Loneliness and isolation, rather than academic trouble, led too many students of color in the early 1980s to leave Milton Academy. Milton developed a unique Transition Program to respond to that discouraging attrition rate, and after two years of the program, the rate fell to 0. Since then, the attrition has never exceeded the School’s low overall rate.
For ten days prior to the start of school, 35 Milton students from all over the world arrived on the Milton campus from places as far away as – Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Indiana and Los Angeles, and as close as Milton, Brookline and Randolph to prepare for the social and academic challenges of boarding school, by taking part in the Transition Program.
A weeklong experience of bonding and empowerment, the Transition Program works to show students that Milton is much more than a great educational experience, it’s a place to grow and learn about each other. The program empowers students and lets them know how much they have to offer their fellow students, new perspectives, different backgrounds and new traditions, among others.
Working with seven teaching faculty, four residential faculty, and nine counselors, students participate in simulated typical school days. They move from morning assembly to classes in history, math, English and the performing arts; lunch and dinner in Forbes dining hall; evening workshops and a two-hour study period every night.
Social Issues, a required course during the program, uses creative assignments such as role-playing and poetry to cover the types of issues and situations students may encounter in the dorm, in classes, and with peers. The class also allows students to learn about resources and support available on campus. According to Keith Hinderlie, assistant dean for community relations at Milton Academy, and the director of the transition program, “classes are not only a way to assess where the students are academically, but they show students how classes are run at Milton. For instance many international students are used to lecture-based classes and have never been involved in the types of class discussions that take place in the Milton classroom.”
The nine counselors that run a majority of the week’s programs are former Transition Program students themselves. The counselors, current Class I and II students, apply in the spring to be transition counselors; they are trained to be mentors and share their own experiences about being new at Milton. “I knew what the transition program meant to me when I was a freshman; I decided I couldn’t be selfish, so I applied to be a counselor,” explained Nafeesah Allen, Class I. “I wanted to share my Milton experiences with new students. It’s also a great opportunity for the younger students to get to know the seniors before they disappear into the library and their rooms to work on college applications.”
The week isn’t all class work; students also get off campus and enjoy the area’s attractions. In addition to walking along Boston’s Black Heritage Trail and enjoying dinner in Chinatown, counselors and their advisees enjoyed ice cream at the Ice Cream Smith, spent warm afternoons in the Milton pool and organized basketball and soccer games on campus.