HMH Celebrates 15 Student Scholars Who Overcame Obstacles as Learners

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180 award student winners

In the classroom, whether in person or virtual, student successes are something that should be acknowledged and celebrated. As a teacher, there's probably no better feeling than when students persevere and overcome an obstacle, signifying their growth as learners—and your powerful role as an educator.

We at HMH are big on celebrating these student learning moments—after all, that's what we strive for as The Learning Company! With that, it's our honor to announce 15 student recipients of this year's 180 Awards. The winners all achieved amazing feats, exhibiting dramatic improvement in their reading and math skills through our blended learning intervention programs: READ 180, System 44, and MATH 180.

The winning students, who were nominated by their teachers, have triumphed while facing learning disabilities, health challenges, or the difficulty of learning English as a second language, to perform at or near their grade level. Despite the odds, the student award recipients have developed self-confidence that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Math and literacy experts at HMH evaluated the nominated students based on teacher recommendations, statements from the students themselves, and video submissions, along with data demonstrating strong reading or math growth according to the Lexile® or Quantile® framework. Each winner will receive an Amazon gift card.

Learn more about the 180 Award Student Winners below!

READ 180 Stage A Winners

Darnasia Lessington-Cromedy, Grade 5

Oakbrook Elementary School (Ladson, South Carolina

Darnasia, a fifth grader in Ladson, South Carolina, began her READ 180 journey in fourth grade. She was not a fan of school—especially reading. But when she saw progress through the Reading Inventory and other formative and summative assessments, she began to believe that she was a reader, which led to increased confidence and Lexile scores. Darnasia became a leader in the classroom and a role model for others who needed assistance, and she now feels her improvements in reading will take her places that she didn’t think she could go.

Joshua Rodriquez, Grade 5

Connolly School, Glen Cove, New York

As a Glen Cove, New York, third grader with Spanish as his first language, Joshua was embarrassed because his reading level was very low. Now in fifth grade, Joshua has progressed through System 44 to READ 180 and is happily reading chapter books. His resilience and motivation, combined with a strong mindset, have taken Joshua far beyond expectations. He is now very confident in his reading and serves as a great role model for his peers.

Jowah Scott, Grade 4

Kathy Binks Elementary School, Fontana, California

Jowah, a fourth grader in Fontana, California, did not regularly attend school before third grade. When he began school, he hadn’t yet learned letters and sounds, but when his third-grade teacher asked him his goals, he had an important one: “I just want to read!” Starting his fourth-grade year with System 44 and then progressing to READ 180, Jowah began to build confidence and has now made tremendous progress, increasing his Lexile score from 381 to 682 in less than half a year. His work ethic and determination to succeed have empowered him to become a reader and accomplish one of the many goals he has set for himself.


READ 180 Stage B Winners

Jesiel Moctezuma-Gonzalez, Grade 8

Palmer Middle School, Kennesaw, Georgia

Jesiel, an eighth grader in Kennesaw, Georgia, grew up in Puerto Rico. When Hurricane Maria and mass devastation hit, Jesiel’s family moved to the U.S. “to find a better future.” Jesiel’s school in Puerto Rico taught the students how to speak English, but they did not practice reading fluency, so his reading was below grade level when he started school in Georgia. His teacher placed him in System 44, and after working hard and reading everything he could in his classroom’s library, Jesiel improved his Lexile score by 200 points in four months. Jesiel moved on to READ 180, which he credits with advancing his vocabulary and helping him converse with his friends and teachers.

Kathrynn “Rynn” Fazio, Grade 8

West Feliciana Middle School, Francisville, Louisiana

Rynn, an eighth grader from Saint Francisville, Louisiana, did not like to read and was struggling with her grades before attending middle school. With the help of her teachers and the READ 180 program, Rynn improved her Lexile score from a 569 to 924. Rynn has shown an incredible work ethic and a positive attitude, becoming a leader among her peers and committing to academic excellence. Most notably, Rynn has developed a love of reading and is now a “reader leader,” helping little kids with reading. Rynn has also joined extracurricular activities, including attending the LTLA Convention. Rynn is proud of herself and credits READ 180 with helping her enjoy reading and improve her reading comprehension, stating, “Reading is important to life.”

Joshua Burroughs, Grade 8

William Davies Middle School, Mays Landing, New Jersey

Described by his teacher as “kind,” “motivated,” and the “perfect student,” Joshua, an eighth grader in Mays Landing, New Jersey, entered sixth grade with the cards stacked against him. But despite a range of health challenges and learning disabilities, not only did Joshua’s Lexile score grow from 391 to 971 with READ 180, but his self-confidence with reading did as well. This confidence carried over from the classroom into his extracurricular activities. Joshua made the local football team, was honored as student of the month, and was accepted to the National Junior Honor Society.


