Swampscott High School students lost a rock-solid supporter when METCO program Director Tara Sisco died on Saturday.
Several people who knew of her passing said she died of cancer.
For almost a decade, Tara Sisco was Swampscott's director for the voluntary desegregation program. At 34 schools throughout Massachusetts, METCO provides educational opportunities for city kids and brings diversity to suburban schools.
Those who knew Tara Sisco said she dedicated herself to helping students succeed, encouraging them and giving them tools to graduate and continue their education.
Swampscott High School senior Maleek Newsome, one of 30 METCO students at the school, remembers Miss Sisco finding him a tutor when he enrolled at SHS as a freshman.
He had transferred from the Martin Luther King Jr. School in Boston. The transition was difficult. Long bus rides to unfamiliar school surroundings.
The tutor has helped him with subjects including math, English and history, and the projects that go with the classes, Maleek said.
The METCO director also brought in speakers to describe the career paths they had followed, providing students examples to model, Maleek said.
She arranged regular student meetings and student/parent meetings. She organized small pizza parties to celebrate successes. She called the students and got calls from them.
She was a director who directed with care, whose presence felt like family, Maleek said.
Swampscott parent Lise Pass said Tara connected so well with the students because she respected them.
She built their confidence, gave them attention and provided examples of people who had overcome difficulty, persevered and succeeded.
Together, Lise and Tara organized the host family program in Swampscott six years ago.
The program provides METCO kids a home away from home. A place they can go, get a snack and spend family time after school before they participate in school activities.
Tara Sisco told Patch in an earlier interview that it was important for METCO students to engage with the Swampscott community. With these connections they felt more a part of the school and, strengthened by the bonds, were positioned to do the work needed to prepare for college and careers.
“If you are going to wake up at 5 am to be in school, you need to be part of the community,” she said.
To help the students bond with the community Tara Sisco advocated for additional buses so kids could participate on Swampscott teams and clubs.
Parent Lisa Pass said she hopes the Swampscott METCO students can continue to succeed without Tara Sisco there to help them.
Below is a Facebook post from Swampscott METCO student Felicia Silveira, a freshman:
"Just heard that the best METCO director had passed away today. Rest in peace Miss Sisco. We love you. It won't be the same with you out of our lives. You made it family and now you are gone. We will miss you."
Though she is gone, Tara Sisco's legacy continues to inspire her METCO students, Maleek Newsome among them.
Maleek wants to become a veterinarian. It's a dream he shared with Miss Sisco.
He plans to attend college next year, to study science and participate in collegiate track. It is a dream that he is dedicated to making a reality.
"Thanks to Miss Sisco," he said.
Patch will post Tara Sisco's obituary and funeral arrangements as they become available.