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Ben Franklin Institute Hosts 8th Grade Academy

Program aims to get middle school students thinking about college.

The South End's hosted Citizen Schools 8th Grade Academy for the first time this past Saturday, with activities geared toward engaging students through hands-on learning.

Throughout the day, eighth grade students from Boston Public Schools rotated between stations set up at the South End technical college. By late afternoon, everyone had taken part in an egg drop contest, received a physics tutorial on the concepts of torque and velocity and participated in a hands-on automotive lesson that everyone can use - how to change a tire.

Citizen Schools, which runs the 8th Grade Academy, serves as a bridge between middle and high school and helps students prepare for higher education. Students take weekend trips to two and four-year colleges, liberal arts schools and technical colleges like Ben Franklin. During each visit, students have the opportunity to explore the campus community and get a feeling for the academic curriculum.

Citizens Schools has a 95 percent college attendance rate with 20 percent of alumni attending schools they once visited during their time in the program, according to Alumni Services Fellow Paige Bedell. Citizen Schools’ partnership with colleges has encouraged students within the program to become more passionate about their education, she said.

On Saturday, 8th graders visited the brand new automotive body shop in the BFIT basement. Here, students of 8th Grade Academy were able to explore the different parts of a vehicle and the process of changing a tire. Charlie Cremens, the Director of Boston Public School Partnerships at BFIT, hoped the exposure got students thinking about their education.

“It’s a new experience for them," he said. "They’re in the 8th grade so they have to choose a high school soon. Hopefully this will lead to them choosing Madison Park [High] School where they would have the opportunity to study auto mechanics as a trade,” he said.

Saturday was the first visit to Ben Franklin by the 8th Grade Academy, but it won't be the last.

“No matter what, we definitely want to host the 8th Grade Academy every year and I know that the students are enjoying the tours,” Cremens said.

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