throughout California and across the nation to help other students be successful in school and attain their goals in life.”


The CSBA’s Golden Bell Awards recognize exemplary programs in 22 major categories, which are essential to support teaching and learning. Golden Bell Awards promote excellence in education by recognizing outstanding programs in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. Golden Bell Awards reflect the depth and breadth of education necessary to address students’ changing needs.