Spanish Teacher Greta Betteo and After School Program and Family/College Programs Director Laura Martinez (who also happens to serve on the East Palo Alto City Council) brought a group of our young women to meet Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the Fox Theater in Redwood City. Each girl got to take home a signed copy of the Justice's new book, My Beloved World. The students had their books personally signed by the Justice! Students also had a chance to chat with our Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, who serves California's 18th District.
It was so inspirational to be there. She’s a role model to me because she’s overcome so many challenges. I believe that I can do anything.
--Bianca Rodriguez, Class of 2013
The experience was supported by two of our local community partners. Facebook provided 100 tickets for local youth to meet the Justice, including copies of her book. Foundation for a College Education, a fellow member of East Palo Alto College Access Network, gave ten tickets to Phoenix Academy so that we could provide this unforgettable experience for our students.
On Thursday, January 24, EPACS and Phoenix Academy students were among the approximately 40 students and educators from East Palo Alto public schools who participated at the Google campus in a private tour and design workshop specially tailored to promote their interest in STEM education. “Learning how to design is a great first step to igniting curiosity and energy around problem solving -- and the technologies required to build those solutions,” said Suz Burroughs, a member of our Advisory Board and the Google Global Innovation Programs team who spearheaded the day. The trip represented a partnership effort between Google, EPACS, Phoenix Academy and the Ravenswood Education Foundation (REF).
The campus tour gave students a taste of some of the unique features of Google's workplace, from cafes where employees from different departments can mingle to ping pong tables and soccer fields to keep Googlers (Google employees) healthy and energized. A team of Google leaders shared their educational backgrounds with the students. The Google leaders then coached student groups through a customized workshop, using sticky pads, white boards, and Legos to explore ideas for building community in their schools and neighborhoods. The workshop introduced the students to the design thinking approach from the d.school at Stanford University and widely used at Google and other innovative Silicon Valley companies.
The day at Google also served the spirit of community building by bringing together students and educators from charter and non-charter public schools within the Ravenswood City School District (RCSD), promoting collaboration that remains rare between charter and non-charter schools in our national school system. “Bringing together students from five schools to collaborate in support of their community was quite inspiring. It was great to see how the ideas flowed once students realized everyone around the table was equally committed to their city,” said Robert Pronovost, STEM Coordinator for RCSD’s non-charter schools, three of which were represented by students at the Google workshop.
“We’ve appreciated Google’s connections to our community on multiple levels, and today’s tour and workshop has really highlighted new possibilities for connection between educators and students in our community,” said Mike Berman, our Director of Development and Community Partnerships. Many thanks to Suz and the team at Google for an unforgettable experience!
EPACS 6th graders were selected to do a blended learning pilot conducted with CFY, a national nonprofit which helps students, teachers and parents use computers to improve educational outcomes. “Blended learning” refers to the personalized learning experience that is created through the integration of technology into curriculum and instruction. “EPACS is already a leading school in terms of innovation,” says Grainger Marburg, CFY’s Bay Area Executive Director. “We are excited to work with them because we think our blended learning model can help take their instruction to the next level.”
In January, the 6th grade families attended a workshop on digital learning activities and every family received a computer to take home. Parent Rocio Tapia said, “Now I’m going to be able to help Miguel with homework. I’ve struggled in the past and had to get the older kids to help. Now I can help him”. The 6th grade teachers are working with a CFY coach to differentiate their math instruction and leverage the online tools in the classroom and on students’ home computers. Teacher Lily Diamond reflected, “I will have more opportunity to differentiate my lessons, pull small groups together, and have the kids be more engaged”. Former EPACS math teacher and instructional coach Marie White is in charge of the content on the CFY online platform, Power My Learning. The CFY coach will also work with the 7th grade teachers next year to continue to maximize the students’ learning environment.
Aspire Public Schools was selected as one of the few school systems across the country to receive a major federal grant to help develop our teacher development, evaluation and compensation system. Learn more about our leading work with The College Ready Promise.
Last year, Phoenix Academy science teacher Sara Heaps saw a gap in our program. “I realized that we needed to push our students to take more rigorous courses, and we also only offered our students three years of science instruction.” She proposed adding Environmental Science because the content is current and engaging. “I was excited about the idea from the start,” says Principal Tom Madson. “My concern, though, was that we didn’t have the funding. That’s why having a development office is so important for us – rather than think about what to cut, we were able to ask ‘what do our kids need to be prepared for college success?’”
Sara based the class loosely on the AP Environmental Science curriculum. Through the course, students explore current environmental issues such as population growth and effects, pollution and waste reduction, energy policies and resource use and planning. The class has college-level reading, analytical writing and problem-solving. It is a chance for the Phoenix students to engage in high level academics and get a feel for what college will really be like. Sara said, “I see students approaching current day issues in a highly academic manner. Even though some have skill gaps they are able to approach high level problem solving tasks.”
The students have clearly responded with enthusiasm to the new opportunities. Given the choice to take Environmental Science or other elective courses, all of our seniors chose to take the more challenging science class. “I knew that it would prepare me for college,” notes Flavio ’13. “What I didn’t expect was that it would inspire my passion to study the environment. Now I want to attend Sonoma State to study environmental law to become a lawyer that defends the environment.”
Congratulations to our latest group of EPAPA graduates! Like their predecessors, ALL of our graduating seniors were accepted to four-year universities. Great work, and remember to stay in touch! Check out some beautiful photos of the day here. (Thanks to Heidi Cregge Cabra for the photos).
We are so proud that our very own Laura Martinez, our after school program director, has been elected the mayor of East Palo Alto! Laura is in her third year of her term on the City Council. She previously served as Vice Mayor. For more information, check out the story in the San Jose Mercury News.
Saturday, October 15, 2011, was a beautiful day, and it wasn't just the weather. Students, staff, families and community members came together to dedicate our new campus. After the ribbon was cut, almost 200 volunteers remained to plant trees throughout the site. In addition to the ribbon-cutting and planting, the day included a small ceremony to honor the Nakagawa family, previous owners of our site.
Many, many thanks to the supporters and community partners who made this day possible. It's impossible to list all of the people who work with us to challenge and support our students on their way to College for Certain, but we have listed a few that played an integral role here. And a final huge thank you to Canopy, who donated all of the trees and coordinated an inspiring volunteer work day. Here are some photos from the day.
|EPAPA Ribbon-cutting - Oct 15, 2011|
In August 2011 we moved into our beautiful new location on Garden Street, just around the corner from EPACS. Our campus is bustling with 300+ students in grades 7 through 12, and growing...we're very grateful to the many organizations and individuals who made our new home a reality, especially the Sequoia Union High School District and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. Check our long journey to this fantastic new facility below:
|EPAPA Facility Journey|
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- KGO-TV coverage of the groundbreaking.
- East Palo Alto's Phoenix Academy Graduates First Class (SJ Mercury News).
- Phoenix Academy seniors are college bound (Palo Alto Weekly article).
- All 21 East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy seniors get into 4-year colleges (SJ Mercury News).