Posts Tagged ‘high school’

Participants in the 2021 Indiana High School Architectural Design Competition.

It makes a difference when professionals offer their expertise to school students. In today’s story we see what happened when an architect returned to his old high school to teach in its STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] program.

Victoria St. Martin reports at the Washington Post, “It can happen in an instant: that moment when you go from not knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life, to having absolute certainty about it. For Tarik El-Naggar, it happened in 1970, when he was in the seventh grade working on a project for English class.

“The assignment? Construct a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre out of everyday objects. He built a 2-foot-diameter cardboard model — and an architect was born. … Says El-Naggar, who’s now 63 and co-owner of an architecture and interior design firm, ‘I don’t know what it was about the building. It had all the seating, the stage and the open roof — it was just awesome. It was a lightbulb moment.’

“El-Naggar’s life came full circle when he added ‘high school teacher’ to his résumé nine years ago — building a STEM curriculum with members of the administration at his former school in northwest Indiana. Inside his Valparaiso High School classroom, students have their own lightbulb moments by creating projects using ping-pong balls, cardboard, computers and 3-D printers. ‘Instead of just teaching the basics of architecture, I’m actually really teaching them design theory,’ says El-Naggar, whose class is similar to what he taught at a nearby college.

“And he’s gotten results: [In 2021] his Valparaiso students swept the Indiana High School Architectural Design Competition, winning all nine awards out of 72 entries from eight schools. …

“Valparaiso, a middle-class community about 55 miles southeast of Chicago, began incorporating more STEM courses into its curriculum about six years ago. A school official said the district wanted to place more emphasis on skills such as critical thinking, communication, creativity and problem-solving, and secured several grants from the county redevelopment commission to bolster tools across K-12 classrooms. The high school roughly ranks in the top 10 percent in Indiana, and its standardized test scores in reading and math significantly outpace the rest of the state.

‘There are schools around the country that have great basketball programs. So, what do parents do? You move there because you want your son or daughter to go there,’ says El-Naggar. ‘I want people to look at what we’re doing here and say, “My kids are going to be engineers, architects. They need to be here.” ‘

“For high-schoolers who want to pursue architecture as a career, taking classes with El-Naggar is paying off: In the past three years, all five of the students who applied to university-level architectural programs have been accepted. ‘People were really impressed that I had already had this experience,’ says Henry Youngren, now a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. … ‘It’s really guided me on how I want to live the rest of my life.’

“Brandon Farley, an architect who is the chair of the high school design competition, says he has some records that date back to the 1970s and he’s ‘never seen anything where one school won all the awards.’ It’s rare that judges see high school teachers with formal architectural training, he adds. With Valparaiso High School’s entries, he says, ‘you can see it immediately in the way the students address the problems and their solutions, and in the way that they talk about their designs. It really raised the bar on the competition.’

“Seventeen-year-old Olivia Lozano received one of the awards. ‘It kind of got the ball rolling for me,’ she says of the contest, for which she created a reading room filled with glass windows that opened to the outdoors. ‘Then it turns into a vortex and you’re down in El-Naggar’s classroom like four hours a day, and then you’re here after school, and then you’re here on the weekends and over spring break.’

“El-Naggar says the lightbulb moment for his students today really happens when they first see a 3-D view of their building. ‘The ones that go, “Oh, my gosh,” and they start “walking” through it and they’re telling other people, “Look at this.” ‘ …

“When the University of Notre Dame, near South Bend, Ind., asked him to critique student projects, he met a fellow architect and professor who would help him get his first teaching gig, at Andrews University in Michigan. Once he started, he knew he’d discovered a second passion. Several years later, he was asked to fill in and teach architecture in his hometown at the high school. He welcomed the opportunity to teach five minutes from his home.

“Now his fervor for teaching is gaining more attention, earning him a teacher of the year award from a national project-based-learning group this past fall. ‘We consider ourselves very blessed to have a teacher like him in the classroom,’ says Nick Allison, the school district’s assistant superintendent for secondary education.”

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Diman Regional Vo-Tech High School
This school offers practical solutions to challenges facing Fall River and Southeast Massachusetts while providing students with lifetime skills.

