<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - ]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcmiami.com/feature/education-on-6 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.png NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.comen-usFri, 28 Jul 2017 14:58:20 -0400Fri, 28 Jul 2017 14:58:20 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Supporting Our Schools: How To Help Students and Teachers]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 15:31:44 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Supporting+Our+Schools4.jpg

All too often, kids don’t have the school supplies — pens, paper, notebooks and more — that they need to succeed in school. Teachers struggle to fill the gap without the resources they need.

So this July, join us as we begin Supporting Our Schools.

For the first time, NBC 6 and other NBC and Telemundo-owned television stations are partnering with several nonprofits, including Communities in Schools, DonorsChoose.org, United Way and Boys & Girls Club, to raise donations of supplies and cash.

“Every year, teachers pay for classroom supplies their students will need out of their own pocket while students and their families weigh the costs of paying for school supplies and other household financial needs. To help address these needs, our NBC and Telemundo stations are hosting “Supporting our Schools,” a monthlong awareness campaign to help raise awareness about classroom needs and what communities can do to help local educators and school-bound children," said Valari Staab, President, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations. "Education is the key that unlocks the doors to endless opportunities and I’m proud that our local teams are stepping up to the plate to help their neighbors and strengthen their communities.”

We’ll be telling stories through the end of July from South Florida and beyond to raise awareness about what can be done to help students and teachers thrive.

You can find places to donate locally below, or visit Donors Choose to donate directly to public school classroom projects.

On July 28, you can bring school supplies from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Miramar Fire Department. There, you can meet and greet the NBC 6 morning news team and have breakfast with the anchors. Plus, Y100 Miami and Tu 94.9 will be there, giving away tickets to the Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull's concert. 

You can donate school supplies at four participating Simon Malls locations:

Dadeland Mall at the Simon Guest Services, located in front of The Cheesecake Factory in the main entrance.

Miami International Mall at Simon Guest Services

The Falls at the Mall Office at Columbia PFG or the Mall Office

Coral Square Mall at the Mall Office

Following is a list of supplies most needed by students and teachers:


Spiral Notebooks

Composition Notebooks

Copy Paper

Hole Puncher





Color Pencils


Staple Machine and Staples



File Folders

Manila Folders

Pocket Folders


Correction Fluid (i.e. Wite-Out)

<![CDATA[Hialeah Teacher Buys School Supplies For Students In Need]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 19:03:54 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/072617+Teacher+Helps+Students.jpg

Any public school teacher, anywhere in the nation, can tell you there’s a need for donated school supplies. After 13 years teaching at a school full of immigrant kids, from families just scarping by, many of them just learning English, Jeimy Solis has seen everything.

"There's some kids that come with nothing and I pick up things when I go shopping for my personal kids, I always pick up two or three more book bags, I pick up shoes, I pick up pencils, crayons, glues, rulers, everything, basic essentials that they might need," Solis explained. 

A first-grade teacher, Solis stocks extra supplies in her classroom cabinets and passes them out to her students at South Hialeah Elementary School whenever they need them. She knows having the proper tools helps them academically and emotionally.

"I don't want the children to feel that they don't have the opportunity to be at the top because of the financial hardships they have at home," Solis said. 

According to a survey done by Communities in Schools, a non-profit organization which provides booster services for urban schools, an astounding 91% of teachers nationwide spend at least some of their own money on classroom supplies. The reasons why are not mysterious. Most teachers are in the profession because they feel it’s their calling, and they’re not going to leave an acute need unmet.

"Our boys and girls know that they come in to a teacher who cares about them, they know the difference that their teacher is making in their lives. It's unbelievable to see the heart and passion in the work that they do," said Linette Tellez, the principal at South Hialeah Elementary.

Solis sees herself in some of her students. She grew up in a single parent household and says she went through periods in her childhood when she didn’t have some basic necessities. So now she’s investing in future generations.

"If you have the means to help a child in our schools, please do, because every child deserves a chance," Solis said, imploring anyone who can to take part in the Supporting Our Schools supply drive. "If they succeed, I succeed." 

Photo Credit: NBC 6 ]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Teacher Spends Own Money on School Supplies]]> Tue, 25 Jul 2017 22:41:36 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/072517+Dontricia+Jones.jpg

Everyone knows teachers don’t do it for the money. They are notoriously underpaid, but most of them still spend their own cash on supplies for their classroom. According to the non-profit school support organization Communities in Schools, 91 percent of public school teachers dip into their own bank accounts to supplement the learning environment in their classrooms.

Norland Elementary School teacher Dontricia Jones is among that majority. We watched her drive up to her school with a trunk full of supplies and a heart full of dedication.

"I do it for the love of my profession and a love for the kids," Jones said. "Sometimes they don’t have access to those resources so as a teacher I just want to make sure that I have it so they won’t have an excuse on why they don’t have it within my classroom."

Jones is Miami-Dade’s rookie teacher of the year, and this gives you an idea of why she won that award: she’s spending more than $300 of her own money to supplement the learning process for her kids, knowing many come from poverty, with parents who can’t afford all of the required basic supplies, let alone extras.

"I do reading journals, writing journals, reflection journals, that’s three different notebooks,” Jones explained.

There’s no doubt that the efforts of teachers like Jones have an impact on kids, and they effect the students in more ways than you might imagine.

"It makes such a difference, and the kids know, that’s the best part about it, that the kids know when they’re cared for, and the teachers go above and beyond, the kids know that and they work harder, they work harder for the teachers," said Dr. Christina Ravelo, principal of Norland Elementary.

Ask any public school teacher and you’ll hear about the need for donated books, pencils, backpacks, folders, flash drives, and everything else. You’ll also hear about the reactions of kids who receive them.

"They were grateful for just having something new, having something they can call their own, so they are always thankful and appreciative of anything that I give them, whether it’s paper or all the way to a new book," Jones said.

Jones knows that no matter how well she teaches, she can’t expect success in her classroom is her students don’t have the tools to succeed. You can help the effort to make sure by donating to the NBC6 Supporting Our Schools initiative. Bring supplies of all types to the Coral Square Mall, Dadeland, The Falls, or the International Mall.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Liberty City Teacher Uses Grants To Keep Classroom Current]]> Thu, 27 Jul 2017 18:58:57 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/072717ariteachlibertypack.png

It’s not breaking news that the vast majority of teachers in the U.S. spend at least some of their own money on classroom supplies. That’s been happening forever, usually at this time of year, a few weeks before school starts.

“Self esteem goes through the roof with a brand-new uniform on. I’ve got extra paris of underwear, extra pairs of socks,” said Nancy Sale, a teacher at Lillie C. Evans K-8 Center in Liberty City.

She knows what her kids need. This isn’t Sale’s first rodeo. She’s been teaching at this Liberty City school for three decades. She always acquires a ton of extra supplies and educational tools for her classroom.

“I would think that the iPads are probably the best things that I’ve gotten for my class," Sale explained, showing us the tablets arrayed on a table.

She has 17 iPads for her students to use, and this year, something new: a robot.

