Location: Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, South Paris, ME; the Internet
Team: (OHCHS staff and students) – Aspirations Lab, Guidance Department, Advanced Communications Class, Journalism Class
How are you making Maine a better place for young people?
The intent of this project is to build infrastructure for and implement a first round of creative and multifaceted ways to help motivate high school students to achieve academially, pursue post-secondary education, and become engaged citizens, thereby making Maine a better place for themselves. It builds off of a project I created at another high school several years ago (summary under “Documentation of Previous Projects”, below).
The aim is to improve access to information through non-traditional approaches that challenge students to see themselves and their home state in a national and global context.
Within our school, our team will foster student-driven programming that requires collaboration across disciplines & course levels; and through it improve school climate
Specifically, the project will consist of three distinct but related programs that will overlap thematically, re-inforcing the central aim of contextualized thinking.
1.A self- and student-produced comedy “news” show that will use reporting and digital media to raise humorous, serious, and thought-provoking questions about education and academic achievement
Though there are many other reasons, student lack of motivation and disinterest in school can frequently be tied to frustrations with systemic problems and the adults that represent them. My hope is that this show will be a constructive venue for students to cleverly address these concerns. By engaging students in discovering information for themselves, they will develop their own opinions and be more prepared to formulate individualized plans for their futures.
2. Visit to the SMCC Mid-coast campus
The college visit is widely credited as being one of the most crucial experiences for prospective students. This visit will be a concrete application of the information discussed in the TV show; the new facilities and programs on this campus are carefully focused on building a new generation of highly employable Mainers.
3. Kick-off student-developed anti-bullying campaign with an outside speaker. Though there is some infrastructure in place, we’d like to build on the core goal of student-driven programming by bringing in an outside speaker we’ve hosted in the past as the initiating event in a new anti-bullying campaign.The TV show could also be used as a platform to share some of these messages.
What challenges in your community are you addressing?
1. Lack of student aspirations, work-ethic, motivation, and accurate information
2. Difficulty in helping students envision and plan for a life beyond high school and rural Maine
3. Ongoing challenge to create effective and engaging post-secondary programming in a limited time frame (hand-in-hand with limited efficacy of some traditional methods)
In a large, rural high school with a very large percentage of students near or below the poverty line (78% on free or reduced lunch), all resources are strained in attempts to provide thorough and effective programming. Guidance has very limited time to work one-on-one with students, and even more limited time to speak to students in large or small groups. The focus of the project on student involvement and student leaderships address these two intersecting problems. Not only does the project directly involve the population it is designed to help, in doing so it is expanded the time-hours that are available to be dedicated to some of the most challenging problems facing our schools and our youth.
Who will benefit from your idea? How will people access and learn about the work you are doing?
-faculty advisors at all grade levels
-potentially other educators and students in the community and beyond
Our own students will benefit most directly, since they will experience all three project components. Advisors will be able to broadcast the show during their weekly advisory period, and ideally we would be able to make the show available online for other high schools in the state.
Though the SMCC trip will have to be capped at 50 students, we will be able to target students in any grade level who might be particularly successful in one of their programs, as opposed to our regular college trips which a grade-focused and more general in their scope and intent.
The anti-bullying campaign will again benefit all students in our school, and eventually the district, as the program expands. We will be building off student organizations already in place (such as RESPECT team and mentoring programs) to create a more proactive approach to student-led awareness and prevention.
What major success would you like to see at the end or apex of your project?
The major success would be to see some notable change in the culture of the school and the way students access and share information about their lives and their futures. It is always productive to look at some more quantifiable ways of measuring success:
- to have at least 10 completed episodes by the end of the summer, all online
- to bring a group of 50 students to the SMCC Midcoast campus, and see an increase in number of student applications to those programs
- to bring in a speaker to give a presentation on bullying
- to see an increase in the number of students taking challenging courseloads, applying to college, and having college-ready test scores
- students begin to see their individual lives as fitting into a much larger context of social, economic, and political issues
- increased conversation about college access and the importance of a college degree in today’s society