I love vocational schools that give students the satisfaction of both learning new skills and applying them to community service. Where I live, for example, there’s a nonprofit called Second Chance Cars that taps the auto-mechanic programs of two vo-tech schools to reburbish vehicles that are then resold to ex-service members and approved ex-offenders at a subsidized price.

And in Fall River, Mass., the regional school tackles serious work like building homes and improving city infrastructure. In this story, students from several disciplines worked on a flood-control sluice gate that the city needed repaired.

Jo C. Goode reports at Fall River’s Herald News, “A group of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School students saw the fruits of their labors materialized in a dramatic way [in July] when a project they had worked on for a year — replacing vital sluice gates that help control the flow of water from the Quequechan River — became an integral part of the city’s infrastructure for decades to come.

“Students, their educators and staff from the city’s water and sewer departments met at what is called #7 Iron Works, located behind a group of mills on Pocasset Street where the river flows underground to a sluice that directs the water to the Battleship Cove area and Firestone Mill Pond.

“They watched as a crane lifted large gates into a black metal sleeve, where crews will open and close the gates with a giant iron wrench to control the flow of water from South Watuppa Pond. …

“Within about 15 minutes after the dam was opened at South Watuppa, a torrent flowed from the underground Quequechan River through as workers tweaked the placement of the new sluice gates.

” ‘About a year ago we knew the sluice gate needed to be repaired,” said Paul Ferland, the city’s director of community utilities, who said the pre-existing gates were easily over 100 years old. ‘We’ve worked with Diman on other projects in the past … Their work is top notch.’

“Working with the vocational-technical high school also saved the city money, said Ferland. If the department hired an outside firm, the project could have easily cost the city $60,000.

“Maria Torres, assistant principal for technical affairs at Diman, said … ‘We’re always looking to partner with the community, number one. And number two, we always want to take on projects that challenge our students, so that was the biggest thing.’ …

“Torres said the project incorporated a range of the school’s areas of studies from drafting, machine tool technology, carpentry, welding and metal works.

The dental assisting program even pitched in and took impressions of the old gate gears.

“Machine tool technology student Evan Thro, who recently graduated from Diman and is attending University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as a mechanical engineering student, [said,] ‘There was constant communication,’ said Thro. ‘It was measure twice and cut once, because you only had one shot and make sure you do it right.’ ”

Read more at the Herald News, here.

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Photo: Monica LeRossignol
After a devastating wildfire, Bob Wilson, a Southern California real estate developer, gave $1,000 to each of Paradise High School’s 982 students and 105 employees. He is pictured here with student Trevor

Compassionate people pop up everywhere. I try to keep my attention focused on that as much as possible. In this example, a wealthy developer was moved to put money behind his compassion after the devastation of the 2018 wildfires in Paradise, California.

In November, Brianna Sacks wrote at BuzzFeed News, “Monica LeRossignol and her son are still stunned by the freshly printed $1,000 check, a gesture that’s brightened the difficult, surreal reality of rebuilding their lives after losing their home and most of their community in Paradise, California.

“On Tuesday night, her 17-year-old son, Trevor LeRossignol, and hundreds of other students, parents, and faculty members from Paradise High School gathered at Chico High School, as they have every week since the Camp fire leveled their town, to catch up, give hugs, rifle through donations, and eat some warm food. But this gathering had a major bonus.

“Bob Wilson, a Southern California real estate developer, was there giving out $1,000 to each of Paradise High School’s 982 students and 105 employees, totaling about $1.1 million in donations.

” ‘I gave him a hug,’ LeRossignol said. … Like thousands of others, the 46-year-old lost everything in the catastrophic wildfire, which has killed 88 people, torched more than 153,000 acres, and destroyed 14,000 homes. The mother, her son, fiancé, two nephews, and six other family members fled for their lives and are now crammed into two bedrooms at a friend’s house in the nearby city of Chico. …

“A few weeks earlier, as the Camp fire continued to burn around Paradise, Wilson came across a story in the Los Angeles Times about the students of Paradise, most of whom lost their homes. It delved into the uncertainty facing Paradise Unified School District and its class of seniors who were readying to graduate.

