When Taina joined the first group of Dive In Commonwealth students in the summer of 2019, she started by showing her thoughtful, serious side, listening carefully and attending to her work. Soon, though, classmates and teachers were used to hearing her bubbling laughter as she talked with friends, prepared projects, and discovered the city. Dive In was designed for motivated students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a high-level enrichment program. With rigorous course work and stimulating extracurricular activities, Dive In prepares students to succeed in any high school they attend (including Commonwealth!). Taina has seen the enrichment program for middle-school students looking for greater challenge from its earliest days, and we've been lucky to have her with us on the journey.
Now a "graduate" of the Dive In program and an honors student in ninth grade at The Cambridge Matignon School, Taina continues to catch up with her Dive In group at monthly Saturday sessions, where ninth-graders can get help with homework. Recently, she took some time to sit down with her mother, Anne, and talk with Dive In program director Sasha Eskelund over Zoom to reflect and reminisce on the Dive In experience and where she is now.
What stands out in your memory when you think about Dive In?
Taina: Well, at the beginning I was afraid or shy because I didn't feel I had a connection with the others, but that only lasted a short period of time. One day, I decided "I have to do something," so I went to Starbucks with Ashley and Katherine, and we started getting along really well.
What about academically? How did the work you did in Dive In affect the work you did at school?
Taina: Going into 7th grade, I didn't know what to expect, and it was a lot. Math has always been a challenge for me, but going into 8th there were very high expectations, and I really wanted to meet them. Doing the math was tough during the program, but it really helped me out, and it still helps me now. I'm doing better in math now than I ever thought I would.
What about outside of classes? Were there activities that you especially enjoyed?
Taina: I loved going around Boston. I didn't know my way around very well at first, and now I know a lot more about the city and its history. I remember going to the Senate Museum [Edward M. Kennedy Museum of the U.S. Senate] with Mr. Wharton. I thought it would be boring, but it was super cool and really fun. I liked going on a lot of the field trips with Ms. Haber, too. We saw a historic home and it was just really interesting to see how people used to live in Boston.
And then for things that were non-educational, we'd go out with the whole group at lunch once a week, and it was so fun choosing a place to eat. We tried to go to new places, but we always ended up eating at Wendy's [laughs, and Anne laughs, too]. It was really fun walking around on Newbury Street, going into stores.
Do you stay in touch with the other girls from the group, outside of seeing them occasionally on Saturdays?
Taina: We still talk sometimes. We say happy birthday whenever it's someone's birthday, and we all texted each other on Thanksgiving recently, too.
Anne, from your perspective, what impact has Dive In had on Taina?
Anne: Taina was extremely happy in Dive In. She became more independent, more self-confident, and that continues up to now. Taina and I talk about it, and we know that we are part of the Commonwealth family. With Dive In, you don't step in and then say goodbye. They check in and see how you're doing. We feel like we're a part of the Commonwealth family and we will always be part of the Commonwealth family.
Did you see an impact on her academic work?
Anne: Academically, Taina learned a lot. Now she is in ninth grade, and she is an honors student, she's self-confident. When I had parent meetings, I was so happy. She's doing very well, and all of her teachers see that. That makes me so happy.
What would you say to other parents who are considering Dive In for their children?
Anne: My advice for other parents would be, kids might say, "Why do I have to do this?" but just tell them, "Give it a try, to see," because the minute they step in, they'll feel that they're welcome, and they'll learn a lot. Parents might need to push, but then the kids will love it. [The summer after seventh grade,] I saw Taina so independent, taking the train, so happy with the program, writing in her journal, and having a wonderful time. It's so beautiful, and you're gonna be happy, so go for it, and don't give up. Taina was lucky because we were in the first group, and we will always remember it. So I would advise any other parents to apply and see how it goes.