Project ALERTA was initiated in 1988 by the Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT) at the University of Massachusetts Boston in order to improve the educational opportunities and achievement of Latino students (particularly gifted and talented) in the Boston Public Schools.
The program sought to accomplish two broad goals: reduce the dropout rate among Latino students in Boston schools and increase the number of Latino students enrolled in Boston’s three academic high schools known as exam schools. Project ALERTA was developed to complement the Talented and Gifted Latino program (TAG), by providing supplementary academic enrichment services to Latino students in the more critical early years of school (grades 3-5).
In 1988, under a grant from the Board of Regents, the ILT conducted a pilot enrichment small-program for 40 Latino students of high English proficiency in three Boston elementary schools, the Blackstone, the Hurley and the Hernández schools.
With funding from the Boston Foundation and a Title VII Special Populations Program grant, Project ALERTA was established in the 1989-90 academic year and structured to include limited English proficient Latino students and provide instruction in Spanish if needed.
Mission expands to include ELL students
Although originally designed for Latino students, Project ALERTA now also supports the educational and social development of other English Language Learner (ELL) immigrant populations.
Project ALERTA helps participants to develop the confidence, drive, and academic skills necessary to enter a college-preparatory middle or high school. Participants can attend three different sessions: an after-school program at several BPS schools, an April vacation week academy at UMass Boston, and a four-week summer program also at UMass Boston.
All three components implement a project-based, thematic curriculum that weaves together core academic subjects with hands-on activities in theater, art, science and technology, creative writing, dance, and more. Students complete projects, go on field trips to museums, theaters, and other educational venues, and become knowledgeable on subjects as wide-ranging as ancient Egypt, immigration, nutrition, and financial literacy.
Project ALERTA has proven that reaching students early does make a difference. To date, Project ALERTA has served more than 3,000 students in the Boston area. Its alumni have graduated from Boston public high schools, including the prestigious exam schools and have moved on to college to become members of Boston’s community in politics, business, education, and many other fields.
ALERTA’s current students report that the program helps them apply themselves to their studies, improve their grades, work more effectively as part of a team, and think more clearly about their career plans. Teachers in the program report that virtually all of their students who are English Language Learners demonstrate increased proficiency in reading and writing English.