READ 180 Stage C Winners

Cody Shearer, Grade 9

Midland Valley High School, Graniteville, South Carolina

Last year, Cody, a ninth grader from Graniteville, South Carolina, placed out of System 44 and into READ 180. This year, Cody’s Lexile score continued to grow, and he has been determined to improve his reading and make the most of the program. Outside of school, Cody dealt with personal challenges that could have impacted his learning, but Cody never used this as a crutch and continued to work hard in the classroom. Now, he even reads for fun! By improving his reading and literacy skills, Cody has gained confidence and become a leader at school—when there is a new student in class, Cody is the first to show them the ropes.

Colter Wilson

Polson High School, Polson, Montana

Colter, a ninth grader from Polson, Montana, says READ 180 helped him change his mindset. When he was in seventh grade, he wasn’t confident in reading, but once he began using READ 180, he had the support he needed to take the skills he was learning into his regular English classroom. Being a better reader has helped improve his test-taking ability and studying skills while also boosting his self-esteem. Outside of school, Colter demonstrates strong leadership skills on the basketball team. Colter would like to go to college one day and is confident he will succeed.

Angel Ortiz-Otero

East High School, Rochester, New York

Angel, a ninth grader from Rochester, New York, is the only boy on his school’s step team. He often leads the team through on-stage performances at assemblies and local events, but his confidence with the step team did not match his shy persona in the classroom. According to his teachers, since joining the READ 180 program, Angel has flourished into a “superstar advocate and an outstanding leader.” He often engages his classmates through insightful questions and contributions. He has also advanced from reading simple graphic novels to voraciously consuming the Bluford series. Angel is proud of his accomplishments and credits READ 180 with changing his attitude toward education. He hopes to go to college in the future and shared the advice, “When opportunities come, don't let them run.”


System 44 Winners

Raixiel Garcia, Grade 7

East Lower School, Rochester, New York

Raixiel Garcia, a seventh grader from Rochester, New York, initially struggled with reading but realized its importance in helping to understand the world around him and global events. Since starting System 44 and moving up to READ 180, Raixiel’s Lexile score has improved from a 198 to a 716. He always faces academic challenges head on and has found success through his determination and willingness to ask for help. In System 44, he would also translate for Spanish-speaking newcomers as he understood how difficult it can be for them. He hopes to go to college to study American History, as he finds the mystery of history fascinating.

Matthew Gould, Grade 5

Jamestown Elementary School, Jamestown, Pennsylvania

Matthew, a fifth grader in Greenville, Pennsylvania, set the pace as the first student at his school to complete System 44. After two years in the program, he saw significant growth in both his Lexile number and self-confidence. Most importantly, he now believes in his abilities as a reader. His teacher says, “Matthew is an inspiration to his classmates, as well as to students in younger grades who are working through the System 44 program.”

Semaj Patton, Grade 5

West Central Elementary School, Joplin, Missouri

Semaj, a System 44 fifth-grade student in Joplin, Missouri, is living proof that hardships can be overcome with perseverance and the right attitude. Despite facing a number of challenges, Semaj has not let adversity keep him from success. His teacher says he is “one of most determined fifth graders [she’s] seen in over 20 years of teaching.” Semaj continues to make strides with decoding and vocabulary, and his eagerness to learn continues to make all the difference.


MATH 180 Winners

Lucas Rivera, Grade 8

Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Middletown, Connecticut

Lucas, an eighth-grade student in Middletown, Connecticut, previously struggled with both mindset and comprehension in math class. Since starting MATH 180, he has seen considerable improvement in both. In addition to consistent Quantile growth, he now sees the value of math in school and life, with a focus on pushing through adversity and asking for help when he needs it. Lucas says, “I know that math is all around me, and it is important to understand the concepts.”

Jacqueline Apantenco, Grade 8

Grace Wilday Junior High School, Roselle, New Jersey

With Spanish as her first language, Jacqueline, an eighth grader in Roselle, New Jersey, often spent extra time working with teachers after school or during recess in order to better understand class content. Math was a challenge for her, and it became more challenging when learning moved online. Despite these obstacles, Jacqueline experienced tremendous success in MATH 180 this year, with a Quantile growth from 580 to 1044. Additionally, Jacqueline’s mindset has changed—her goals are now to graduate from college and get a good job.

Charlese Duran, Grade 8

Horizon Middle School, Aurora, Colorado

Charlese, an eighth-grade student in Colorado Springs, Colorado, struggled with confidence and mindset in math for years. After completing Course I of MATH 180 and continuing to succeed in Course II, her attitude toward math has completely changed. Charlese’s Quantile score has more than doubled since she began the program, and she now has the confidence to make mistakes, never give up, and help others who need it. The confidence she has gained through her math success has also translated to greater confidence outside of the classroom, and Charlese now says, “I can use math in the real world.”


...And that's a wrap for the 2019-2020 school year 180 Award Student Winners! We have also announced our 180 Awards Educator Winners to honor those who shape students’ lives every day.

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