Cohort: A Program For Success


Cohort youth got to meet the President of JMU on their November 4th and 5th trip.

Mia Field '15, Editor in Chief

A young man came to APS in 8th grade from El Salvador and enrolled in HILT classes. As he began to learn English, his classes started to bore him; he needed a challenge. When he came to Wakefield, his brilliance was spotted immediately. He was asked to join a very special program: Cohort. He started taking intensified and AP courses. His Cohort mentors helped him find summer school classes so he’d be ready to take B/C Calculus and AP Physics his senior year. By graduation day, he realized that his undocumented status could render his hard work useless; but he didn’t give up. Through the help of Cohort he furthered his studies at NOVA and eventually went to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. He recently returned to speak with other Cohort students, but now with a degree in physics from VT. He was the only Latino male out of all of the graduating students with a degree in physics that year. This is just one of the many success stories of Cohort.

Most students at Wakefield at least know that Cohort exists; the organizers give out pizza, and the boys dress up on special occasions. But many do not know what the group is about beyond that. Wakefield’s Cohort is a collective of African American and Hispanic young men who have what it takes to be successful, and get support to help them reach their highest level of achievement. “They join for the pizza and stay for the conversations” said 19-year veteran counselor Alan Beitler. Known to most as simply “Beitler”; he is the Minority Achievement Coordinator at Wakefield and began working with Cohort in 2002, two years after its start. Cohort promotes diversity and allows students to believe in themselves; they have the means to go to college despite the challenges stacked against them.

Beitler and Ms. Maitland, resource teacher for the gifted, recruit young men from all grade levels. The requirements? Males must have at least one quarter with all Cs or above in their first 6 quarters, or year and a half, of high school. Why join? “All my friends were there!” said 3-year cohort member Leonard Claure who was recruited his sophomore year. “Me too,” agreed Isai Alverez, who joined his freshman year, “the college help was really useful.”

Students find support for the ever-so stressful college process. “Cohort has given me the connections to find scholarships,” says senior Kye Farrow who was connected with admissions counselors from his top-choice schools.

“Cohort was founded to get minority students to do better in school,” said Claure, “in the meetings Beitler reminds us that we need to set an example for the rest of the school.” The boys discuss topics ranging from what it’s like to be a man to how to succeed in college. “Beitler always gives us inspirational speeches” said Claure. Often Wakefield Alumni will come back and speak to the young men about their experiences.

Every year junior and senior members of Cohort are invited to go on a college trip; this year students went to UVA, The University of Richmond, VCU and James Madison University. “We had 69 boys and 2 buses” said Beitler, “the trip was a great success!” At each college the boys were given a tour and got to speak to Wakefield alumni who now attend the school. “They don’t only say the good things about their school,” said Farrow, he appreciated the honest reflection the alumni gave.

“I’m definitely applying to VCU” said Farrow; “it’s the most diverse campus I’ve ever been on.” Many of the boys will be applying to University of Richmond since they have a deal that every Cohort student accepted will receive a full ride.

Cohort has provided multiple opportunities to young men. “Our goal is to be able to walk onto a college campus that looks as diverse as Wakefield” said Beitler.

Interested? Talk to Beitler in C-138.