When the Academy opened its virtual doors in 2014, we offered a handful of literature and history classes. We taught one kind of math, and middle school classes were limited to first-level Expository Writing and Pre-Algebra. But even at the beginning, we dreamed of putting together a program for high school students where WTMA was the proving ground for their dreams and goals. From this program, students could go forward knowing they had the backing of a supportive community.
The years went by. New instructors joined our team, and our class list grew. By 2019, a student could take all the classes they needed to fulfill their high school transcript requirements at the Academy. We now offer over 100 courses in 12 subject areas. Our growth, while constant, was also carefully considered, and we proudly accepted accreditation from the Middle States Association in 2021. The pieces were beginning to fall into place. We knew it was time to move into the next step of Academy growth: making the class cohort program come true.
WTMA’s Inaugural Class Cohort Program Takes Flight
Last year ten intrepid students joined the Class of 2025, knowing they, along with their guardians, would be the pioneers in this new program. There was a lot riding on this experiment. Could we meet the needs of the students? Would they feel supported, or were we wasting their time? Would their guardians find the information presented useful, or would they feel they needed to look outside of the Academy for academic support? Perhaps most importantly, would there be cookies?
We won’t keep you in suspense. If you look at our course catalog, you’ll see we are offering registration for the Class of 2026, so we did alright. Actually, we did better than that — it was a fantastic year. Cookies were encouraged, especially during exam week.
Class Cohort Program Structure
In the class cohort program, students meet monthly with their advisor. Meetings alternate between helpful sessions on important topics related to where the students are on their high school journey and presentations from guest speakers. Last year we talked about studying for tests, how to keep in touch with teachers you might want a recommendation from who you aren’t going to take another class with, and best practices for time management. The guest speaker series focused on the winding paths careers often take and how a great education and a continued love of learning keeps doors open long after high school, college, and one’s first or second (or third) job. You can read recaps of those talks on our blog “Branching Out.”
Not only did the students get access to this interesting and timely outside information, but they also formed bonds with their advisor and each other. Almost everyone in the 2025 cohort said their favorite part of being in the group was the monthly meetings. Some even asked to meet more often. One student said this past year, she made real friends that she talked to all the time outside of class because of the cohort program. Another cohort participant, Adelee, said, “It is nice getting to talk to other people that are in the same grade level as me, that have the same workload at WTMA. It’s cool meeting every month to talk, be it about school, what’s going on in our life, or when we get to meet someone interesting (a painter, a writer, etc. ).”
Advisor-Led Planning Sessions
Students in the cohort program work closely with the group advisor. They meet with the advisor and their guardians several times to plan out their schedule for the coming year. There are two dedicated advising meetings each year — one to plan registration for next year’s classes in January (or over the summer for rising ninth graders) and one in June to review how the year went.
One guardian said: “Yearly planning has been phenomenal. I’ve learned so much about what is and isn’t needed from [our advisor], and I appreciate her wisdom, expertise, and the way she brings clarity to what are the most important issues. I over-scheduled my older children, and I’m so glad for the time to discuss my daughter’s yearly and long-term plans with [our advisor]. I love that my daughter is being inspired in the monthly meetings and that she is connecting with others.” Another guardian, a longtime homeschooling mom who is always worried about making the best choices for her students, said, “My husband and I both believe joining Well-Trained Mind Academy was the best decision we could have made for [our daughter], and we are thrilled she is in the Class of 2025! The program has exceeded all of our expectations!”
A Bright Future for WTMA, the Class of 2025, & Future Cohorts
On the administrative side, we are beyond happy about the growth we have seen in the Class of 2025 cohort. Meeting with them monthly has been a delight. We’ve learned so much about what it is like to be a student at WTMA and, more importantly, what it is like to be a high schooler in general today, what pressures our students are facing, and how we can support them. We have all kinds of students in the Class of 2025. Some of them have plans for college; some of them don’t. Some of them are pursuing very specific goals, like making it onto a professional sports team or landing a gig on Broadway. Others are just trying to wake up on time for class.
No matter what descriptor is used, each of these students is wonderful in their own way, and together they have blossomed into more curious learners. There’s no better example of this than a reluctant history student who couldn’t stop delightedly talking about the wild ancient history stories she was told by Mr. Wells during our end-of-year advising meeting. And we couldn’t end without a ringing endorsement from Class of 2025 student Caryss: “Being a part of the Class of 2025 has provided me with unparalleled academic support this year. These meetings have been an outlet for my worries as well as my successes. I’ve gotten to meet with truly wonderful educators who have helped me discover ways to maximize my success, not only academically, but in life in general. I am always shocked how many life lessons I come away with after each meeting.”
We look forward to working with the Classes of 2025 and 2026 this coming year and to watch this program continue to grow along with our students and Academy.