"Nancy Sale money spends, with my credit card, really well," Sale said.

But “Nancy money” doesn’t pay for all of the great stuff in her classroom. How does she do it?

After 32 years of teaching, Sale has become an expert on writing grant proposals. Whether it’s DonorsChoose.org, The Education Fund or the Florida Farm Bureau, Sale has learned to navigate many charitable avenues.

“And I kept on writing grants and kept on getting them, and before you knew it, I had a whole bunch of great stuff in my classroom," Sale said.

She’s become something of a legend for her ability to take advantage of multiple sources, both local and national, to help her students.

“I actually challenged my teachers to meet with Ms. Sale in order to get an opportunity to figure out how she does it, what’s the magic so they can take advantage of it,” said the school’s principal, Bridgette Tate-Wyche.

Why does Sale go the extra mile?

“My children come with such a great disadvantage because of their income bracket and this evens up the playing field,” Sale said.

<![CDATA[Back to School Shopping Already in Full Force For Some]]> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 06:34:02 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/backtoschoolsmile.jpg

Even with the school year still over a month away in most areas, some parents have already started the annual back to school shopping ritual for their students.

The National Retail Federation figures back to school spending to be at least 10 percent higher than last year – and some retailers are trying to make it earlier and easier for you this year.

One such company is retail giant Wal-Mart, which has created an online system where parents can enter their zip code, find the school their kids attend and receive a list of supplies for their particular grade.

“(Some parents) started as early as late June and back to school season for them is going to go all the way through...even when their child is in school,” said Ana Smith from the National Retail Federation.

Parents in Florida will get a chance to save some money next month as the back-to-school sales tax holiday is from August 4th through the 6th. Some of the items exempt from taxes include clothing – including shoes and other items – selling for less than $60 per item and personal computers and accessories selling for $750 or less.

For a complete list of what items are and are not tax exempt, click on this link.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Broward Students Awarded Thousands in Scholarship Money]]> Fri, 14 Jul 2017 13:47:01 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/071417+broward+education+foundation+schoalrship+awards.jpg

This week, over 200 Broward County students got some serious financial help as they continue their education at the college level.

The Broward Education Foundation held their annual scholarship award ceremony Wednesday on the campus of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.

In all, 207 students received scholarships ranging from $500 to a full four year Florida Prepaid plan – in total, $750,000 in awards were handed out. Since the scholarship program started 34 years ago, over 5,500 students have received more than $12 million in awards.

The keynote speaker was Jammal Davenport, a previous recipient of a scholarship through the program who graduated college and created the “Sprouting Scholar Award” scholarships with his wife Amber in a partnership with BEF.

Photo Credit: Broward Education Foundation ]]>
<![CDATA[Students Gain Experience, Cash in Internship Programs]]> Wed, 12 Jul 2017 22:03:45 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/071217ariinterns.png

There's nothing wrong, of course, with teenagers taking summer jobs working retail at the mall, flipping burgers at McDonald's or preparing lattes at Starbucks.

There are, however, more challenging and more rewarding options, such as interning at a business. Thanks to the Miami-Dade Public Schools' Summer Youth Internship program, being an intern is not just for college students anymore.

"Well for many of them, it's an entree into the world of work," said Lupe Ferran Diaz, the school district's director of career and technical education. "But in addition, the networking, the fact that they do get academic credit, and if you talk to a few of these young people, they'll tell you they're changing the world, changing Miami."

More than a dozen businesses and institutions are taking part in this year's internship program, sponsoring more than 1,700 high school students from all over the county. Thanks to community partners, including the Children's Trust, the rising seniors get paid for their work.

“They come back better focused individuals, more mature. They know what it's like to actually work, to save money," Ferran Diaz said.

NBC 6 watched students at a tech training company called i2Labs design a video gaming tournament for high schools, which they plan on making a reality in the fall.

At a company called Proper John Music, interns were busy learning how to write lyrics, compose melodies, make music videos and more, all while using state-of-the-art computer programs. This is a tech-savvy generation, so what do they get out of these internships?

"A sense of the marketing world because I never had any experience when it came to that," said Hugens Casimir of North Miami High.

D'Avian Williams, a student at Miami Lakes Tech, said, “I’m learning how to sell and fundraise to people, how to talk to people and how to manage a whole entire business.”

Some students told NBC 6 just being in a creative environment, surrounded by other students who share their interests, is inspiring.

“In my creative process, whether it's learning how to write what I'm feeling, putting pen to paper and saying exactly what needs to be said," said Daniel Tomassi of Mourning High, explaining what he valued most from his internship.

The internships aren't a one-way street. The business owners benefit from the presence of the teenagers as well.

“They've been amazingly helpful with social media, they understand it more than my generation, and so they've been really helpful promoting our message, our actual content," said John Stewart, owner of Proper John Music. "I like the idea of not just finding talent that already exists but really developing it from the ground up."

In Stewart's case, the target demographic skews way young for a product he's involved with, the BattleMe rap music app. So grooming young talent helps his business and the students, too. Everybody wins.

<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Achieves No 'F' Schools in Latest State Grades]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 19:58:03 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/miami+dade+schools+logo.jpg

Weeks after the end of the 2016-17 academic year, Miami-Dade schools are celebrating an achievement almost two decades in the making.

With the release of the Florida Department of Education’s grades for each school and county across the state, Miami-Dade did not have one single school get a “F” grade after last year.

It’s the culmination of work that started in 1999 when 26 schools received that grade – a number that was down to 15 in 2015 and seven in 2016.

The county as a whole got a “B” grade for the eighth straight academic year – grades that use a variety of factors, including standardized test scores, graduation rates, students in advances classes and more.

Broward County also has plenty to cheer about as well, coming up with just two total non-charter schools having “F” grades. Overall, Broward received a “B” grade for the fourth straight year.

Across the state, the percentage of schools with “A” or “B” grades rose to 57 percent from 46 percent last year while the number of “F” schools decreased from 111 last year to 43 in 2017.

For a complete list of each school’s grade, click on this link.

<![CDATA[Gov. Scott in Miami Wednesday to Sign College Loans Bill]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 06:36:16 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/022117+florida+state+university+westcott+fountain.jpg

Florida Governor Rick Scott will be in Miami on Wednesday, signing a bill aimed at helping to make college more affordable for all residents – as well as making sure they don’t go into substantial debt in the process.

Scott will sign Senate Bill 396 into law at an afternoon event on the downtown campus of Miami Dade College. Starting this academic year, colleges and universities that disperse financial aid will have to provide information annually to students about loans they borrowed that year, and how much they have to pay back.

This bill is aimed to provide better transparency for students of Florida colleges and universities.

Scott will also talk about ways the state can make college more affordable for students - in hope of continuing to give students an equal opportunity at an education.

Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Free Coding Camp For Low-Income Kids]]> Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:25:39 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/coding+boot+camp.jpg

Walk into the Big Brothers, Big Sisters headquarters building in Miami and it looks like school never ended. Instead of hanging out at the beach, the park, or the mall, there’s a group of high school kids designing currency exchange apps. It’s all part of a computer coding boot camp, a six-week free program for low-income students. All they have to bring is effort and a willingness to learn.

