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DOWNEY – In the coming weeks, all across America, the Class of 2018 will be stepping onto their respective high school campuses as another school year begins. These kids seem like ordinary students from any other year, yet there is something special about them.
They will be the first class of high school graduates as newborns of the 21st Century. Meaning, the incoming freshmen students were born mostly in 2001, coincidently being my senior year of high school.
To put this into perspective, in 2001 the very first Apple Store was opening, only three of the seven Harry Potter books had been published and Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school. I began to wonder what makes this generation of students so different and the reasoning behind it.
This past year the organization I work for, Downey Art Vibe, embarked on a mission to develop numerous youth programs. In order to do so, I had to go back to high school and investigate what it is like for the students of this generation.
I began by visiting the local schools in and around the Downey Unified School District and began meeting with staff, students and teachers. I was also able to catch up with former professors, administrator and classmates, who are now teachers themselves. Through this experience, I discovered that even though I had been completely removed from high school for over a decade, the schools’ foundation had not changed enormously. Great teachers are still educating students in the CORE subjects and STEM curriculum, and the staff continues to work hard to ensure the needs of parents and students are met; the students themselves are thriving.
Although many aspects remained the same, I was shocked to learn about the new innovative programs at some of these schools, the most intriguing being the new Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses available to all students. CTE provides students with opportunities to acquire skills through technical classes while integrating the CORE curriculum in their studies to prepare them for higher education and a successful future. These classes range from construction, to animation, and even engineering.
In addition, the facilities these students utilize are updated with current tools and technology that emulate a professional workplace. This learning environment exposes students to opportunities in robotics, architecture and entrepreneurship. These new technologies are creating cultural changes and new possibilities for these students as they are no longer confined inside campus walls, and can now apply their education to real world situations.
As a result, students involved in these new educational opportunities have thrived in hands-on classroom environments where they learn to think critically, collaborate with other students and prepare themselves with skills needed for the 21st Century workforce.
While technology progression accelerates and the world becomes more complex and interconnected, it is great to see that our local schools are keeping up by preparing the next generation of students for the issues and challenges that await them.
As Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on education, once said, “Finding ways to live together in a world more nuanced and interconnected is a task of our community through education.”
I think the school district and the residents of this city have delivered on these tasks and will continue to do so, making sure that the future is brighter than ever before.
Joseph Manacmul is director of operations for Downey Art Vibe. He attended Ward Elementary, South Middle School and Downey High School.
Published: Aug. 21, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 19