An initial look at John O’Connell High School, nestled in the heart of San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District, reveals an inviting atmosphere and evidence of plenty of forward-thinking education ideas being put into play for its over 400 students. This innovative school, under the auspices of Principal Mark Alvarado, is the sole high school for the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), a federal initiative to help families succeed so that students achieve.
As an MPN school, O’Connell gets many benefits. These include having a community school coordinator, a family success coach acting as a connector to services, Wellness Center staff and a quality after-school program.
Then there are school partnerships. O’Connell is meeting student needs because of internal expertise and the succor of a community of dedicated partners: Compass Education Group; CUESA Schoolyard to Market; FACES for the Future; Generation Citizen; JCYC Upward Bound; JVS (Jewish Vocational Services); the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA); Mission Graduates; Tech21 ; UCSF EAOP; Urban Services YMCA; Youth Arts Exchange; and Youth Speaks.
These are the four primary ways student needs at being met:
Safe and supportive environment
O’Connell is a small community school. Its 6:1 student-to-staff ratio demonstrates a commitment to developing strong relationships with students and the adult community. Teachers stay with students for two academic years at a time to personalize learning.
High expectations for students
O’Connell’s student learning outcomes are clearly defined. Students are also encouraged to pursue AP and honors courses, plus concurrent enrollment in City College of San Francisco. O’Connell’s Spanish Immersion program develops high levels of English and Spanish proficiency and literacy, academic competency and multicultural understanding.
O’Connell’s curriculum prepares students for the future. Students learn through integrated curriculum, project-based learning and group work. Juniors and seniors solve real-world problems through the lab of their choice: Health Behavioral Sciences; Environmental Technology; Building, Construction and Trades; or Culinary Entrepreneurship.
College and career readiness
Students engage in college and career readiness throughout the day. Teachers collaborate with industry professionals in the classroom. Students receive direct support and opportunities from student success coaches, college and career counselors, and Career Technical Education teachers.
Jamie A., a senior at O’Connell, knows she has been prepared for a bright future. She describes her typical day as follows:
“I spend two hours per day in my Culinary Entrepreneurship Lab. I’m an advisor in that, too, so I help with prom and dances, things like that, and the rest of my day is spent in chemistry, statistics, English … the usual classes. During lunch, I go to clubs: Tuesday is Gay-Straight Alliance; Thursday is the Mission Graduates Latino Club, and sometimes I meet with the Book Lovers.
“I check in with my two mentors each week. One is the Young Life area director. The other is a software engineer at Google who I met through Girls Who Code, which I did because the job council at O’Connell got me an internship at Facebook, so I got really interested in engineering. I’m applying to college now and hoping to go to UC Irvine because it’s the only UC with a Computer Science School; otherwise, I’ll probably go to a program at a smaller private school. Yeah, I guess I do a lot!”
A typical day … at a school that is anything but typical. That’s John O’Connell.
John O’Connell High School, 2355 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.
Rebeca Flores, Parent Liaison, Room 103
(415) 695-5470 ext. 1004
About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.