Year Up Program

On October 31, 2017, Marvin Blakely, Recruitment Director for Year Up, came to our campus to present to the Student Services Department at the Student Opportunity Center.  Year Up is a program that was created by a former Wall Street broker by the name of Gerald Chertavian who initially was a Big Brother and later sold his company and created the Year Up Program.  The program was established in Boston in 2000 and was established from a book written by Gerald Chertavian.  The goal of the program was to meet the untapped potential and provide resources for a population of underrepresented adults ranging from the ages of 18-24.

The program, which is a year in length, is broken into two phases.  Phase I, the students are enrolled in the business development phase of the program where they are earning 18 credit hours all taught by El Centro professors on their main campus in Dallas.  The students are required to dress for success daily, which includes training in soft skills ranging from writing a resume, understanding the importance of time management, and how to send professional emails. During the Phase I sessions, the students also participate in Feedback Friday by participating in sharing feedback among one another as well as receiving feedback from colleagues.  Phase I students receive a stipend of $200 and free public transportation passes to attend school.

Phase II is the second semester of the program where the students are placed in an internship program.  According to the recruitment director, during this phase the students are building their professional muscle working with corporations. After the end of Phase II the students will graduate from the program and will be hired (pending how successful they were for the duration of their internship), and have the opportunity to earn $22/hr or $50,000-$60,000 per year.

Mr. Marvin Blakely will return to the SOC to speak with another group of our SOC students, and we strongly encourage our students who are eligible to apply if they are capable of getting back and forth to the El Centro campus daily.

In addition to the professors on campus, the Year Up program also provides the students with “high expectations and high support.” The El Centro staff in the Year Up program are also mentors for the students and there are two Social Workers on staff to also assist with personal struggles and as a resource for the students in need.

For more information about the Year-Up program, please refer to the links below. (Year Up Overview)—60 Minutes (Personal Story)


Frisco Family Tutorials

Frisco High School is offering after school tutoring for middle and high school students in our district!  The Frisco Family Tutoring Program originally started in 2010 at the Stonebrook Apartments. The main goals of the tutoring program are to help students be successful in school and also to increase family participation. We currently host the program at Frisco High School to be able to meet the needs of our students.
While the program is geared toward assisting English Language Learners, it also aims to benefit the community as a whole.  Many teachers have already volunteered to help with the tutorials, and we have also enlisted the assistance of FISD National Honor Society students to serve as peer tutors. High school tutors will gain valuable service hours while providing a beneficial service to their peers and to younger students in the community. We provide our students with a snack during each session. We also provide small incentives (school supplies or other such items) in the form of a raffle. We try to find businesses and organizations to support us with donations.
Another component of our program will be parent outreach. We are planning to host small presentations for parents, perhaps one a month.  We want to encourage parents to learn how they can help their students become more successful in school.  Our district strives to engage all of our parents because we know that we have to build a network of support for our students if they are to be successful.
We would like to extend you an invitation to help us sustain this program by volunteering one Wednesday a month from 4:20 – 6:15 pm at Frisco High School. We need at least two teachers to cover the tutorials every week. Please contact Elma Montenegro ( or Alma Juarez (, program coordinators, for more information.

A bit of Halloween at the SOC

At the end of a long month Halloween brings a welcome break from normal for a few students and staff members.  No masks are allowed but some students and faculty still manage to make the day a special occasion.  Some traditional costumes appear — a witch, a Spiderman.  This year we even had a dinosaur.DinasaurSometimes life can be very stressful.  It is good to see positive ways to relieve a bit of that stress.  Go out today and Smile.  It can be contagious.

Critters at the SOC

At the SOC most teachers don’t have their own classrooms rooms.  Most, if not all, teachers switch classrooms at some point in the day.  Some teachers switch classrooms every period, some just once a day, but it makes it more challenging to personalize the classroom space.

One way the science department has personalized its space is to have several different animals in the science lab. The first animal to arrive was Cornelius. Cornelius is a male corn snake about 7 years old. He’s been in a classroom most of his life and is very gentle. Students enjoy taking Cornelius out of his tank and learning that snakes are not scary.

The next pets acquired were the goldfish. Ms. Blackwell uses the goldfish in an experiment (no fish are harmed during the experiment) in her aquatics class where students learn about oxygen concentration in the water and its effect on the fish. But an aquarium also has the ability to reduce stress and anxiety by bringing the calming effects of nature right into the classroom.

The next animals we added to the science lab were the leopard geckos. They are a male named George and a female named Gracie. Students are generally not allowed to handle the geckos as they are very sensitive and skittish. When frightened, they can drop their tails which no one wants to happen!

The birds were the next animals added to the lab. There are three parakeets, Curie, Faraday, and Einstein, all named after famous scientists. They can get rather rambunctious at times, but are very fun to watch.

And lastly, our newest animal addition is Darwin, the red footed tortoise. Right now Darwin is a baby but will eventually grow to about 12 inches across. We can’t tell yet whether Darwin is a boy or a girl but it is named after Charles Darwin who studied tortoises on the Galapagos Islands. There is a bit more space for another animal or two so maybe we will be adding to our animal staff soon.