“So we can close the economic divide,” said Arnie Gurnin of the Florida Vocational Institute. “The divide that exists for minorities and tech, and create a spark, a spark of interest so students can really understand the opportunities available to them.”

Partnering with CareerSource South Florida, an initiative called TechLaunch@FVI, part of the Florida Vocational Institute, is running computer programming camps for 400 students, spread out over several locations in Miami-Dade County.

“Initially, we had over 900 kids apply and the interest across the entire city has been amazing,” Gurnin said. “We know how quickly jobs are changing, everything is innovating around technology.”

Some of the kids in the camp are receiving their first-ever exposure to coding, and that’s one of the goals of the boot camp program, to simply expose the students to the field.

“It really opens a lot of doorways so we can, like experiment, it’s really cool,” said Eliseo Sierra, a rising junior at Coral Park High School.

In one week, students create their apps, giving them a taste of success which shows them they can do it, they can shoot for careers in the tech world.

“I’ve been kind of interested in technology so this is a good chance for me,” explained Paula Salazar, also a Coral Park High student.

By some estimates, there are one million tech jobs either available now or being created in the United States.

“I’m learning how to do more stuff than just making games, so if it doesn’t work with that I can still do something in technology,” said camper Esgar Philistin, a student at Turner Tech High School.

“Doing something in technology” doesn’t mean just a tech company like Google. Healthcare, logistics, tourism are just some of the industries in South Florida which need techies.

“Kids that are willing to give up those casual summer days to really learn about careers in tech and how they can participate in these future careers is gonna have a huge impact on our community in the near-term and as Miami continues to evolve into a tech center,” Gurnin said.

Next week, the students move on to working on cyber security, and at the end of the six week program, they can earn Microsoft certification. Instead of sunburns, the coding camp kids will go back to high school with confidence and possibly, a sense of career direction.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Police Urge Parents to Limit Kids' Free Time This Summer]]> Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:05:33 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/fw-zoo-summer-camp.jpg

Now that Miami-Dade and Broward counties have completed their academic school years, police are urging parents to keep students busy and safe this summer.

Three teenagers were shot after a pool party in Pembroke Pines on Sunday night, a crime that follows a recurring pattern. Violent juvenile crimes, drug use and petty crimes are all more common during the summer, according to police.

“Free time is the worst thing a teenager or pre-teen can have,” Hialeah Police spokesman Carl Zogby said. “Historically, there’s always been an increase in juvenile crimes in the summer, peer pressure, too much unsupervised time, they get bored and they get into trouble.”

Zogby said parents should know exactly what their kids are doing during the summer because “even good kids can get into trouble.” While summer camp, internships and jobs can keep students out of trouble throughout the day, they still have free time at night.

“Know who they’re hanging out with,” Zogby said. “If they’re going to a friend’s house, know that friend.”

Police recommend that parents use phone apps or other resources to keep track of their teenagers’ whereabouts. Similarly, children younger than 10 shouldn’t be left home alone, police said. If a child is mature enough, he or she can be left alone for a limited number of hours but shouldn’t be alone at night.

“Have [a] direct line of communication with your kids,” Zogby said. “Don’t let your kids think that he or she can spend hours under the radar where they don’t have to report to you and you’re not checking where they are.”

Photo Credit: Fort Worth Zoo]]>
<![CDATA[Fla. Students Showed Improvement on State Testing This Year]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2017 06:08:43 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/generic+school+desk+books+student+pencil.jpg

As the 2016-17 school year comes to a close, the state is celebrating the latest results of testing that show an improvement in various subjects.

The Department of Education announced the results of annual FSA testing, with a two percent increase in passing grades for both the English language arts and math tests. Results in the Algebra 1 test – one of the two required to pass for graduation from high school – increased by six percent.

Science test results remained consistent, while there was a slight increase in both the civics and U.S. history test results. The state also said the achievement gap between white and African American students in math narrowed over the results of previous year’s testing.

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will hold a Friday press conference to detail the increased scores among students in the county.

For a complete list of how each county performed as well as each individual school, click on this link.

<![CDATA[Learning Programs For South Florida Students This Summer]]> Thu, 08 Jun 2017 20:03:37 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/060817+Summer+Programs+for+Students.jpg

School’s out for summer! We all know what that means, time for kids to have fun, go to camp, and hopefully, not become brain-dead zombies. Teachers will tell you, though, that a lot of students come back to school in the fall, having forgotten much of what they learned during the last school year. So is there a way to prevent the backsliding?

“The best thing that a parent can do is make sure that there is constant stimulation of the mind, body, and spirit for students over the summer,” said Dan Gohl, chief academic officer of Broward Public Schools. “That’s what school does, in a structured environment, give students something to have to respond to and learn.”

Broward and Miami-Dade Schools have a variety of ways to keep kids academically engaged over the summer months.

Broward County partnered with the school district to create summer learning programs at all the county libraries. The details can be found at www.browardschools.com, but the simple idea is to encourage parents to emphasize reading. The school district is also promoting the fact that all students have access to on-line enrichment tools such as Khan Academy, i-Ready, and Naviance.

Miami-Dade Schools just opened up its E-Learning Toolbox for all grade levels. Students can access it through the student portals, and it’s designed to keep kids academically engaged all summer. Go to www.dadeschools.net for more summer learning opportunities.

Gohl says parents should focus on providing constant reminders of learning so young brains don’t completely shut out academics during the summer months.

“That is books in the home, that is experiences in the community, and that is conversation every day,” Gohl said.

Just about every school, at every grade level, has summer reading requirements. That’s a start, but to get kids to go further, some offer prizes for doing the most work on computer programs like i-Ready.

So there’s your pro tip, parents. Incentivize summer learning! Maybe offering rewards for reading books or completing a research project or writing an essay can work for your family. Before you know it, the kids will be back in school, and they need to be game-ready.

<![CDATA[Ed. Funding a Central Part of Special Legislative Session]]> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 12:02:23 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/generic+classroom.JPG

As the Florida Legislature gets ready to start their three day special session on Wednesday, one of the three funding topics being discussed is a source of contention across the state – money for education.

The original budget sent to Governor Rick Scott included $20 billion for education, with $11 billion of that coming from the state. Leaders in both chambers have added a reported $215 million to that budget, a move that some education leaders say is a step in the right direction.

“We’ve gone from a starvation level budget to a significantly improved budget,” Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. “We went from an increase of $24 per student to about $100 per student.”

While some are happy, public school advocates are concerned about House Bill 7069, which would expand the use of charter schools throughout the state and provide bonuses to high performing teachers and principals.

The budget also lists $654,000 in funding for security at Jewish day schools throughout the state – a first in the state’s history – in the wake of recent threats. Scott was at a Jewish day school in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday to discuss the issue in depth.

"Children are our children regardless of whether they go to a public school or a non public school," said Rabbi Yossi Kastan, the head of school for Brauser Maimonides Academy.   I think our role is to protect our children regardless of which school they wish to go to.

