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#RethinkHighSchool | A TASCers Round-Up

Therese Workman

Therese Workman is TASC's Senior Manager of Digital Content Strategies.

As you might’ve noticed from social media, newspaper articles or even XQ: The Super School Project’s bodega billboards, rethinking high school is a popular topic of conversation now – and we at TASC couldn’t be happier about that. Public school education for our nation’s almost-adults has largely gone unchanged in the last 100 years, despite a radical shift in the world around us. It needs to evolve in order to prepare students for today and the future.

High school can either be a springboard or barrier for teens in their most transformative years, depending on the school’s resources. And we believe in bringing out the best in our schools and communities in order to bring out the best in our kids.

In the spirit of this conversation, we decided to ask TASCers:

What high school experiences directly impacted who you are today?


ExpandED Options
In ExpandED Options programs like this one at Studio in a School, high school students can participate in apprenticeships and internships for academic credit and summer jobs.

“In my high school, students were each required to complete an internship before graduation, and many of us thought this was a useless burden. I learned how wrong we were when I volunteered in the public policy office at Planned Parenthood in Baltimore, connecting all that classroom learning to a real non-profit health care organization. It helped me understand my interests, opened my eyes to issues I’d read about in textbooks, and gave me a chance to interact with adults I admire greatly. “
-Saskia Traill, Vice President, Policy & Research

“I had the opportunity to work on an independent study project in my senior year. I chose to write a collection of original poems and then hand-type and hand-bind a very small number of actual ‘books’ that I then submitted to the faculty supervisors (for grade assessment); gave to loved ones; and kept for my own library. I learned a lot about myself and life writing those poems and made a lot of friends in high school, college and beyond sharing them with interested people I met.”
-Mark Diekmann, Budget & Finance Analyst

“Participating in the Model United Nations with the best teacher in the world, John Griffin, gave me the opportunity to travel to other states and meet new people. It also challenged me to improve public speaking, presentation and develop higher-order thinking skills through debate. It was a total out-of-comfort-zone experience that I ended up loving, and helped make me the person I am today! “
-Laura Scheck, Director of School Support

“During my high school years, I participated in modern dance, cantata, orchestra, art group and volleyball -- as well as many shows and concerts. The truth was that high school, along with my personal life, was a very stressful time. Many days, I felt like staying home, but would think ‘Oh! I have cantata 3rd period,’ or ‘I have rehearsal today!’ Even though I felt pressure to do well in school, which I did, these different types of courses and experiences helped to relieve stress. When I was in those classes, I was there because I wanted to be.

As I grew older I realized those ‘extra-curricular’ activities taught me how to be patient, rely on others and be sure they could rely on me, see the beauty in others, use timing, read informally, use math outside of class, make color combination (science) work, and most of all, to try to do something that is ‘not my thing’ or outside of my comfort zone, which is how I discovered and made my career in Finance today.” -Kathy Williams, Accounting Manager

“The opportunity to sing in my high school’s concert choir helped to shape who I am today, largely thanks to our dedicated and energetic teacher Mrs. Santerre. On a daily basis, she challenged me to listen to my peers, sometimes even going so far as to have the choir sing an entire piece with our eyes closed.  I learned firsthand that there is no ‘I’ in team and developed an understanding of success based on working together in a group.”  -Abby Montine, Development Officer

Candace's XQ Testimony
TASC’s Candace Brazier-Thurman, Program Director of ExpandED Options, stopped by XQ Super School’s video testimony booth at the New York Public Library to share how ExpandED Options innovates ways for high school students to connect classroom learning to the real world.

“Serving as editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook was where I honed my love of both writing and attention to detail, as nerdy as that may sound. I also managed a team of student writers, editors and photographers, and had to make sure we all worked together to create the best possible final product.”
-Jen Curry, Chief Operating Officer

“I taught Sunday School to four- and five-year-olds at Tranquility United Methodist Church. I was a co-teacher with Sue (Freeborn) Zukoski, who was older (by three years) and wiser (by far). In that little basement classroom refuge, I developed lesson plans for a lifetime.” – Jama Toung, Chief Development Officer

“I went to a high school with approximately 30 students per grade (in rural Vermont). Most of the teachers were also someone's parent, friends with my own parents, etc. As such, I knew the teachers both in their professional role (grading our quizzes) as well as a personal role (coming for dinner on the weekend). This unusual dynamic impacted my ability to adapt my interpersonal skills to fit scenarios, not people.” – Katie Brohawn, Director of Research

“Mr. Rosenfeld, my World History teacher, had a huge impact on my outlook on life and the world. I felt like his class was truly eye opening, and I had never experienced that before with any other teacher. I learned that history was not as simple as I had made it out to be from just reading textbooks. There was a lot more to history and the human experience. He was a huge advocate for me and others, and always encouraged us to do right by our community. He was more than a teacher; he was a role model who was true to his word and practiced what he preached.” -Joel Nuñez, Literacy Program Director

“Teachers and staff who knew me, but more importantly took their time to get to know me, had the greatest impact on who I am today. As I was the first in my family to go to college, their support was invaluable. More so, never did I feel that going to a small and under-established high school (with limited resources) in the South Bronx was a limitation.

All and all, high school was a great and rewarding experience. My old principal still knows me by face and to this day calls me 'Natalia.’ He is now the current principal at DeWitt Clinton High School, and because all my work experience has been in education, we still cross paths. It always brings a smile to his face when he sees me because of how proud he is of me and my success. Little does he know the impact he has had in my life. And for that reason, I'm rewarded daily by working at schools where administration is trying to make change in the South Bronx, and also having the opportunity to interact with students just like I was.” – Natalie Colon, Program Manager

“It’d be a toss up between debate and being managing editor of my high school newspaper. Both taught me how to ask questions, listen to what people were really saying, construct arguments and structure a story. They gave me an identity and a social circle.”
– Deb Levy, Director of Marketing & Communications

“I campaigned for class president in my senior year of high school, and won, despite being up against a longtime incumbent with a powerful group of friends. It was a great lesson in grassroots organizing and effective communication strategies that I carried forward through the rest of my education and career.”
-Shannon Stagman, Program Director, Evaluation Services

“Having very supportive high school teachers and support staff really shaped the person I am today. While I always performed well in school, I lacked a true support system at home. When I didn’t have faith in my abilities, the school staff reinforced that I could do anything I put my mind to. As I move up the professional ladder, I will always keep my high school guidance counselor Mr. Malcolm, and his sculpture of The Thinker by Rodin which sat prominently on his cluttered desk, in my thoughts. When I, in all my teenage angst, was thinking every little thing was surely the end of the world and wanted to give up, he wouldn’t let me and I’m forever grateful. Or Ms. K, the college advisor, who was just a bit older than I am now and new to advising (and dealing with over 200 teenagers with really bad attitudes) still found time to sit with me in the dusty closet that she called her office to comb through books of scholarships she thought I’d be qualified for. Just as Tracy Chapman sang, ‘I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise/ of ordinary people leading ordinary lives,’ High school can be a tough time and educators don’t get enough praise for the work that they do.” – Taejha Richardson, Training Coordinator

How are you rethinking high school? What experiences from that time impacted who you are today? Let us know in the Comments!


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