What Does it Take to be a Star?

April 6, 2022

What does it take to be a star? For ninth-grader Genora Gray, who attends Anacostia High School in Washington, DC, the answers are down-to-earth. Show up, work hard and show respect. “I listen, I pay attention, I do my work, and I’m respectful while doing it,” said Gray.

The “Saga Superstar” Award recognizes students who have made progress throughout the month – whether it is actively participating, showing commitment to their learning, helping their peers, or showing improvement in their grades.

This time, it was Genora Gray. Her hard work and perseverance paid off.

A Commitment to Learning
“Genora was awarded the Saga Superstar award because she always comes to class ready to put in the effort and learn. She takes ownership of her learning by always staying focused and asking questions. She is starting to realize her potential and as a result, is putting in the effort to try problems on her own and stick through with it even when things get challenging,” said Sharanya Balasubramanian, her Site Director.

Richard Donahue, an AmeriCorps member serving with Saga, said that Gray is focused on doing the work, and it shows. “Genora is making good progress. Math doesn’t come easy to her, but she gives it her best. Her confidence has increased. She’s a good student,” he said.

But it didn’t start that way. “Genora started the year greatly lacking confidence. She needed validation after every step of a problem and would stop working if the tutor went to support another student,” said Sharanya Balasubramanian, her Site Director.

Let’s Break it Down
It wasn’t until Donahue began to break down the lessons in a way that complements Gray’s learning style that she began making progress. “Mr. Donahue knows how I receive help. He knows that I’m a visual learner, so he writes everything down for me, and he explains it piece by piece,” said Gray. “Sometimes I get stuck, but Mr. Donahue knows how to explain it to me, and I’m able to keep up with the rest of my group,” she added.

Confidence in Skills
With hard work and persistence, Gray is showing improvement in her math skills. “I started getting more confident in my work, so it just became easier,” said Gray. When she won the Saga Superstar Award, “I was very surprised and happy,” she added.

Gray’s confidence and independence show in the work she does every day. “Genora is willing to try problems on her own and write down what she knows, even if she is unsure if it is correct or not. She recognizes the growth in herself and that has, in turn, increased her self-confidence,” said Balasubramanian.

That confidence shows up when she’s able to help other students with their work. “It’s nice to be able to help people, now that I’m understanding things,” said Gray.

Her class starts out with some “do now” practice questions, or math warm-up problems, but Gray said her favorite part is the actual lesson, where she and the other students get to use whiteboards and take notes.

At this point, Gray hasn’t quite decided what she wants to do when she graduates high school. She sees herself using math in practical ways—like being better with money and budgeting.

“My hope for Genora is that she continues to believe in herself and stay confident and motivated. She will end the year strong if she does so. And I hope she carries this confidence with her into future years of high school math – it will greatly help her succeed even when math gets challenging,” said Balasubramanian.