Collinwood New Tech students pursue vision and service to community

Richaun Bunton of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District works with a New Tech @ Collinwood student during a recent workshop day at the school.

Collinwood New Tech High School freshmen have a vision. In fact, so does their entire school community.

New Tech Principal Maria Carlson and the staff at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District high school are challenging an incoming ninth-grade class of about 90 students to not only grasp and live out the school’s overall educational vision, but to each come up with a personal vision statement.

The idea is to expose the incoming freshman to the ever-important “So what?” question that hangs over so many high school students as they approach their upcoming four-year high school career – and beyond, Carlson said.

“Because school is not just ‘So I can get an A in physical science,’ but ‘How will this help me beyond school?’,” she said. “We thought that it was important that before we jump into content projects, we help them think about ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I fit into my community – at New Tech, at Collinwood High and in the community?”

To that end, Carlson and Site Coordinator Amy Carlson (no relation) of Ohio Guidestone, a Northeast Ohio social services agency, have already had the students do SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analyses of themselves and their school, take the well-known Myers-Briggs personality test, meet with community leaders and plan a “Day of Service.”

In short, they are working together to provoke the ninth-graders to think big – but also think specifically.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, that meant students meeting with public officials, community leaders, clergy and others to talk about life beyond high school and giving back to their community.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, that meant actually doing some of that giving during a planned day of service: Students could sign up to either stay at the school to work on beautification projects or travel to nearby elementary schools, senior centers or food and clothing distribution sites to volunteer.

“The idea is to not only learn about the community, but to do your part in making it better,” said Amy Carlson. “They have a number of choices, from working with students younger than them or with people much older or in need of food or clothing.”

The personal vision statement project is being also informed by these other activities, Maria Carlson said.

The school’s stated mission is to “redefine what's achievable for our scholars by empowering them to take positive control over their lives and community.”

Students were still writing their individual vision statements, she said.           

Collinwood is a high school in transition: This year’s freshman class, currently about 90 strong, and a sophomore class of about 80 were enrolled into the New Tech high school. The remainder of the comprehensive high school, under Principal Mary Miller, is composed of about 300 juniors and seniors.

The two high schools on the same campus share a site coordinator and a dean of engagement. In two years, after this year’s juniors have graduated, the entire school will be New Tech High at Collinwood.

Other hallmarks of the New Tech model include tablet computers replacing printed textbooks, project-based work and a focus on collaboration, but with personal accountability.

The newest New Tech students are already benefitting from the innovative approach to their education.

Skyla Johnson and Lataysha Claybrooks said they learned a lot about the importance of professional communication, written and oral, from the face-to-face meetings with community leaders on Aug. 26.

“One of the things that we learned is that we can’t talk in a work or professional situation in the same way that we talk with our friends,” Lataysha said, as Skyla nodded in agreement. “I want to go to college to be an Ob/Gyn, so it’s important that I focus now on what I have to do and do it the right way.”

Two freshman boys, Demar Collins and Nevin McRae, had similar observations after a half-day of meetings Tuesday.

Demar said that when he met with an official from KeyBank, he realized he has to smartly manage his money now, instead of thinking he can wait to do that later as an adult.

“And then when I talked with Richaun Bunton (of CMSD’s Department of Family And Community Engagement), I learned that collaboration is a big part of every workday,” Demar said.

Nevin said his own personal mission, in part, is to “keep my neighborhood in good condition and to keep kids in school” – starting with himself.

The New Tech freshmen were to have their personal vision statements completed in time to display in a Sept. 4 “gallery walk” at the school when other students could see them.

Mike Scott

CMSD Communications is the marketing arm of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

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Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 6:40 PM, 09.08.2015