On Tuesday, October 11, 2017, tenth and eleventh grade students at the SOC were given the opportunity to take the PSAT test.  Students can only take the PSAT once per year, and most Frisco ISD students take the test in both 10th and 11th grade.

The PSAT is a great tool that will help students become familiar with the SAT exam and its format. The PSAT will help identify academic areas that need improvement as well as enhance appropriate test-taking strategies.  Testing skills in reading, writing, and math, the PSAT is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. Unlike the SAT, the highest score possible on the PSAT is 1520. Here’s how the test breaks down:

60 minutes, approximately 48 questions are dedicated to World Literature, Social Studies/History and Science.

35 minutes, approximately 44 questions cover expression of ideas and standard English conventions.

The final 70 minutes (45 of which students may use a calculator and 25 unassisted) is 47 questions, with a combination of Algebra, Data Analysis & Problem Solving, as well as Advanced Math.

The PSAT is more than a practice test for the SAT. The highest performers on this exam are eligible to earn scholarship money toward their chosen colleges. This is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program for students in the 11th grade-$180 million dollars in merit scholarships are awarded to students each year! In fact, 45 students in Frisco ISD have achieved the standing of National Merit Finalist for 2017.  Congratulations to them all and good luck to those who recently took the test.


“The 3 C’s of Life: Choices, Chances, Changes. You must make a choice to take a chance, or your life will never change.” ― Zig Ziglar

This year at the SOC, we made a choice at the campus-level to offer SMART period. This opportunity allows our students to choose where to spend this 25-minute period in the afternoon: outside in the courtyard (supervised, of course), in Room 113 for Art, in Room 110 for Study Hall, or in the gym.

As a gym chaperone, it has been fun and inspiring watching the camaraderie grow alongside the competition. These young gentlemen talk smack to one another but also congratulate each other when someone gets in a well-earned shot. The hustle on the court is time and energy well spent. And, though a formal study has not been conducted (yet), some teachers are saying this has been a VERY good choice for the school and especially for our students!

Brain Breaks

Brain Breaks are 1 to 2 minute activities which help you get refocused and reenergized. It’s like a refresh button for you. The activity challenges your brain while getting your body moving.

Brain Breaks can be used at home, work or at school. Teachers can use brain breaks to transition from one activity to another or help students stay focus on their topic. Refresh the brains in your classroom every 30 to 40 minutes.

As SOC students taking Algebra I finish an assignment, Mrs. Wesley, will have them take a brain break. Sometimes the break will be for an  individual or for partners or the whole class together. The breaks have increased the productivity of the classes.

Here’s a brain break from Energizing Brain Breaks by David Sladkey for you to try with your student.

“Say 21 and Win”

You and your partner are trying to count by ones up to twenty-one. The first person to say “21” will win.


  1. Stand up and find a partner. Decide who is A and who is B.
  2. Goal is to be the first one to say “21”.
  3. You will alternately say consecutive numbers starting at “1” until someone says “21”. However, at your turn, you have your choice of saying only one number or two numbers at a time. For example, if person A finishes their turn and said “7”; then person B could either say just “8” or “8 then 9”.
  4. Person A starts counting at “1”.



College Week and Celebrate Freedom Week

This past week, September 11-September 15, 2017, we celebrated both College Week and Celebrate Freedom Week.

During College Week, students and staff were encouraged to show off their favorite college t-shirts, jerseys, and colors! Staff also spent time during Advisory Period speaking with students about the college experience, as well as sharing information on different college programs.  Advisory time was also used to discuss jobs and degrees, and staff gave students an opportunity to take a College Personality Survey.  This survey gave students an insight on what college opportunities were available to them, as well as different career and college major paths they may be interested in.

Monday, September 11, 2017, also was the start of Celebrate Freedom Week. September 11, is especially set aside to honor Patriots Day and all of those that died in the terrorist attacks on our nation in 2001.  During announcements Monday morning, the following statement was read to honor and remember those that were lost that day.

Today is Patriot Day in the United States and First Responders Day in Texas, a day to honor the lives and the memory of those who died in the September 11, 2001, attacks on our nation and those first responders who committed acts of great bravery during the events of that day.
 As we prepare to observe our moment of silence at this time, let us remember and honor the men and women who lost their lives 16 years ago– let’s also remember those heroes who courageously worked to save the lives of others, and let us not forget those who were left behind.
Today, we mark the 16th anniversary of 9/11.  On September 11, 2001, America was struck with its deadliest attack since Pearl Harbor.  A total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington, D.C., and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 
At the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, 2, 753 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were intentionally crashed into the north and south towers or as a result of those crashes.  Of those who were killed during the initial attacks and when the towers collapsed, 343 were New York City Firefighters, 23 were New York City Police Officers, and 37 were Officers at the Port Authority. 
At the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., 184 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.
Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 40 passengers and crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93 died when the plane crashed into a field.  It is believed that the hijackers crashed the plane in that location, rather than their unknown target, after the passengers and crew attempted to retake control of the flight deck.
Please join me in a moment of silence to honor and remember the men and women who died.

