“Think. Do. Lead.” is the motto that has been a part of the daily practice at the Middle Years Alternative (MYA) School for the Arts and Humanities.

MYA, at 4725 Fairmount Ave., is a small city-wide admission 5-8 school with nearly 260 students.

“At MYA, we’re all about growing students,” said eighth-year principal Shakae Dupre-Campbell. “We have kids from all over Philadelphia that come to MYA from as far down as South Philly all the way up to the Northeast.

“We have kids from various elementary schools with varying levels and abilities, but we help them tap into their full potential,” she added. “They come to us one way and they leave better than they come in. We pride ourselves on making a holistic change to the student once they come here.”

Dupree-Campbell said the academic goal for this school year is to move student proficiency set by benchmarks.

“We do a great job of moving students from below basic to basic, but it’s been really hard to move students from basic to proficient,” she said. “This year we want to address that.

“We developed a new coaching framework and we’re focusing this year on teacher action not to produce student outcomes,” she added. “We’re taking the students out of it and we’re looking at the actions of myself, assistant principals, the climate managers, teachers, and counselors to help move our students forward.”

MYA offers a Scholars Academy for seventh and eighth graders that provides academic enrichment based on an application process that coincides with academic achievement, community service, school and community-based activities, and teacher recommendation.

Seventh-graders will learn Pre-Algebra and students in eighth grade will learn Algebra and Advanced English. Eighth-graders in the Scholars Academy will also participate in the Keystone Exams.

“All of my eighth graders are taking Algebra and the intent is not that I expect all of them to take the Keystone and pass on the first round,” Dupre-Campbell said.

“The intent is the access so that they can have equitable opportunities once they get to high school and beyond,” she added. “I never want to be the catalyst to limit my students’ access to those opportunities.”

Each year, MYA students participate in a rich variety of field trips, grants, and sponsored events that supplement classroom instruction and provide hands-on learning experiences.

The school’s academic coursework also includes links to universities, museums, theaters and corporate institutions in the area.

“We have a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Talent Search where they take students on college visits and they go to college classrooms,” Dupre-Campbell. “Spark offers mentorship where they take seventh-graders to visit various professions.

“We’ve had a partnership with Deloitte and CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and they take students to those particular areas to allow them to see careers in action,” she added. “At the end of the program, they present a culminating project.”

For extracurricular activities, MYA offers various programs, clubs, and activities for students including sports, robotics, After School Activities Partnerships, Students Run Philly Style, instrumental music, Philly AD Club and the The Delphi After School Art Club.

“Through our programs, we’re able to give our students opportunities and exposure to different things that they may not have been able to experience otherwise,” Dupre-Campbell said.

MYA has adopted an incentive-based system called RAM where students carry cards of red, yellow, and green.

Students must be responsible, achieve success and make good choices in order to maintain green card status. As long as the cards remain green, students can go on PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention System) trips at the end of every month.

“We’re trying to make our students responsible and teach them how to make good choices,” Dupre-Campbell said. “We want them to articulate when they’re frustrated or when they have a choice to make if they don’t understand between what’s right or wrong. We’re big on helping them do things the right way so that they’re able to be productive once they leave.”

Teachers also give students CBG (Caught Being Good) cards if they go above and beyond during school hours.

“The magic in the CBG is if I’m about to get an infraction, I can give you my CBG card and it would cancel the infraction out,” Dupre-Campbell said. “A student can also choose to hold onto their CBG card and be placed into a raffle. The more CBG cards you have the better your chances are of winning prizes.”

Dupre-Campbell said what she wants students to take away from their experience at MYA is greatness.

“We expect greatness from our students,” Dupre-Campbell said. “Our expectations at MYA are high and we don’t apologize for that. We want our students to know that they can not only meet our expectations, but that they can exceed it.

“We give them all the support and encouragement to do just that,” she added. “I want my students to leave MYA knowing that we care about them and believe in them 100%.”

chill@phillytrib.com. 215-893-5716;

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