The Youngstown City School District is trying new things in order to get students interested in learning and thinking about their futures.
It’s the first year for the Discovery program at Kirkmere, and its principal says it’s invigorating students and their families.
“Probably the greatest challenge right now is getting kids to believe that there’s something beyond what they know,” said principal Lisa Gonzalez. “So to get them to start thinking about where they could be, what they could be doing and us starting as a school district to give them the tools that they’ll ned to get there.”
Gonzalez believes in her students, their families and her staff. The third though eighth graders and their families choose to be a part of this unique program. Core classes are taught, but students also rotate through eight different specialties, like investigative science, engineering, dance and art.
“Where else can a kid have an opportunities to build robots, or to learn dance moves, or to actually start to learn a new language before they get to high school?” Gonzalez asked. “So it gives a kid some experience in areas that they’ve never had experience before.”
The hope is one of the the specialties captures the student’s heart and mind, pushing them to want to learn more.
“Learning about areas in which they might want to concentrate…. either when they get to high school or as careers,” Gonzalez said.
First News Anchor Damon Maloney got the chance to answer a few questions for students from the program.
“We have a guest here today to talk to us about what it’s like to work in the media. What does that require from a school point,” said principal Lisa Gonzalez.
The students asked questions about Maloney’s background and what got him interested in media.
Maloney told the audience it started when he was their age, making movies with friends and he later got involved with extracurricular programs at his schools and in the community. Maloney said one thing led to another.
Maloney explained the cameras reporters use to capture video and audio. He also showed the students how to conduct an interview.
“So now you see the red light is going. That means we’re recording,” Maloney said.
A number of students participated in the exercise. Some stood behind the camera and asked questions, while others were in the hot seat answering those questions.
Caleb Chalfant was one of the students who appeared on camera.
“What do you like about this school?” one of his classmates asked him.
“Really, what I like is being in Mrs. Hunter’s math class, and how most of the teachers I get along with,” Chalfant said.
“What are you learning in math?” the classmate asked during a follow-up question.
“Right now in math, we’re learning about circumference… circumference of a circle and area of a circle,” Chalfant responded.
Other students read aloud recent scripts from a WKBN 27 First News newscast.
“Good afternoon Damon… Youngstown mayor John McNally….” one student read in front of his peers.
Gonzalez believes in the school’s curriculum and said the payoff is great.
“Probably the greatest challenge right now is getting kids to believe that there’s something beyond what they know,” Gonzalez said.
One day a media course may be added to the Discovery program.
Changing the culture of Youngstown City Schools is a job that’s not over. Changes have been made, and district leaders argue that student achievement is improving.
“There’s no question, Youngstown City Schools have had some rough years. But, the past few years with the leadership we’ve had, the curriculum department that we’ve had, some really fantastic teacher’s that we’ve been able to hire— we’ve been raising test scores,” Gonzalez said. “And kids are starting to perform, they’re able to perform and our students are eager to learn,” she said. “Our families are ready for them to learn, because they want the best for their students. So do we.”