Program helps gifted as well as struggling students at Catonsville Middle

The Tracie Marcus Academic Leadership program is helping students like Catonsville Middle School student Donnell Jones, live up to their academic potential.

"It's taught me a lot about life and how to succeed," the seventh-grader said.

Jones is a new student in the Gifted and Talented Education Program (GT), which provides more rigorous academics for students who show, "potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students," according to Maryland Public Schools information.

The program helps new GT students, like Jones, adjust socially as well as academically to the more challenging curriculum. For students in middle school, fitting into the program where other students have been since elementary school, can take time.

The first session of the Tracie Marcus Academic Leadership program this year took place March 5 at Catonsville Middle School. The program offers mentoring and tutoring to all students after school on Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. in library.

It's a merger of two programs at the school —Catonsville Scholars and the Tracie Marcus Tutor Program.

Catonsville Scholars was created by Cecily Andersonto offer tutoring to new students in the gifted and talented program who needed help catching up with other students in the program.

Anderson, chairwoman of the language arts department at Catonsville Middle, said the program is important because of the, "gap of instruction of learning between standard classes and gifted and talented classes.

"The tutoring gives them a support system and the mentoring helps them with the social aspect," Anderson said."There's pressure involved with being in courses that are highly academic to be competitive. And the kids that haven't grown up with kids in the same course have more difficulty."

Mentoring offered by guidance counselor Deborah Margulies allows the students to cope with the stress and pressure of the academics in the gifted and talented program, Anderson said.

Brooke Mariner, a seventh-grade student in the GT program who attended last week's mentoring session, said it has helped her become more independent.

"It helps you realize that you can be your own person — that you don't need someone by your side to help you the whole time," Mariner said.

Mariner said she has behavioral issues with bullying other students. She said she was part of a group of students who would pick on other kids, then realized she didn't want to be part of it anymore.

"Sitting and talking with other kids in [the program] has shown me that everyone is different ... and that nobody should be judged in a bad way because of what they want to do," Mariner said.

The new program offers after-school tutoring and mentoring to all students who need it.

The Tracie Marcus Tutor Program offered tutoring to students who were underperforming and earning low grades.

The program is named after former tutor Tracie Marcus, who died two years ago. She dedicated her time to ensuring the success of students who were struggling academically.

Brett Marcus, Tracie's husband, visited Catonsville Middle last Wednesday afternoon to see the program in action.

"We're just excited about what the program has become, and I think the opportunity to blend the two programs together and give every student in the school now the opportunity to benefit from mentoring and tutoring instead of just a select few is a good thing," said Marcus, who lives in Catonsville with his three children.

He thinks his wife would have loved the program if she could see it today.

"She'd love the fact that every student has the opportunity to get some extra mentoring, tutoring and personal attention," Marcus said.

Program organizers recognize that some students having a difficult time in school may be reluctant to attend a program after school for extra help.

To provide an incentive, they're offering basketball sessions with physical education teacher Ryan Nazelrod.

Students are required to bring a sheet from their teachers stating what they need to review. Once they complete a 30-minute session, they can play basketball.

"Some of the issues with [underperforming students] is that don't have the motivation to stay after school. It's not the first place they want to be," Anderson said.

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