A Conversation on Student Motivation and Success
with Dr. Darius Penikas, Principal, Archbishop Molloy High School
At the RISE 2022 Conference, Dr. Penikas, the principal of Archbishop Molloy High school* a co-educational college located in Briarwood, Queens, delivered a session on student motivation and aspiration that reflected a deep commitment to student success and equally important, the knowledge, expertise, and experience that makes it possible. As we near the testing time and transitions, the PDRC team met with Dr. Penikas to gain a deeper insight into his approach to preparing students for life beyond high school and thus be able to share with all of you strategies, stories, and reflections that we hope will enhance student preparedness in your school own school.
Reviewing the notes from the interview, the words ‘start with the end in mind’, ‘being intentional’, and ‘relationships’ stood out. Each of these words carries critical weight and meaning in creating a roadmap that motivates students to fulfill their aspirations and become success stories beyond high school.
HOW TO MOTIVATE STUDENTS AND SET HIGH EXPECTATIONS
To communicate to educators the importance of motivating students and setting high expectations (aspirations) beyond high school, you begin with the end in mind. At a micro-level, it is like using an exercise bike, it might not always be a pleasant experience, but the result is a healthier you. The journey to college may not always be easy, but the outcome will be a high level of achievement for all students. At a macro level, we talk to our students about their role in the workforce and their impact as members of a global economic society.
Archbishop Molloy is a Catholic Marist School that has a foundation in mission beliefs; a set of core beliefs that help all students understand that they have gifts and responsibilities and that they should use these gifts best by developing them in the service of others, in the community and in the workforce. For students who are already self-motivated, we show them how to take their college aspirations to the next level. To that purpose, we share examples of alumni and refer them to specific programs of interest that colleges provide, inform them about some small name colleges that do great things that they might not be aware of but offer programs that align with their life goals. And we always remind students that their success is the best thank-you letter to their parents.
MAKING IT PERSONAL
The school’s core beliefs of service and responsibility apply to all students. In the case of students for whom going to college might seem a far-reaching goal due to a variety of reasons, often socio-economic, our counselors meet with each of them one-on-one to ensure that they understand the value of their education while providing them and their families with statistics, financial aid information, such as FAFSA and guide them throughout the process. With students for whom going to college may be ‘taken for granted’ the core conversations are the same. We show them the options that are being offered to them, as well as their inherent responsibilities.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH ALUMNI
Molloy keeps a strong relationship with its alumni because there is nothing more impactful than having students who were in the current high schoolers’ seats come back to share their experiences and the opportunities they were presented with when they set out on college and professional journeys. These connections with recent alumni bring authenticity and awareness to the entire process. Alumni also support the school with their donations, particularly through the Named Scholarships program.
MOST SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMS
Our success stems from the commitment of teachers and counselors whose dedication to giving all students a roadmap on how to achieve their college and/or career aspirations and informing them that they are not limited by resources or other real or perceived limitations. We also have well-established programs that have resulted from this ongoing collaboration. They include:
ADVICE FOR NEW SCHOOL LEADERS
You start with the end in mind, as I mentioned at the start of our conversation, but it is also very important to be passionate about what you do and understand that relationships offer security and support which lead to success. Communicate your passion to teachers so that they are passionate about what they teach and teach students to be passionate about what they learn.
*Visit the school website for additional information: www.molloyhs.org
Dr. Darius Penikas, thank you very much for sharing your experiences and foresight with
our readers and the Fordham PDRC team.