By: Rogelio Peterson-Venegas ‘17
The Brother Rice FOCUS program has helped struggling students for many years and is an integral part of the school’s curriculum. The FOCUS program was formed in 1985 and its primary mission was to help kids who wanted to attend Catholic school but performed poorly on the entrance exams. Many students could not keep up with regular classes because the courses were too fast paced or the number of students in each class was too numerous. The main objectives of the FOCUS program are to improve academic performance and study habits, provide academic growth to maintain standards for graduation, and prepare students for mainstream academic courses and ignite that spark of learning. Students who meet the criteria are those who score in the 25th percentile or lower on entrance exams and are recommended by their elementary schools. These students are enrolled in a summer school program that instructs the students on basic English skills and general mathematics. The FOCUS program has students attend non mainstream courses for their freshman and sophomore year while becoming partially mainstreamed junior year and fully mainstreamed their senior year. FOCUS students are constantly evaluated and their classes are mostly slow paced and small, with 20-25 students per class unlike mainstream classes.
Former Crusader and class of 2010 graduate Joseph Alfano had some thoughts to share about the program stating, “I very much appreciated the focus program. I wasn’t as strong in my reading and writing skills and the teachers in the FOCUS program really worked with me. When I was at Rice, I also really liked the program for its smaller class sizes and extra help.” Mr. Alfano did have some disagreements stating that he disliked how students were grouped in categories like Focus, Regular, and Honors, claiming that it is a form of classism. Mrs. Forbes, the head of the FOCUS program, supported the claim stating, “ I think that some of the students that aren’t in FOCUS can be a little more considerate of the FOCUS kids”. Mr. Alfano also mentioned that he only struggled in reading and writing while excelling in math and science. He had to fight to attend the regular classes instead of having to do all FOCUS classes. Senior FOCUS student Jacob Kupscuk ‘17 stated, “classes aren’t very social and it’s hard to meet new people, but the classes are easy to follow and we get the attention we need from the teachers.” There are varying opinions on the program, but the majority of students agree that they are better off being part of the FOCUS program because it gives them that extra boost needed to succeed not only in regular courses but in college and beyond.