Four amazing Innovations High School scholars greeted me as I arrived to visit their school. The students are Big Bang Ambassadors and I had the pleasure of spending time with them this summer at the Big Picture Learning Conference in Atlanta. Ashley, Jesleana, Sip, and Sophie enthusiastically welcomed my guests and me as they told us about Innovations HS and their educational journeys. I really enjoyed the student-led tour of the school and hearing their perspective on the workshops, internships, school environment, and opportunity for academic growth at Innovations HS.
The ambassadors started the tour in the newly renovated Performing Arts and Fine Arts Studio building. We toured the Performing Arts studio where advisor Travis Hopper introduced us to two scholars who were working on a project for their U.S. Government and English classes. The scholars were putting together a creative piece using music and lyrics to demonstrate their understanding of an important lesson. We also saw the new recording booth and recording studio. The scholars shared an example of their work, with a small part by me included, as it was being put together in the recording studio. This space and equipment allows the scholars to produce very high quality work. In Jeff McKillip’s Fine Arts classroom, we saw the work in progress on a recycled art unit the scholars are working on. The scholars are finishing up their recycled art projects to submit to “The Art of Plastic” contest sponsored by Nevada Recycles.
I enjoyed spending time in Lucy Dugan’s and Andrew Protz’s English-History class. Scholars were collaborating on a writing project around social issues. The scholars shared their research and thoughts with me on topics such as poverty in our community and the face of homelessness for youth. The scholars were very knowledgeable about these deep topics and I was very impressed with their realistic views and perceptions about these important issues.
Scholars in Condell Williams’ humanities class were discussing racial issues. They were doing a compare/contrast exercise using two famous speeches they heard. The scholars were having a healthy dialogue in an open and meaningful way.
Next, I joined the school’s Social Justice Advocacy group meeting led by Jose Parra, Innovation’s social worker. This diverse group of scholars was working on projects they are passionate about. These include the school prison pipeline, police brutality, and poverty. Their projects and research are both data-driven and experience-based. The level of commitment and understanding was phenomenal.
Principal and Lead Scholar Taylor Harper introduced me to Ray Wojdynski, who teaches creative arts. Ray has a rich background and years of experience at very high levels and his desire to use creativity to support the school and scholars is impactful. His scholars are learning how to produce and edit videography and Ray is passionate about teaching kids to do what they love.
Several scholars told me about their internships and project work. Scholars are working on food access through hydroponic gardens, building climbing walls, recording music, and learning about diesel engines. The school has a “leaving to learn” philosophy that supports community and family engagement while empowering scholars to pursue their dreams in real life settings.
I was joined by the entire freshman class for a special luncheon. I talked to the scholars about their school and the journey to graduation. They all understand the importance of having a high school diploma to pursue their future careers whether that is through college, a highly skilled career, or in the military. We also talked about fun things like our favorite foods, the Innovations HS Dance Club, and sports.
The staff members at Innovations High School are champions for every one of their scholars. They strive to provide loving relationships, authenticity, and opportunities for growth in a comfortable environment conducive to learning. My thanks to Taylor Harper, her entire staff, and all of the scholars at Innovations HIS for an outstanding visit to their amazing school.