On Wednesday, September 13, we recognized Constitution Day with a student led reading of the following excerpt from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

We appreciate all of the support and participation from events this week and look forward to more exciting celebrations in the future!

Open House at the SOC

On September 12th the teachers and staff of the SOC hosted an Open House. This was an opportunity for the parents to see our historic building and meet their child’s teachers.
Each academic department was grouped in the same room where the teachers shared with parents the curriculum as well as examples of some of the lessons students were learning.  During these sessions, the teachers also presented information about the classes, department norms, and expectations. Each session lasted about 15 minutes so that parents had the opportunity to visit with each department.
In addition, one session discussed all of the extra support, events, and activities that are available to our students.  Some of the items covered were:
  • Leadership Academy – This happens on the first day of school and is geared to goal setting, managing stress, building relationships, and what it takes to be successful not only on our campus but in life.
  • Advisory – The is a period that students attend each day.  The advisory teacher uses this twenty-minute period to meet with students about academic progress and make plans and/or set goals for each student to be successful.  As a result of these conversations, parents should be receiving a weekly email from their students’ advisory teacher notifying them of academic progress.
  • SMART Time – Student Movement and Relaxation Time – each day we give our students time to move and relax because it is important to take breaks throughout the day for our minds to be at their best. Open House Invite
  • Restorative Practices – A proactive process we are using to build strong relationships with our students.
  • SMU Counselors – SMU counseling interns are available to meet with students who choose to see them.  These interns are also available to see anyone who resides within the FISD borders. They are here on Tuesday and Thursday evening to see community clients.
  • Career Survey – We are partnered with Collin College to survey students on both their interest and aptitude to see which profession might be their best choice.  We will be testing students over the next month. Once we have the results we will target specific industries in order to give our students more exposure to the careers within these fields. 
    • Field Trips – We will also schedule several field trips based on the survey information to help our students see first-hand the field in which they are interested.
  • Career Speaker Series – Throughout the year we will bring in speakers to visit with small groups of students who are interested in very specific fields.  If you are interested in speaking with our students, please contact Dana Racanelli at the SOC.
  • Lunch and Learn – We bring in community resources to the students during lunches such as Job Corp, the armed forces, etc.  These representatives are only here to answer students questions.
  • TSI Testing – Each year we have any of our interested seniors take the TSI.  This is an entrance exam for the community and junior colleges.  Once taken, the scores are good for a year, so it is there whenever the student is ready to apply for college. In the past, this has either been funded by a Frisco Education Foundation grant or the generosity of our staff.
  • LaVision –  A resource for all schools in the district that have a Spanish speaking student or family who needs assistance or resources. This organization offers parenting classes and other informational nights in Spanish. They also support other district-wide events.
  • Student and Parent Empowerment Series – A monthly series that addresses the needs and challenges of both students and parents.  We would love for you to join us.  Below is our schedule for the year:
    • Saturday, October 14, 2017–“Parenting in the Age of Social Media–Part I
    • Saturday, November 11, 2017- “Parenting in the Age of Social Media”–Part II
    • Saturday, January 20, 2018 “Harmony AFTER the holidays”
    • Saturday, March 3, 2018 “Four Goals of Misbehavior”
    • Saturday, April 14, 2018 “Restoring Relationships–Introducing and Adopting Social Emotional Learning and Restorative Practices Into Families”
    • Saturday, May 12, 2018–“In Fitness and in Health–Let’s Move!”
We were excited about the turnout and hope to see parents at the next one scheduled for the second semester.

Back to School Bash

Program Summary

The Event—This year we hosted the 5th annual Back to School Bash on Saturday, August 12th, 2017 from 10:00-2:00 at Centennial High School. The purpose of the Bash is to build a bridge between resources and families together by offering the following key components:  a) Knowledge, b) Information, c) Service, and d) Support. The program was designed to greet returning FISD parents and welcome new families to our growing district. The vendors who participated in the event were selected and/or volunteered and were encouraged to bring interactive activities, promotional items, and resources pertaining to their businesses which are accessible for families. This year we had approximately 3600 families and a total of 87 vendors who participated.

The Vendors— The vendors were invited to participate and were not charged. Prior to the Bash, each organization/business owner was given a vendor information sheet which outlined the logistics and FAQs for the day along with a map to Centennial High School. Vendors were not allowed to sell merchandise at the event but were encouraged to bring promotional items and other prizes for the guest to win during our give away announcements.  Below are the items that were given to families during the event.

Next year—Next year, the Back to School Bash is scheduled for Saturday, August 11th, 2018 from 10:00-1:00 pm.  The goal is to create a Frisco ISD Health Fair along with the Back to School Bash which will offer immunizations, haircuts, and other fun programs that incorporate movement and wellness.