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Students given unique new opportunity from a different type of teacher

Students from some of Alabama's poorest school districts are enhancing their educations and brightening their futures.

The rising freshmen{}are learning from a different type of teacher during a highly-specialized summer camp called Higher Achievement Summer School.{} The same type of teacher will soon be seen in many Birmingham schools.

The teachers come from the non-profit Teach for America agency.{} For three weeks, they are educating students from Sumter County and Marengo County.{} The students are being housed at the private Indian Springs School in Shelby County.

"What we're hoping to give them is an experience which helps them see a broader range of possibilities," said Indian Springs Director Gareth Vaughan.

"We believe in the mission of Teach for America, and as a private school, we don't want to be seen to be an ivory tower just for a privileged few," Vaughan said.{} "We want to be involved in the broader effort of improving education."

Teachers from Teach for America often bring different backgrounds to the classroom than traditional teachers.

"Since a lot of us did major in majors outside of education, I think we bring a lot to the table," said Justin Younker, a Teach for America teacher who is currently working at Sumter Central High School.

"For example, I was a French and International Relations double-major," Younker said.{} "And so I try to incorporate as much as I can from other cultures, the things I learned in college, into my English class."

"These teachers -- they just push us," said student Davontae May.{} "They make sure we don't give up.{} They help us with our work."

"I've learned how to do a lot of math things like distributive property and adding and subtracting binomials," said fellow student Mantricia Densmore.{} "In English, I've learned how to make compound sentences, complex sentences, and adjective clauses."

"I didn't know I could write a three-page essay the way I did," she added.

"We are making it as intense as possible for them," Younker said.{} "They're doing a lot of writing.{} We have a grammar boot camp course for them so that they can make some gains over the summer that they can take with them into their ninth grade year."

"They're actually starting Algebra I now even though they're not in ninth grade," he added.{} "They'll know what to be expecting so they can get A's their entire freshman year."

The Indian Springs campus features classrooms and student housing, not unlike a college campus.{} The students at the summer camp now look forward to the opportunities that come with a college education.

"It's very different, because I haven't been away from home this long," Densmore said.{} "So I've got to get used to it."

Teachers are also taking students to off-campus locations where they learn even more.

"We went to the civil rights museum," May said.{} "I learned that it is important to be thankful for what you have."

"Sometimes, if you know what happened before, then it'll help you in the future," Densmore added.

With the enhanced education they are receiving at the summer school, the future is looking brighter.

"Nobody graduated from college in my family, and I want to be the first to graduate," May said.

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