“The 89-year-old told BuzzFeed News that Paradise High School’s plight stuck with him, reminding him of his own ‘carefree’ days as a teenager. …

‘I made up my mind in five minutes,’ the businessman said Wednesday morning from Chico. ‘I had some of the most profound experiences in my life in high school because I was still able to be a kid, and it broke my heart to think of the experiences these kids were missing.’ …

“About two weeks later, Wilson was flitting between about 10 tables set up inside Chico High’s hallways, handing out envelopes containing a letter and personal check addressed to each student, teacher, and custodian, which he had personally stuffed from one of his offices in Los Angeles. …

” ‘It was a really unique, cool way to give,’ [Paradise High Principal Loren] Lighthall said of Wilson’s donation. ‘It’s been rough, especially for high schoolers who need their friends and there’s no way to get together.’ …

“Two days after the fire tore through their close-knit, rural California town, Lighthall, who has been principal for two years, started a GoFundMe for Paradise High, a ‘high-poverty”‘ school where 67% of students qualified for free lunch last year. Almost every one of the nearly 1,000 students lost their home and ‘everything they own,’ he said. …

“For now, Lighthall explained that their main goal is getting the kids their credits however they can. More at BuzzFeed, here.

By the way, it’s sad that BuzzFeed and other news outlets have had to lay off so many reporters lately, people who come up with good local stories like this one. The news model is changing nationwide and we need to pay for journalism in new ways. My husband and I pay to read the Boston Globe online, the New York Times, and the Guardian. I also have a membership in the investigative news site Talking Points Memo. Online ads are not enough to keep these vital services going.

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Photo: Joe Suarez for NPR
Las Cruces High School has one napping pod, which students use for 20 minutes when they are tired, stressed or angry.

In my family, we are big believers in naps. Long naps, short naps, any kind of nap. I don’t take a nap every day, but when I’m feeling exhausted for any reason, I find that 15 or 20 minutes of sleep really refreshes me.

Interestingly, 20 minutes is what teachers prescribe for students at Las Cruces High School in New Mexico.

Patti Neighmond reports at National Public Radio, “Studies have shown teenagers actually need between nine and 10 hours of sleep a night. But the vast majority (69 percent) aren’t getting it.

“Enter ‘napping pods.’ They’re essentially egg-shaped lounge chairs that recline, with a circular lid that can be pulled over the chest to shield against light.

“It just sort of envelops you in a really nice darkness, with soft lighting behind you,” says [18-year-old Hannah] Vanderkooy, a frequent user of the pods. She says she typically gets only four to five hours of sleep a night.” She’s a senior and working hard to get good grades and maybe college scholarships.

“There’s soft music playing in the pod and ‘you just feel extremely relaxed,’ she says. …

“A nap can’t substitute for a good night’s sleep, but it certainly can help, says Dr. Nitun Verma, a sleep specialist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

“A short nap for a teenager ‘can give a boost to memory and attention during the day, and it can increase school performance,’ he says, adding that in a perfect world, schools would roll back their start times. …

“Several public schools in New Mexico are trying to tackle the problem by providing napping pods for their students.

” ‘We know lack of sleep changes mood and makes you more anxious,’ says family nurse practitioner Linda Summers, who is an associate professor at New Mexico State University’s school of nursing in Las Cruces.

“Summers also works with the nearby Las Cruces High School health center, and has seen firsthand the effects of sleep deprivation on students there. So she decided to apply for a federal health grant to buy the pods, which, at the time, cost $14,000 each. They were installed in four high schools.

“And while the Las Cruces school napping pods were bought to remedy sleep deprivation, Summers says, ‘it also turns out to be good for anger and stress.’

“Even if kids don’t fall asleep, but simply ‘zone out,’ she says, they emerge saying they feel ‘refreshed and calm.’ ” More here.

Summers has conducted a study that has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal, so expect to hear more on this topic anon.

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Photo: Getty Images
Wynton Marsalis performing in New York City in April 2016.

John was in Belarus for work last week but wasn’t too distracted to forward another good blog topic. It’s about a very busy celebrity who took a day out to surprise student musicians and a high school music director who was retiring.

Johanna Seltz writes at the Boston Globe, “Jazz great Wynton Marsalis took the stage at the Foxborough High School Pops concert last weekend — much to the surprise of retiring music director Stephen Massey, who was running the event.

