On February 4, I visited the School of Innovative Technology on the Bennett Campus. Principal Carlos Alvarez gave me a great tour of some classes provided by the program. One of these consisted of a Digital Art class where students were using a program to create their own piece of music (see pictures). A few students shared their first takes with me. I was impressed with the talent and, as a music lover, amazed with this unique learning experience for our students.
Next, I was able to observe firsthand a class on the Student Leadership Program using Alternate Information Systems (AIS), which provides workplace experience related to the IT field. Here, I observed a teacher instructing students with a disassembled laptop (see pictures). A growing number of students participating in this program are provided a summer internship through the Mayor's Summer Youth Program, performing a variety of tasks related to hardware, software, cleanliness, troubleshooting, and organization. I was again amazed at this in depth, practical experience provided to these students.
I also visited the College Center located at Bennett, which provides support to complete FASFA forms, college information, and on-site staff for support and guidance to parents and students.
While walking the halls, I had the opportunity to interact with some students, who presented as happy and positive about their school experiences. Mr. Alvarez knew his students well, recognizing them by their first name and an assigned color based on their current grades. This color system is a built-in accountability for staff and students. Mr. Alvarez also uses this to track Regents exam credit as seen in pictures in his office. Green is what we're striving for!
After touring the school, Mr. Alvarez and I discussed challenges to engaging parents and the social-emotional wellness of his students. Mr. Alvarez emphasized the need for more mental health staff to better provide restorative practices and address the social-emotional needs of his students.
In conclusion, I was quite impressed with this unique and innovative school. I left wishing that I could have had the some of the experiences I observed, when I was in high school. Bennett School of Innovative Technology is looking forward to graduating their first class this June. With all the green I was seeing on Mr. Alvarez's chart, I'm hopeful we will see a high percentage receiving a diploma!