Scott on Monday defended his latest round of budget vetoes, which set a modern-day record for a governor but came from a long list of spending projects, including money intended for public universities and compensation for homeowners whose trees were torn down by the state.

Scott late last week vetoed nearly $11.9 billion from the state budget as part of a private deal he worked out with legislative leaders.

Legislators will return to the state Capitol for a three-day special session where they are expected to pass a new budget for public schools that will be higher than the one they adopted in early May.

Scott's veto total - which was about 14 percent of the entire $82.4 billion budget - included the main state account that goes to public schools. But the governor also vetoed roughly 400 projects worth nearly $410 million that were placed in the budget by Republicans and Democrats.

For weeks, Scott had feuded with legislators because they refused to set aside money for his top priorities, and he had threatened to veto the entire budget. But under the deal, legislators will use money vetoed by Scott to pay for tourism marketing, a new fund aimed at attracting businesses to the state, and to increase school funding.

But Scott's vetoes hit hard, especially for the state's public universities, which lost more than $108 million. Scott also eliminated $37.4 million that was going to go to homeowners in Broward and Lee counties whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker.

Some counties that are home to top Republican legislators - including Miami-Dade, Pasco and Pinellas counties - had a long list of budget vetoes. Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, who had several projects vetoed, tweeted out that “we won't stop fighting for the worthy projects Floridians need, want and deserve.''

During a stop in Panama City, Scott maintained that his vetoes did not target any legislators who had upset him this year.

“We look at every line to see whether it's good for Florida families,'' Scott said.

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican who had pushed for the canker payments, downplayed the vetoes and said that a lot of other things he pushed escaped Scott's veto pen.

“I'm an optimist,'' said Diaz, who lost nearly $54 million to budget vetoes. “There were a lot of important things for my community that did not get vetoed.''

<![CDATA[S.W.A.G on 6: Santiago Brito]]> Fri, 02 Jun 2017 21:45:39 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/259*120/060217+swag+on+6.jpg

Chess has taken Santiago Brito a long way. As a child chess prodigy in Cuba, Santiago was competing in a tournament in Mexico when his parents decided that one day, they would defect to the United States. That day came a couple of years ago, when they made it to South Florida.

"To be a good chess player, you need dedication, a lot of thinking and basically, contemplate every possibility that you see on the chess board, and you can apply that knowledge to life," Santiago explains, as he plays against one of his chess club buddies. 

You could say that Santiago and his two best friends have found success through chess. All three are recent immigrants from Cuba, all three graduated from Braddock Senior High School this week near the top of their class, and all three earned full scholarships to college. Santiago didn’t arrive at Braddock until 11th grade, but made straight “A’s” anyway.

"I didn't know how to speak the language so I had to adjust," Santiago said, in a massive understatement. 

Santiago was only in school for five months, still learning English, when he passed his FSA exams. From there, he went straight into mainstream, AP classes.

"To do what he has done in two years is not just a great sight, it's humbling to see kids do that," said Manuel Garcia, Braddock's principal and himself a Cuban immigrant.

Santiago led Braddock’s chess club to a second place finish at the national scholastic chess tournament , but that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to give the game back to the next generation, so he turned the chess club into a mentoring group, organizing chess tutoring sessions for the little kids at the elementary school around the corner.

"They didn't know how to play or move the pieces but little by little we started and at the end they knew how to play and how to think." 

Santiago thinks deeply about his future, and about the past he left behind. He’s grateful to be in the United States.

"I have the possibility here of choosing my own school, my own classes, and the career path I want to take," Santiago said.

Even though they’ve cleared similar obstacles, his friends from Cuba see Santiago as a shining example of what is possible. 

"If someone like him can do it starting from zero here, people born in this country, if they don't do it it's because they didn't try hard enough," said Carlos Garcia, who will be attending Emory University on scholarship.

Santiago certainly tried hard, in the classroom and everywhere else, and it paid off for him and for his classmates.

"He's a very competitive guy, and I'm a very competitive guy, too, so we have pushed each other to overcome many challenges," said Alberto Machin, who is going to Rice University on scholarship next fall.

Speaking of challenges, next on the list for Santiago is becoming a mechanical engineer. He’ll begin his studies in the Honors College of Miami-Dade College. 

<![CDATA[High School Grads Reflect on Past Obstacles At Graduation]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 18:19:07 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/215*120/060117+booker+t+high+school+graduation+%28005%29.jpg

Odalys Villanueva spent a week in prison for attempting to enter the U.S. before authorities sent her back to Honduras. Cancer left Miriam Marlow partially blind. Nonetheless, both overcame adversity to be among the 150 students who graduated from Booker T. Washington High School on Thursday morning.

For Marlow, the formal celebration came after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, a type that is “diagnosed at a younger age than most other adult cancers,” according to the American Cancer Society. She first learned she had cancer, which has resulted in limited vision, when she was in eighth grade.

Marlow missed multiple school days and also started to suffer from poor vision. It was determined that she had “severe” glaucoma, she said.

Still, Marlow was able to maintain a 3.6 GPA, she told NBC 6, and has plans to attend Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.

For Villanueva, the school’s SGA president and valedictorian, the circumstances were different. When she was 5 years old, Villanueva and her aunt were arrested in Mexico while trying to reach the U.S. from Honduras.

After seven days in jail, she and her aunt were sent back to Honduras. Two years later, though, Villanueva reached the U.S. She enrolled at Booker T. Washington as an ESOL student and concluded her high school career with a 4.5 GPA, she told NBC 6. Villanueva plans to attend Florida International University.

Villanueva and Marlow’s abilities to overcome obstacles were on display at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Thursday.

For Villanueva, her family’s influence made the accomplishment even more significant.

“I was just trying to get where my parents wanted me to be,” Villanueva said.

<![CDATA[The Parent Toolkit Informing and Empowering Parents]]> Wed, 31 May 2017 18:26:25 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/parent+toolkit.jpg

It’s high school graduation season, which means a new crop of college kids, leaving home soon. Now is the time for parents to talk to their teenagers about the challenges on the horizon, and the Parent Toolkit, designed as a free resource by NBC News, can help.

“The takeaway is that there’s support, it empowers parents, and sometimes parents don’t know where to go, this is a one-stop shop, parents can get as many resources as they’re looking for,”said Jayne Greenberg of Miami-Dade Public Schools.

Greenberg helped NBC with content for the website. It launched in 2014, concentrating on the K-12 years, and just added a section called Life After High School. With a few clicks on www.parenttoolkit.com, parents can find advice on just about every issue that comes up.

“How to talk to your child about proper nutrition, study habits, there’s also conversation starters regarding underage drinking, consent, topics that sometimes are difficult for parents to speak to their children about,” Greenberg said.

For example, there’s a video on making healthy, cheap meals in a dorm room, another one that teaches proper body language for a job interview, and more. Just the thought of going away to college creates anxieties in some high school students.

