Little Trojans Academy: Transforming Preschool Education with High School Mentorships

Little Trojans Academy: Transforming Preschool Education with High School Mentorships

Little Trojans Academy at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs. {courtesy LTA}

By Faran Fagen

After working with the high school students at J.P. Taravella, Oliver Davy overcame his shyness and performed onstage in the production of “Seussical.”

Younger brother Sawyer became a kind friend in the classroom, and sister Charlotte, who struggled with speech, found a learning environment that inspired her to sing everywhere she went.

All three Davy children have one fundamental thing in common –– they’re all either enrolled or graduated from Little Trojan Academy (LTA), a preschool program where high school students work with qualified teachers to learn how to interact, play, and work with their “Little Trojans” ages 3-4.

“All three of our children had the opportunity to form a bond with the high school students working in the classroom,” said mom, Katie, of Coral Springs. “Our preschool children have had the opportunity to experience and work with different student groups at Taravella, including Spanish club, drama club, robotics club, student government, homecoming court, and so many more. We are so thankful for the culture at Taravella and the Little Trojans program.”

Little Trojans Academy: Transforming Preschool Education with High School Mentorships

Little Trojans Academy at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs. {courtesy LTA}

Marilou Raham of Coral Springs has run the LTA program since its inception eight years ago, and there’s always a waitlist to enroll.

“I believe the key to our success is consistency in care and staffing,” Raham said. “Our staff are professional, yet loving and caring towards the children and the families. We’re able to do this mainly because of the quality staff-to-child ratio we carry.”

The children are given lots of one-on-one attention during learning time, which improves the quality of their learning.

One thing that surprised Raham is the relationship LTA has with the high school and the student population.

“Any time we’re in the hallway, there is immense respect from the high schoolers towards little ones. They will often remind each other to move out of the way or to watch their conversations when the Little Trojans are in the hallway,” Raham said. “We never expected to be invited to be involved in so many programs. Not just to visit, but to actually work alongside students in Spanish, Engineering, Drama, Art.”

The program has grown in physical ways as well as in how it’s run. Located in its own enclave on the west side of J.P. Taravella camps, LT Ahas added additional security measures with a new gate entrance, including a camera with voice and audio capabilities. The curriculum has been updated and aligns with the Florida Department of Education.

All three of the Davy children learned The Pledge of Allegiance at the age of three, as well as basic reading and math skills.

“Our children have been successful both academically and socially at Little Trojans,” Katie said. “Mrs. Raham and Mrs. (Angelica) Pichardo lead a well-run academic program that not only prepared our children to be successful in school but also valued teaching community citizenship.”

Pichardo oversees the high school volunteers, which recently hosted their Littles during the winter pep rally. Little Trojans also dressed up in the themes for each day of spirit week.

Every day, Raham witnesses a future teacher experience that moment when “it clicks” for them while working with the preschoolers.

“That’s the best,” Raham said. “My biggest reward is seeing how this program has developed relationships among the preschool families and having many of the children attend from the same families — siblings, cousins. We’ve truly become part of the community.”

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Author Profile

Faran Fagen

Faran Fagen
Faran Fagen, who teaches high school journalism, graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Journalism degree and from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Education. He’s worked at The Palm Beach Post, SunSentinel, and MLB.com. He lives in Coral Springs with his wife and two children. Oh, and his three dogs — who all think that they’re his favorite.

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