Friday, January 7, 2011


Sam and Jane go to a neat school. Their high school, with around 400 students, is a charter school; this means even though it is publicly funded, it is independently operated somewhat like a private school, with parents playing a big role in its founding and board leadership. Charter schools can have a specific program or specialty and this one's has a college prep/ classic education focus. The school opened when Jane entered as a Freshman (first year in high school) and after close to four years now, they were finally able to build and finance a beautiful new building. Surely a step up from the revamped bowling alley facility they were in previously. They gratefully moved into their new digs last month.

It sits on a hill and is the now one of the city's jewels.

One of the things that attracted us to this school was the idea of holding a "Winterim" during the first three weeks in January. This space, between semesters, could be a time of individualized, interest based, and experiential focused study. Each student would choose some kind of research project, hands-on/real world learning experience to create a truly meaningful and memorable study time. Most of the teachers at the school organize and facilitate these opportunities. A lot of them might involve fun, out of state trips, even. Some of the students work independantly. The students have to put in so many hours and are graded at the end of their project, and receive credit toward their graduation. I think it's a great idea to let them have a chance to focus and have the time to explore something that truly interests them, as well as to have a time of variety and fun during the post-holiday blahs of winter. Don't you wish you could have done something like this in your teenage years?

For her first Winterim, Jane took her interest in pursuing a nursing career by spending many, many hours at our local hospital, nurse-shadowing in departments like pediatrics, mother-baby post delivery, and transitional care units. For part of her research paper, she interviewed several nurses we know, as well as her grandmother who was a nurse for 40 years. This was a wonderful opportunity for her to get a feel of this career choice, and later strengthened her resolve to go into nursing.

The year after that, she was able be a part of a months-long humanitarian effort to raise money for food, supplies, and clothing for the needy of El Paso, Texas. It cuminated in a week long trip there. The focus was on learning more about the illegal immigrant issue and the real needs of the poor and needy among us and have a chance to really do something about it. I joined in as a chaperone and it was an experience I'll never forget. We served in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, women and children in crisis centers, and rescue missions. We were able to do some fun cultural things as well.

I learned to love and get to know so many of these students, teachers, and parent volunteers and I'm so grateful I got to experience these life lessons of serving others in such a profound way.
Last year, Jane spent a fascinating three weeks doing lab work for a university genetics professor. Something she would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

Now, Sam is having fun with his martial arts experience and Jane is spending this Winterim doing a back stage/behind the scenes theater project. She will be designing and building set models, studying costume design and construction, rolling up her sleeves with stage make-up, and will be able to go to many state-wide theater productions. I was asked to chaperone the first of these outings last night. We loved going to a local production of The Foreigner.

All in all, a very cool way to be a high school student in the bleakness of winter, don't you think?

Or a mom in need of some interest, variety, and fun in her life.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds great and excellent education too! Do you know Down Weidaeur in my ward is a professional makeup artist that has work in many movies?