“Of all of them, I think the biggest one is financial and not being able to go to college because of money,” said Claudia Teran, a student at iPrep Academy.

The Parent Toolkit has a section on Financial Literacy and dealing with money issues.

Another frequently-mentioned source of stress is the fear of being homesick.

“Leaving my family, leaving my friends, too, is also a big anxiety, I feel like I’m gonna be alone out of the state just doing my education,” said Natalie Balladares, also a student at iPrep Academy.

The Toolkit has extensive advice on how to talk to your kids about social and emotional issues. The bottom line for parents? Your job never ends, even if school eventually does.

<![CDATA[Classmates Cheer on Davie Nat'l Spelling Bee Contestant]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 11:29:00 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/053117+Simone+Kaplan+local+spelling+bee+contestant.jpg

It was not a typical day in Mrs. Garcia’s homeroom fifth grade class at St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Davie. On Wednesday, there was a definite buzz, but it focused on Mrs. DiBattista, the school's gifted program teacher, and the day's lessons.

The fifth graders at the school were glued to a TV screen watching their classmate, Simone Kaplan, compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.  

Kaplan won the Broward County competition, which enabled her to advance to the national round. Kaplan’s best friend, Isabella Lopez, heard about it almost immediately.

“She told me about the spelling bee and she was really excited," Lopez said. "I mean really, really excited. I mean like jumping for joy."

It’s no surprise that Kaplan is competing for the $40,000 top prize.

Mrs.Garcia said Kaplan is a hard working student, the kind that every teacher loves to have in their classroom. 

“She’s an avid reader and she loves to learn," Mrs. Garcia said. "She has a passion for learning."

Kaplan has such a thirst for knowledge that she studied about 100,000 words to prepare for the national competition. In fact, the wordsmith innocently offers assistance in the classroom.

“Sometimes she’ll correct me, if I make a mistake in writing," Mrs. DiBattista said. "‘Oh, that’s not how you write it.’ Oh, that’s ok. I’m not perfect. Everybody makes mistakes."

Her class watched Kaplan take her turn this morning, correctly spelling “fibula” in the second round. The grade schooler couldn’t hear the cheers coming from Davie, but it’s clear she’s a rock star.

"Good luck Simone," Lopez said. "You’re my best friend and I know you can do it."

Vasundara Govindarajan and Tyler Berndt join Kaplan as spelling bee participants from South Florida. 

Photo Credit: Scripps National Spelling Bee ]]>
<![CDATA[Norland High Students Celebrate Release of New Book]]> Tue, 30 May 2017 18:25:24 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/053017+norland+high+student+authors.jpg

The stories of pain and heartache were published in a new book written by a group of students at Miami Norland Senior High School. 

Teacher Glenda Moton spearheaded the project which is part of an election class called “Freshman Experience”. She said she got the idea after having a disheartening conversation with her students about their lives in a violence-prone community.

“They refer to Miami Gardens as Murder Gardens. I thought that was really interesting. And, basically thought to myself can anything good come out of Miami Gardens,” said Moton. "It just came to me ‘I think, I read, I write.’”

When the students submitted their entries, their stories, narratives and poems were so powerful, Moton took the work of 16 students and printed the 1st edition of ” iRead, iThink, iWrite.” The students' book signing was held Tuesday.

"It's students telling their stories that are poignant, that are deep, that talks about hope, change, violence,” said Moton.

The book offers a glimpse of life through these young eyes. Freshman Rodney Vaughn thought he would forever have his father until a deadly disease robbed his life just last year.

"When he died, it really impacted and imprinted in my mind throughout my life. So, when I talk about it, people know how I felt and how it affected me,” explained Vaughn.

The stories are real and they offer perspective of adversity and strain in the lives of the young students that so many others are immune to. At Tuesday’s book signing, one student read an excerpt from the poem “Little Sister”, which is featured in the book:

"Never forget the calls. Never forget we possess black love, but in place we like to possess black guns and shoot down the ones we're taught to love".

The book’s simple premise is to teach the complexities of connection with self-emotion and to put it to paper in expressive literature. The group of sophomores used its experiences to capitalize on the rare opportunity to be published.

"This is something they'll never forget and its' something they can put on their college resume,” Moton said.

The book is available for sale online and Amazon is expected to sell it on its website. Moton hopes the program can expand across the district.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Ruben Mercado]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 20:57:36 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/278*120/brag+on+6.jpg

Ruben Mercado embodies the classic immigrant story. When he was a kid, his family bounced from one tiny apartment to the next, struggling but always happy just to be in the United States. Fast-forward to his senior year at Northeast High School in Oakland Park, and Ruben is a campus icon. Students are signing each other’s yearbooks, and Ruben is feeling gratified by the notes of appreciation he’s getting from his peers.

"Sometimes you're just trying to help somebody else, but you don't really think that you're going to have such a profound impact. When you do, when they come back to you, it's like, 'Wow, I did something,'" said Ruben.

Ruben’s done more than something, he’s done a ton of things at Northeast.

"He's achieved so much and just seeing him achieve and accomplish so many great things has pushed and motivated me," said Shannon Stever, a classmate.

Ruben is the senior class salutatorian, which means he has the second-highest GPA. He leads four different service clubs while still finding time to tutor his classmates, inspiring them by example.

"He has this confidence about him that, it's not like arrogance at all, it's a confidence that encourages other people to be just as strong as he is," said Anthony Collins, a classmate.

Ruben doesn’t like to talk much about his past. But last week at the senior awards event, Ruben gave a keynote speech in which he told his family’s story, how they left their native country fearing for their lives, and left everything behind to make it to the United States.

“There was not a single dry eye in the room,” said Ruben’s best friend, Kelvin Kirkland.

His humble beginnings in this country still inspire Ruben every day.

"All the hard work that you do, staying up in the middle of the night, literally tears, working for 'A's', I always said anything below an 'A' is not acceptable, and it was because I knew that my path was harder," Ruben explained.

Ruben won a full scholarship to UCF through TheDream.US foundation, which supports immigrant kids. His buddy, Kelvin, is going to FIU to play football.

"In times when I needed a friend, he was always there, classmate, he's always there ot help me with my work, to be honest, what he's given me is more valuable than what I can put into words," Kelvin said.

Ruben leaves a legacy of achievement and superlatives at Northeast.

"Extraordinary, extra, extra, extra ordinary," said his college advisor, Shedly Casseus-Parnther, describing her favorite student. “If he speaks and you don't feel it, it's because you didn't hear him."

So what’s next for this extraordinary young man? He wants to become a physician, with a dream of working with Doctors Without Borders somewhere in the Third World.

"You help everybody and you try to save as many lives as you can, that's my main ultimate goal," Ruben said.

Ruben has a habit of reaching his goals. Hard work and perseverance gets him there.

“I’ve come a long way, and I’m really grateful for that,” Ruben said.

<![CDATA[Student Vets at West Broward High Celebrate Birth of Foal]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 19:09:40 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052417+foal+west+broward+high.jpg

The veterinary program at West Broward High School has a new star. She’s 95 pounds of nock-kneed, fluffy equine charm, a foal named Wishes, who was born Tuesday morning.

