The Preceptors



Vertus, a non-profit, public charter high school in Rochester, NY, is geared to prepare leaders of character for the community and the workplace. According to Vertus officials, more than half of young men in Rochester drop-out of high school, especially men of color to face odds, unemployment, violence or prison.

Vertus’s ‘Four Pillars’ program fosters strong relationships between the staff and students. And facilitates personalized year-round academics, character education and character preparation, to increase the students’ academic proficiency to graduate prepared for success.

An integral element is its team of Preceptors, a teacher responsible to uphold laws and traditions of the program.

“I’m primarily in charge of their character development,” said Gary DeWitt Marshall, a preceptor at Vertus. “I am a teacher. However, I serve as a mentor as well. Part of my duties is to establish an extended relationship with the family. When I can advocate for a young man that’s going through academic issues or social issues, I can speak confidently about things that may not appear on the page such as, obstacles he may be going through in his personal life. So, I have more access than a traditional teacher,” he said.

The approach is somewhat out of the box. And the differences are some of the things he enjoys about it.

“The program is tailored to the academic strength of each individual,” Marshall added. “So, the preceptors are men from all different walks of life and different parts of the community, who brings different styles of authority, mentorship, and supervision. And all of what I’ve just mentioned, I believe are necessary to give our young men the best chance of success outside of these walls.”

“It’s at benefit for a young man to have a mentor there for them around the clock,” Marshall continued. “My students have my phone number and they can always call me. The preceptors are committed to this kind of work.”

The all boys school boasts a 2.6x reading and a 2.2x math, compared to the national expected average, and a student to educator ratio of 6:1, the best Regents pass rate of 71% to state-wide charter schools 61% and RCSD 38%, and a collective 3.5 GPA average.

The school also highlights its 65% male instructional staff, year-round curriculum and 97% parent approval of their child’s safety.

“I have an acting career that expands more than 20-years in television and film,” Marshall acknowledges. “Becoming a Preceptor is fulfilling a different passion, which is preparing young men to be productive citizens, critical-thinkers and life-long learners. I’m as passionate as a teacher as I was as an actor.”

To graduate, each student must demonstrate that he is ready to take his place in the community as a responsible adult. Some graduates will further their education in technical institutes, community colleges, or universities. Others will move directly into the workforce. All students will be supported throughout their first post-secondary year.

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Gary DeWitt Marshall

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