In the summer of 2012 a partnership was formed between a small group of educators from two very different schools. A.J. Ernst and John Young from Young Scholars Charter School were working a small group of students after school, during the weekends and over the summer in an effort to give them the edge to be accepted, attend and succeed in the best high schools. There work brought them to meet Dr. Kevin Mattingly at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, a high school recognized internationally for academic excellence. Together they aimed to develop a program based on research on non-cognitive factors linked to academic success developed by Carol Dweck and K. Anders Ericsson. Drawing on powerful psychological interventions, a program was designed to empower students to acquire the mindset necessary to succeed.
Named for our goal of helping students pursue excellence and move beyond low societal expectations, Arete Prep was founded with a group of hardworking seventh grade students and a cohort of high school mentors. Outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not solely innate talent or skill. In order to transfer the idea that the development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, grit, and often painful self assessment, we crafted impactful moments that would be delivered by high school mentors over the course of years.
Students were given supplemental work and met daily to develop certain essential skills that were neglected during the traditional school day. The students worked throughout the entire summer, including two weeks spent on the campus of the Lawrenceville School, where they experienced a dynamic, high-quality educational environment and deliberately built a foundation that would help them gain admittance and to succeed in highly selective schools. Leveraging technology, students worked with their mentors weekly until the summer when they were able to live together and truly forge lasting relationships. Throughout these experiences, we carefully designed situations that would cultivate a growth mindset and foster resilience.
We returned for a second summer to the Lawrenceville campus to continue our work, this time with $1.2 million in financial aid and scholarships for every Arete Scholar as they prepared to transition into different prestigious high schools. The greatest marker of success was that these psychological interventions still proved effective in the years to come. Former students in the program are now being trained to become mentors for the fifth group of students who will begin Arete Prep this year.