“She’s really cute!” exclaimed Melinda Hooton, speaking for every student who sees Wishes.

A group of students in the program have been waiting for the foal’s birth since her mom, a mare named Lizzie, was artificially inseminated 372 days ago.

“I’m thinking it’s unreal, it’s so amazing to be able to work with her,” said Jaclyn Cross, a junior at West Broward High. “We’ve been talking about the foal for so long, we’ve been waiting for her and everyone’s so excited.”

The school’s principal agrees Wishes is an adorable horse, of course, but also sees an extraordinary learning opportunity here for her students.

“Just to see what they’ve learned in the classroom, for them to be able to experience it, that’s hands-on, and that’s what we want to do here,” said Principal Teresa Hall.

It can’t get much more hands-on. The kids in the vet program have taken part in the entire process, from breeding Lizzie, through her pregnancy, to the birth at 4 AM.

“We have had a couple of difficulties throughout and they’ve gotten to use that as a learning opportunity, different things that can happen, how do we prevent those? How do we treat those? And they’ve been so involved,” said Tara Terribile, the lead teacher in the veterinary program.

We watched students taking turns brushing and walking Wishes, giving Lizzie medicine, and generally champing at the bit to get involved.

“We’re extremely excited to work with her and see how she grows,” said student Carly Mandel. “This is actually a really big deal because we’ve never had anything like this before.”

The kids already know the basics of how to care for mares and stallions. Now they’re seeing the full horse life cycle.

“Born yesterday, so the kids have gotten to come in and start learning how to handle a newborn foal and what it takes to get that newborn foal healthy,” Terribile said.

One day, she’ll be an equestrian show horse, like her mom and dad. In the meantime, she’s charming everyone.

“It’s a pretty cute horse!” Terribile said, laughing, knowing she sounds like her students.

We at NBC6 would just like to say best Wishes to Lizzie and all the humans involved.

Photo Credit: NBC 6/ Ari Odzer]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Ronald Reagan Senior High in Doral]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 18:33:19 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052217+brag+about+ronald+reagan+doral.jpg

It has zero magnet programs to attract students from far-flung areas of the county, and that’s just fine with everyone at Ronald Reagan Senior High School in Doral. The school takes great pride in being a local institution which nurtures the local kids.

"We are very proud to say that we develop our students from the neighborhood, our local students, and we make them flourish," said principal Juan Carlos Boue.

The home of the Bison has five academies, including the Cambridge Program, a Classical and Fine Arts academy, Information and Communications Technology, and the Teaching Academy.

"The whole idea is to mold them into studying education through various areas," said Karla Lopez, the teacher who teaches students how to teach.

With guidance from FIU professors, the students in the program learn education techniques and practice them when they tutor their peers, many of whom are just learning English.

"It has nurtured that passion that I've had for teaching and from a spark I can say it became a wildfire," said Cristian Cancino, a sophomore in the Teaching Academy.

The Global Trade and Logistics Academy trains students to step into the import-export economy, which in South Florida, is largely centered in Doral, with its proximity to Miami International Airport.

"The timing of things being delivered, how long is it gonna take from Miami to Europe, a package that might be delivered," said Boue, explaining one of the aspects of international trade that students learn in the academy.

The school’s commitment to the arts is impressive. The Reagan Singers chorale group has won awards at the state and national levels. The school also features concert, jazz, and rock bands, in addition to dance and theatre troupes, painting and 3D digital art, and photography. It’s all part of the school’s effort to give students avenues to express their creativity.

"It provides them with an opportunity to do something different, we are currently living in a world that is very STEM-oriented and while that is very important, there is a push for STEAM, and we need the arts and we need to encourage the other side of the brain," said chorale director Alicia Romero-Sardinas.

In the ten years since it opened, Doral’s only traditional public high school has become a pillar of the community. Many newly-arrived immigrants from South America take English classes at the school at night while their kids attend Reagan High in the day time. It’s an entry point to the American dream. Every year, the Home of the Bison sends some of its students to the best colleges in the state and nation, and others into the workforce and military.

Photo Credit: Ari Odzer/NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Program Teaches South Florida Students Filmmaking Basics]]> Wed, 14 Jun 2017 18:54:39 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/061417+south+florida+student+filmmakers.jpg

It was sort of like a boot camp for student filmmakers. High school students were given professional gear and intense instruction over spring break, and tasked with making short films.

"We took the kids from the beginning concept of writing a script to actually producing it, filming it, and showing a final product,” said Paul Antoine of Florida Film House, a Miami-based production company.

Florida Film House came up with a program called First Take, designed to teach kids from inner city schools the basics of film making. They’re hoping to inspire the next generation of actors, directors, producers, cinematographers, and every other profession involved with the movie business.

"This taught me that I do want to be in the film industry,” said Monica Bissainche, who just graduated from Edison High School.

All of the kids involved in the project are from Overtown and Liberty City. Their films reflect their neighborhoods and their own lives. Dividing into teams, they made three short films, with themes including absentee fatherhood, crime and punishment, and disrespecting women. They say it’s all about honesty.

"We’re gonna make sure this is with emotion, we’re doing it for a reason, we’re doing it with purpose," said Tiffany Ortiz, from Booker T. Washington High School.

The films they’ve made are going to be screened Sunday afternoon at the American Black Film Festival in Miami. The kids aren’t competing for prizes, but they are competing for recognition of their talents.

"I feel amazing, I feel like I could probably go anywhere, audition, and I’d nail it," said Wilson Remy, who acted in one of the films. "First Take, Florida Film House, they really gave me the chance to prove myself."

Florida Film House had help from the community organization, Urgent, Inc., which empowers teenagers to stay away from gangs and violence. Turns out, making movies is a team exercise in which everyone learns important life skills such as problem solving and cooperation.

"There's gonna be conflict, I learned, and you have to be patient," said Marcus Williams, one of the student filmmakers.

So how did the films turn out? The pros say they’re amazed and proud of their students.

"These kids, when they actually put their minds to doing something, and they have someone in the community actually pushing them, it’s nothing that they can’t achieve," Antoine said.

Florida Film House is hoping to expand the program next school year. So First Take may lead to many more takes in the future.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: School for Advanced Studies' Alyson Diaz]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 18:28:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/alyson+diaz.jpg

It’s hard to stand out at the School for Advanced Studies. SAS is a public high school in which all students simultaneously take college and high school classes. Students graduate with both an AA degree and a high school diploma. It’s a haven for academically driven kids.

Alyson Diaz, a Mexican immigrant, managed to stand out by not only graduating Summa Cum Laude but also by taking on an activist role after school.

“She doesn’t just talk it, she actually takes action in getting things done,” said counselor Jose Fraga. “She inspires people because of her involvement and her desire to improve a situation.”

Alyson created a project called Behind the Badge. Her goal is to improve relations between police officers and teenagers, especially minority teens.

“So I want to mesh my respect for law enforcement and my initiative to unite them with the community to try to prevent some of those incidents that happened in Ferguson and Baton Rouge,” Alyson said.