“Massey was just introducing a piece by the Foxborough High School Jazz Ensemble — and explaining that the band had been chosen as one of 15 nationally to play at the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Festival in New York’s Lincoln Center where Marsalis runs the jazz program — when Marsalis stepped out from behind a tuba, playing ‘Joe Avery’s Blues’ on his trumpet.

“ ‘My reaction was shock, total shock, and disbelief,’ Massey said later, although he calmly announced, ‘Wynton Marsalis, ladies and gentlemen,’ to the crowd of family and friends sitting at tables at the high school.

“ ‘The generosity of that man to drive four hours up, visit us for half an hour, and drive four hours back — with his schedule and his life — is beyond my comprehension,’ Massey said.

“Marsalis improvised with the student musicians and then gave a moving tribute to Massey, who is retiring after 37 years in Foxborough and 46 years as a music educator. …

“Massey has brought Foxborough high school jazz bands to the elite Essentially Ellington festival 17 times over the years and gotten to know the Pulitzer Prize and Grammy-winning Marsalis, who judges the event, in the process. …

“ ‘There’s kind of this simpatico communication that we have without many hours of talking to each other, just mutual respect for the things we do,’ Massey said. ‘Music is powerful, very powerful.’

“A video of the surprise appearance is available at www.facebook.com.”

More at the Globe, here.

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Jerry and Priscilla’s granddaughter, recently accepted at Stanford, founded a club at her Vancouver high school to collect and distribute food for residents experiencing homelessness.

She feels pretty strongly that, in modern society, the distribution of resources is out of whack, and she wanted to reach out to those who have little. She started with donations from one bakery willing to give her fresh leftover bread at the end of the day.

CBC caught up with Kristen Anderson in the giving season, last Christmas.

“Grade 12 student Kristen Anderson founded ‘Kitchen on a Mission’ in July of 2015.

” ‘I tried at first to go down and hand out sandwiches but realized I couldn’t afford to buy the bread every day for this, so I had to rethink my idea.’

“Anderson was then inspired by an article she read about New York teens collecting leftover restaurant food and feeding the homeless. …

“Anderson and other volunteers from Winston Churchill Secondary set out collecting, not only bread, but Danishes and other baked goods and dropping them off at shelters under the umbrella of the Atira Women’s Resource Society.

“She knocked on more bakery doors and soon enlisted [four more]. Since its early days, the club has grown to five schools and 100 students who collect goods for 10 different shelters. …

“The club members say their volunteer work is satisfying and eye opening.

” ‘I didn’t realize what a community the Downtown Eastside was before going down there each day with my friends. They are such kindhearted people down there. They were giving me advice on my life, to stay in school and listen to my parents. I even had one man play guitar for me, which was really touching because I love to sing.’ ”

Pretty amazing young lady.

Video of the interview here.


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Dorcas International of Rhode Island is a refugee-resettlement and immigrant-support organization that also offers education programs and services to native-born residents.

On the nonprofit’s website, you can find uplifting stories of DIIRI beneficiaries. Here is one.

Sidy Maiga, a master percussionist from Mali, wanted to take his skills to the next level. The first step was to get over his insecurity about education.

“His mastery of the djembe, a drum of West African origin that is rope-tuned [and] shaped like a large goblet, has taken him on tours all over the world and as a teacher in schools all over the East Coast … But without a high school diploma, he felt like he had hit a wall. …

“Sidy heard from friends about things you could do at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island. …

“He admits he was hesitant about going to school again. … He enrolled in an ESL [English as a Second language] class to get up to speed” before taking the high school equivalency test known as the GED “and felt himself getting discouraged — so he stopped going to class.

“However, after getting encouraging calls from DIIRI staff, Sidy decided he would give it another shot. … ‘I think they saved my life, and I’m glad I came back.’ …

“With the help and encouragement of DIIRI staaff, Sidy decided the next step would be college.”

Sidy starts at Berklee College of Music this year and says, “Once I learn the academic way of music, then I can teach African music to the world.”

More here.

Photo: Dorcas International Institute
Malian djembe drummer Sidy Maiga says Dorcas staff “saved my life.”

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Imagine my surprise, driving along, flipping channels, to hear the unique voice of John and Suzanne’s high school history teacher, long retired. And he was on Only a Game. I know the show’s host is eclectic, but I couldn’t see how Bill Littlefield was going to work into his sports show Eliot Lilien’s expertise in World War I or Russian history.

