Griffins Moving Toward Success

Idea Leader
: Akil-Vuai Gregory

Location: Akron, OH

Partner Organization: Project GRAD Akron

Project Summary: Akil-Vuai Gregory, 17, started the school year at Buchtel High School by encouraging 9th grade students to sign a “Commit to Graduate” banner. In addition to other supports, her team planned a Buddy to Buddy to pair 9th grade students to upperclassmen for help with school work as well as social matters.


Griffin Scholars Devise Comprehensive Program Focused on 9th-graders 

The Griffin Scholars (Akil-Vuai Gregory, Shavonda Johnson, Brianna Reed, Shanik Shropshire, and Steven Harris) wanted to do something about improving the graduation rate at John R. Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio. After several weeks of discussion and conversations about their school, they developed a plan. They entered the AT&T America’s Promise My Idea Grant competition in hopes that they could make a difference at their school. The Griffin Scholars were awarded $19,500 to help ninth graders commit to graduation.

The Griffin Scholars designed a year-round program that included a host of activities that involved ninth graders, their parents, upperclassmen, teachers, college students, community leaders, and local community organizations, including universities and cultural groups. Seventy-six percent (76 percent) of the ninth graders helped launch the project through their participation in the “Commit to Graduate” banner signing project in September.

Steven Harris, Griffin Scholar project team member, welcomed ninth graders to school, congratulating them for their commitment and by offering support saying, “We are here to make sure you succeed.”

Throughout the year, activities continued, including speakers, tutoring, mentoring, college visits, the FAST (Family and Students Together) dinner, attendance at concerts and the establishment of a Buddy-to-Buddy program. The Buddy to Buddy program was the student mentoring project that paired ninth graders with upperclassmen who aided with not only schoolwork, but also helped with social matters within the school. Nearly 100 students participated in the Buddy-to-Buddy get-together in December.

Freshman Chantel Stockard shared her thoughts about the Buddy project: “It was inspirational; it helped me a great deal, it helped to get through my first year of high school.”

Project highlights included opportunities to participate in the Tuesday Musical Association concerts at E. J. Thomas Hall at the University of Akron. The Imani Winds, an internationally renowned wind ensemble, brought their talents and passion for performance to Buchtel High School in an intimate concert and conversation for over 600 students.

Griffin Scholar Shanik Shropshire states: “I’m excited that I and other young students were able to be exposed to new genres of music. It is nice for us to be exposed to something new.”

College visits to Kent State University, the University of Akron, Cleveland State University, and Stark State College were a part of inspiring students to look to the future and make college a part of that future.  The college visits exposed students to an on-campus college experience, up close looks at career pathways, and the development of mentor connections that allowed them to gain a better understanding that college can be a part of their future plans beyond high school.

Interviews of Buchtel alumni, school leaders, and actively involved students helped us with our creation of a video to promote the school and the supports and opportunities to help students stay in school.  It also helped us reflect on the many positive opportunities available to all students at Buchtel High School.

Idea Leader Akil-Vuai Gregory reflects upon the project as a whole: “I enjoyed being able to help the freshmen through their first year of high school. I also truly appreciate everyone who had a part in aiding the freshmen; because of them, I believe the students who took advantage of this program will have even more opportunities available for them as they continue in high school. The Griffin Scholars as a group saw that if students don’t take advantage of opportunities as freshmen, it becomes harder for them to continue high school. As a result of this, many high school students do not graduate. “Through our Griffins Moving Toward Success project, we hope that more freshmen will take advantage of what John R. Buchtel High School, Project GRAD Akron, and other programs have to offer.”

We want to thank AT&T and the America’s Promise Alliance for their support. The Buchtel High School experience is absolutely incredible! When you come to Buchtel it is like joining a family, a family that wants every student to succeed.