Behind the Badge was recognized by Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez, who saw its potential for success. The idea came to her after Alyson started volunteering as an advocate at Teen Court, which tries to straighten out non-violent, misdemeanor juvenile offenders.

“Get on to the right path and also unite them with the officers because a lot of the things that I heard while interviewing the kids at teen court was that they don’t trust law enforcement,” Alyson said.

Her teenage peers see Alyson’s work as inspiring and groundbreaking, totally different from the usual high school service projects.

“Her project made us more comfortable getting involved in our community in subjects that a lot of people don’t want to broach, I have a lot more respect for law enforcement in my community after seeing the work that Alyson has done,” said Maria Pita, who will be rooming with Alyson at Duke University in the fall.

“Doing extracurricular activities like hers and still be on top of the game, to me it’s an inspiration,” said Augustin Biancardi, a fellow senior at SAS.

Alyson learned something about human nature. She says it wasn’t easy to recruit classmates to get involved in what some see as a controversial cause.

“Because it was easier to stand back and you know, kind of ignore the issue that’s happening today and I didn’t want to do that,” Alyson explained.

She’s not stopping now. Eventually Alyson wants to be a lawyer, but first things first: when she gets to college, she wants to open a chapter of Behind the Badge.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade College Faces Massive Budget Cuts]]> Wed, 17 May 2017 18:22:29 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000029597832_1200x675_946485315652.jpg

Florida's budget is calling for cuts to community colleges and is leaving many South Florida students, including at Miami-Dade College, concerned about their futures.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School: Fort Lauderdale High School]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 19:06:28 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/051517+Ft+Laud+High+School.jpg

How many schools have a Half Century Alumni Club? In South Florida, most aren’t old enough. Fort Lauderdale High School is one of the exceptions. It’s been turning out graduates since 1915. The Home of the Flying L’s is 103 years old, loaded with tradition, but not locked in the past.

It has the Cambridge magnet program, which includes innovative courses designed to spark intellectual curiosity. The principal says the ethos of the Cambridge program has spread throughout all the academic classes in the school.

“We don’t want them just to get a grade, we want them to want to learn, to know not the answer to every question, but what’s the right question to ask,” said Principal Priscilla Ribeiro, explaining her educational philosophy.

Students certainly learn those skills in the debate club, which is one of the county’s best. There’s perhaps no better example of Ribeiro’s philosophy in action than what we saw in the law studies magnet program. The school has a built-in courtroom that looks every bit like the real thing. Students use it to stage mock trials, and they learn all facets of the criminal justice system.

“They learn the actual federal rules of evidence, they learn proper procedure, they learn pre-trial motions,” said Dan Katz, a former attorney who now teaches the law class. “So you get to learn all about the legal field but it’s not just about the law, it’s also about any of our public services.”

Speaking of public service, Fort Lauderdale High has an extensive firefighter training program. It prepares students for potential careers saving lives, either as first responders or as doctors, nurses, and technicians in the health care field. So the school combines academic rigor with career training for kids who want it.

They’ve got a culinary program run by a Ritz-Carlton veteran. Of course, it’s farm to table, keeping up with the latest trend. Students grow their own veggies and herbs and then use them in the kitchen. They’re building up their resumes to work in Florida’s largest industry, the service economy.

“Not only do they learn how to cook but they can also become very competitive in the marketplace in the food service industry, whether it’s culinary or even hospitality,” said Chef Jerry Guajardo, who runs the culinary program.

It could be said that Fort Lauderdale High School is creating a new tradition: producing graduates ready for anything, for any career path.

<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Deerfield Beach High's Bendji Fleuridor]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 18:36:52 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/051217+Bendji+Fleuridor.jpg

Imagine moving to the United States from Haiti and enrolling in high school in 10th grade. You’re a year behind the other kids already, and they don’t have to deal with all that intense culture shock. Not to mention this major handicap: you don’t speak a word of English.

"That was really hard, that was really hard, I spent all my nights, all my days learning English,” said Bendji Fleuridor, a senior at Deerfield Beach High School.

The Latin phrase "carpe diem" was coined for kids like Bendji. He seized the opportunity of being in this country and excelled. In every class.

“I only had straight A’s, straight A’s, no B’s, no C’s, straight A’s, even though I didn’t speak English, because I study everything,” Bendji said. “I started taking honors classes, AP classes, and everything.”

The first teacher he had recognized right away that he had a genius-level kid in his class, a student who combined inspiration with perspiration.

“He's a rare kid,” said Frantz Edouard, the math teacher who saw Bendji’s potential. “As smart as he is, his work ethic is one reason he’s so successful because he will not go into a test, not go into an exam without preparation.”

All the intense studying and preparation has paid off. Bendji earned a full academic scholarship to Florida Atlantic University, but he’s not content to succeed on his own, he’s trying to pull his classmates along, too.

"He always here to empower us, give us more strength to go forward,” said Magdaelle Papin, one of many Haitian-immigrant peers who goes to tutoring sessions given by Bendji. “He always inspires us to do our best.”

That’s how he spends his spare time. You’ll find Bendji after school helping classmates understand math and other subjects, and it’s not just the Creole-speaking kids. Bendji has a global vision to help his immigrant peers.

“That is from my heart, because I know when I first came here, that was really hard for me, it was really harsh,” Bendji says, laughing as he recalls his sophomore year. “You know how long it took me to know one sentence in English? That was really hard!"

So now it’s on to Spanish?

"He’s trying to learn Spanish just to help the Spanish kids,” said Taglionie Valeus, one of Bendji’s classmates.

Science is a universal language. On the day we visited, Bendji was with a group of students shooting off water rockets, and Bendji was teaching them how to calculate the height of each launch.

He’s already shooting for the moon, planning on majoring in engineering, while staying grounded in his community.

"I'm really, really satisfied, even when I go off to college I’m still gonna come back, I’m coming back just to help them,” Bendji said.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Marlins Visit Students for 'Think Tank' Week]]> Wed, 10 May 2017 19:20:56 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000029483076_1200x675_940907587737.jpg

The Miami Marlins visited local students to talk about baseball and math as part of the team's Think Tank week. NBC 6 's Julia Bagg reports.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - North Miami Beach Sr. High]]> Mon, 08 May 2017 18:26:02 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/NorthMiamiBeachSeniorHigh.JPG

Since it opened in 1971, North Miami Beach Senior High School has produced distinguished alumni ranging from Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg to rock star Perry Farrell to author Brad Meltzer. The home of the Chargers is still charging ahead with innovative programs to feed the passions of students, whether it's 3D digital design or engineering and robotics.

"The perception is that we're just a normal school but the reality is that we produce quality students," said Principal Randy Milliken, who has been at NMB High in one capacity or another for 29 years.

The school has three magnet programs, including a high-level science curriculum known as BEAM.

"BEAM refers to biomedical and environmental strand that offers our students one of the greatest opportunities in Miami-Dade county public schools to expose themselves to real science, hands-on activities," said the science department chair, Vania Boeva.