Well, what do you know! It turns out Only a Game was focusing on the high school’s 50 years of a sport that Mr. Lilien started there: fencing.

Littlefield writes that 50 years ago, to get the program started, Mr. Lilien “found a few opponents at other secondary schools in the Northeast, and some at colleges, and some at clubs. …

“ ‘When you first began the program 50 years ago,’ I asked, ‘did you ever imagine that it would still be going strong in 50 years?’

“ ‘I didn’t think about,’ he said. ‘But I’m very grateful that it has been, and that this high school has been willing to support it.’

“Some of Lilien’s first recruits showed up hoping to bring Dungeons & Dragons to life with swords. He had to teach them that the sport required not fantasy but discipline, balance, tactics, psychology, and brains — most of the time.

“ ‘Of course, if you’re faster than anyone else, and stronger, it becomes less important,’ Lilien said.

“ ‘The mental part of it?’ I asked.

“ ‘If you can launch a gigantic attack, it doesn’t make any difference how smart the other person is. He’s gonna get hit,’ Lilien answered.”

Listen to the interview at Only a Game.

I wonder if the 50-year mark at the high school as anything to do with the local resurgence of interest in fencing. The space across from my hairdresser, where the wonderful craft shop Dabblers used to be, has morphed into a fencing studio. Fun to watch when you’re getting your hair cut.

Photo: Jesse Costa/Only a Game

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Do you remember a blog post about a photography and interview initiative called the Humans of New York? I wrote about it here.

It seems that a frustrated parent of a high school student who had no Spanish teacher decided to let it all out when asked what she was feeling, and the Humans of New York entry about her went viral. Now the school district must save face and choose among many offers of help.

Brandon Stanton saw Annette Renaud on the subway and asked to  interview her. As Soni Sangha writes for the NY Times, Renaud was upset.

” ‘We’ve got a new mayor and a new chancellor … So we aren’t blaming them. But they need to know how impossible they’ve made it to help our kids. Trying to get something fixed in these schools is like praying to some false God. You call and email hoping that God is listening, and nothing happens.’

“Someone was listening,” says Sangha. “The post immediately went viral, with 150,000 likes on the Humans of New York Facebook page, it was shared more than 16,000 times, and it had strangers from across the city and the country pledging to call the school in protest on behalf of the students. Someone in Michigan started a change.org petition calling on the school to hire a foreign language instructor; another Connecticut petition asked the Department of Education to help the students — it has more than 1,000 supporters. …

“ ‘We continue to work closely with the school community to ensure students have access to the courses they need,’ said Marcus Liem, deputy press secretary of the New York City Education Department. Mr. Liem said that officials from the department were planning to meet with the school’s administration about this and other issues even before the posting, but that those meetings have now been moved up.” Read it all here.

Photo: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Alejandra Figueroa, a senior at the Secondary School for Journalism, believes the loss of her Spanish teacher jeopardizes her chances for an Advanced Regents diploma.

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The Boston Private Industry Council is made up of employers who pulled together in 1982 to commit to helping Boston Public School students get summer jobs, internships, training — and eventually full-time jobs. They get the experience of working, earning money, and adapting to the soft skills needed in a workplace.

I went to the PIC annual event today to see a young friend who was receiving an award along with 17 other students, employers, and mentors.

I had no idea what a big event it would be. Boston Mayor Menino spoke, as did presidents of community colleges and companies. There were great success stories, several seen in this PBS video feature by Paul Solman.

In 2006, my young friend had been rescued by mentors who worked for a PIC program designed for out-of-school youth. After much hard work, he is now attending a highly regarded local college and expecting to graduate in 2014.

Here’s a description of the out-of-school program, one of the PIC’s offerings:

“Young people who are neither in school nor working have few prospects in today’s economy. That is why the PIC works with those who have dropped out of school and those who finished high school without passing MCAS.

“PIC dropout recovery specialists and career center counselors work with these young people to help get them back on track to education and employment. They help young people take the next step by enrolling them in school, GED programs, training programs and jobs.”

Read more.

Photo: http://www.bostonpic.org/programs/out-school-youth

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