Published October 9, 2019


LYNNFIELD — Two students gave the school system’s METCO program rave reviews during the School Committee’s Oct. 1 meeting.

Lynnfield High School senior Anthony Hunt said he has had “a good overall experience being in the METCO program.”

“I have really enjoyed being involved in sports and the band program,” said Hunt. “The connections I have made with not only students but teachers has helped me grow as a person. Teachers will sit down and have a conversation with me, and I feel open having a conversation with them about anything.”

Senior Allysha Forde said she has had “many educational opportunities here.”

“I challenged myself this year by taking an Advanced Placement class,” said Forde. “This has helped me improve personally. I have made a diverse group of friends here.”

Hunt noted he has a host family in town.

METCO DIRECTOR CURTIS BLYDEN (center) told the School Committee on Oct. 1 that he is incredibly proud of high school seniors Allysha Forde and Anthony Hunt. Missing from photo is junior Cynthia Flores-Cuvedo.(Dan Tomasello Photo)

“Whenever I need to stay here, they always open up their home,” said Hunt. “They treat me like one of their kids. Their kids are like brothers and sisters. If I see them in the hallways, I will stop and have a conversation with them.”

Hunt said he wants to study criminal justice in college and potentially enlist in the U.S. Army.

Forde plans on studying electrical engineering in college. She has visited schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

METCO Director Curtis Blyden noted he accompanied Forde on college visits last year.

“Allysha and I will visit some more schools in the fall,” said Blyden.

School Committeeman Phil McQueen asked the two students if they could recommend any improvements to the METCO program.

“My experience has been good, so I can’t say too much about what I would change,” said Hunt. “For me, it has been a good overall experience. I am very thankful for the opportunity.”

Forde agreed.

“It has been a good experience overall,” said Forde. “It has helped me in the college search process because I feel like I have a better opportunity to find places because I go to school here.”

Blyden noted high school junior Cynthia Flores-Cuvedo was unable to attend the School Committee’s meeting because the swim team was practicing.

“Cynthia has three other siblings in the schools, one at the middle school and two at Summer Street School,” said Blyden. “From my conversations with her, she loves her experience. Her family loves the experience also in terms of the educational opportunities that have been afforded for the children. The whole household has come through school here.”

In addition to competing on the high school swim team, Blyden said Flores-Cuvedo has taken acting classes, is enrolled in AP classes and has a very GPA.

“Cynthia is very strong in the classroom,” said Blyden. “She is a hard worker. Like all of our students, the sky is the limit for her.”

Blyden said he has enjoyed working with Hunt, Forde and Flores-Cuvedo the past three years.

“I am proud of how much they have grown not only in the classroom but as young adults,” said Blyden. “They are good kids and I am going to miss them when they leave.”

School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman said he’s incredibly proud of all three students.

“We have tremendous respect, appreciation and admiration for you guys as students and as members of this community,” said Hayman. “People don’t realize the sacrifice and the challenge that it takes to get on a bus at 6 a.m. You guys get home late, participate in extra curricular activities and you are here at a School Committee meeting on a Tuesday night. For you to not only succeed but thrive despite those challenges is something that all of our students should be aiming to do.”

Blyden concurred with Hayman’s viewpoint.

“They have been fabulous role models for our younger kids,” said Blyden.

Program growth praised

In addition to Hunt and Forde discussing their experiences in the METCO program, Blyden gave a program update to the School Committee.

Blyden said there are 34 students currently enrolled in the program. He said there are nine students at Lynnfield High School, 11 at Lynnfield Middle School, nine at Huckleberry Hill School and five students at Summer Street School. He said the students are from Dorchester, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roslindale, Roxbury and the South End.

“One of the things that is pretty unique about our program is we have nine sibling sets,” said Blyden. “There are parents who have really enjoyed their experience in Lynnfield and they want their younger kids to come in. I think that speaks highly about our program.”

In his role as METCO director, Blyden said he is communicating with parents and educators “day in and day out.”

“A big part of that is building and maintaining relationships with our families,” said Blyden. “It’s just as important to maintain lines of communication with teachers, staff, administrators and school leadership. I take a lot of joy working directly with our students.”

Blyden said he works to provide academic support for METCO students. He makes sure that he sees each student frequently.

“I want to make sure they are maximizing the opportunity to learn in Lynnfield,” said Blyden. “I call our families bi-weekly. Our families do have access to their children’s grades electronically, but I like to use those phone calls to let them know how their kids are doing so we can celebrate when things are going well or maybe raise a red flag so there is plenty of time to change things.”

Blyden said the METCO program has made some key gains the past few years.

“One of the things we have seen over the last couple of years is family buy-in,” said Blyden. “There is a high level of communication and trust that has been developed between myself and families. In the summertime, I try to go to families’ homes, particularly for our newer kids. I want to give kids the opportunity to see me before they get put on the bus. The families are very appreciative of that.”

Blyden said he is working with teachers each day.

“One of the things that I have emphasized is pushing students to do their best in the classroom,” said Blyden. “That goes back to me being in the classroom and the bi-weekly phone calls. I am holding students directly accountable.”

Blyden noted he has encouraged METCO students to sign up for AP classes.

“I am trying to set a bar for high achievement by telling our kids it’s not just about doing well in school, but really setting yourself up for these opportunities when they do become available,” said Blyden. “Usually in the spring, I will reach out to parents and inform them the AP test is coming up. It’s not saying their kid has to take that class if they get in, but I want to let them know they have earned that seat at the table through their hard work.”

Hayman thanked Blyden for turning the METCO program around.

“When I look at where the METCO program was three years ago versus where it is today, it is nothing short of amazing,” said Hayman. “It is a testament to your hard work and the dedication that you put in getting know these students, their families and your commitment to the program.”

Superintendent Jane Tremblay echoed Hayman’s sentiment.

“The change Curtis has made in our programming has been nothing but the best for our students, our schools and our community,” said Tremblay. “It is no secret that Curtis is everywhere in this district.”