Speaking of hands-on experience, we watched the JROTC program students participate in a disaster simulation drill. They practiced their first-responder skills on fellow students who were posing as bloody trauma victims of a hurricane.

"These students work very hard on this, day to day basis, and we try to make it realistic for them," explained JROTC leader sergeant Peter Serrano. "We've had students that because they've learned this, now they want to jump in the medical field."

The school also has iPrep Academy and the AP Capstone magnet program, which sends kids to the Ivy League and other top colleges and universities every year.

"We've got several kids in the NFL and we've got several police and fire people that we're just as proud of," Milliken said.

It could be said that NMB High has the entire academic spectrum covered, from the magnet programs for advanced students to another program which utilizes general education kids to tutor and mentor kids who have special needs. It's called FIT, which stands for Friends In Training, and it creates bonds between the special needs kids and everyone else, as they help them learn basic skills to work in restaurants or retail stores.

"These kids really give back to the community and they give back to the school, both our special needs kids and the general education kids," said Milliken.

North Miami Beach High has heart, spirit, and a whole bunch of talented students.

<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Krop High School's Ben Manley]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 18:28:25 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Swag+on+6+Ben+Manley.jpg

Talented kids? You can find them at every school, students who excel in something, whether it be sports, arts, science, or whatever. Then there are the kids who seem to have the Midas touch, simply great at everything they do.

Ben Manley is one of those. He’s a virtuoso musician who has also earned straight “A’s” taking all AP and honors classes during his four years at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School.

“There’s many students, they’re either really talented musically or really talented academically, but Ben, he’s the total package,” said Bringle Cidel, the school’s band director.

“I don’t want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none,” Ben explained, worried that the label “well-rounded”, which everyone calls him, can be misconstrued.

No worries about that. Ben’s outstanding in every academic area. He’s a member of the math, science, music, and national honor societies, as he follows his passions in the arts, engineering, and computers.

“I just love different things, I can be very logical at times but at the same time, I love the emotions that can come out of playing music,” Ben said. “But at the same time, I’m planning on majoring in computer science and I’m very logical and i can work with computers and program things.”

Last year, Ben led a team from Krop that won a national prize in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. Their idea was an app that would translate all the varieties of sign language.

“And it would’ve just been a way to connect everybody,” Ben told us.

The trumpet player hits all the right notes in the music room and in the classroom, yet he still manages to do find time to help any of his peers who need help.

“No matter what he’s doing, he can be swamped with so much and he will still find time to help other people, to put others before himself, and that is just something I admire,” said Raheem Frederick, one of Ben’s bandmates.

Ben doesn’t like to toot his own horn. His friends, though, will do it for him.

“Whoever’s struggling, he’ll always be the first person to come up and help you with a problem you need help with, Ben’s a cool guy!” said Skyler Cartwright, who has been classmates with Ben since their days at Highland Oaks Middle School.

It’s not easy to juggle so many activities. Here’s the multi-tasker’s advice for kids with wide-ranging interests:

“There’s going to be times when you may have to drop certain things, but the thing is, if you keep doing what you love to do you’ll find the time to do it,” Ben said.

Ben’s going off to the University of Michigan in the fall, where he wants to study computer engineering. Of course, he’s bringing his trumpet with him.

Photo Credit: NBC 6/ Ari Odzer]]>
<![CDATA[Students Build Mousetrap Cars Ahead of Nat'l Competition]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 19:03:56 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/050317+Apollo+Midde+STEM+Students.jpg

Schools compete in everything these days. From sports to music to dance to math, your local school probably has teams practicing for battle. The competitive spirit extends to science and engineering, too. Kids design robots, they fly drones; they build solar-powered race cars, all with their eyes on winning a contest somewhere.

Some schools have teams of kids working on building better mousetraps, not to catch rodents, but to race across a gym floor. How does that work? Mousetrap cars are actually a thing.

"You have one constraint, one mousetrap, that's it, what can you do with this mousetrap?" explains science teacher Diana Dworzan of Apollo Middle School in Hollywood.

The kids build cars using a mousetrap, CD's for wheels, with balloon shreds for tires. A string is attached from the trap's spring to an axle.

"Basically, when the spring goes back it stores potential energy, when you let go of the spring it snaps and lets out kinetic energy," said 6th-grade student Hailey Diaz, explaining the propulsion system.

There's actually a national competition for mousetrap cars, in Alabama, and the team from Apollo Middle is going.

"It's actually really exciting, like we're all ecstatic, it's amazing," Hailey told us.

The process of building, designing and racing the cars is hands-on learning.

"Something that they're learning in class in the abstract, they get to apply it through mousetraps," Dworzan said.

There's a ton of physics involved.

"You have to design it to be aerodynamic, you also have to think about friction, like in Newton's first law, an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force, that would be friction," Hailey said.

In Apollo's STEM program, the kids come to school early and stay late to indulge in their passions, including flying drones. They learn how to fly and program them, and they, too, compete against other schools' drone teams.

The students here also build underwater robots, learning concepts of engineering in the process, such as weight and drag. One student told us it's just like aeronautics except it's under water.

The idea is exposure. The teachers and principal want to show kids the possibilities of science and engineering. They're also pleased that so many girls are so into it.

"It energizes them, they're not sitting in a classroom having a teacher lecture to them and taking notes, they're actually able to put their hands on what they're doing, and they actually get to see the fruits of their labor and it excites them," said Principal Shawn Aycock. "We're a Title One school, 82% of my kids are on free or reduced lunch, and these competitions really give them an opportunity to shine and show that they can do just about anything."

Maybe building a better mousetrap isn't all that matters. It's trying, and trying, again and again which makes the difference.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Northeast High School]]> Mon, 01 May 2017 19:25:34 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/050117+brag+about+northeast+high.jpg

Northeast High School in Oakland Park has an enviable list of distinguished alumni. Astronaut Brett Jett, jazz legend Jaco Pastorius, and Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey are just a few of the notables who graduated from the Home of the Hurricanes. These days, the school is trying to live up that diverse legacy of success by offering something for every student interest.

Northeast has three magnet programs, including Industrial Biotechnology. The students are learning how to analyze DNA.

"We have many applications, could be a crime lab, could be developing new products, new medications," explained Ileana Moreno, the lead biotech teacher.

They’re proud of their computer programming section, which offers classes ranging from beginner to AP level. Next year, the school will have the Cambridge Program, and this year, Northeast became the first high school in the state with an Alternative Energy magnet program.

"It’s not the program, it’s the people and the kids love these instructors, and like the class behind me, there’s a waiting list to get into these classes because the teachers are so dynamic," said principal Anthony Valachovic, speaking inside the computer lab.

Of course, Northeast High has all the usual activities and clubs, including an award-winning band and highly competitive sports teams. The girls basketball team is a perennial power, and this past season, the boys team went down to the wire with eventual state champion Dillard, losing by just two points.

The school also has something almost no other public school has: the Latin Academy magnet program. They are state champs in Latin competition (yes, there is such a thing) for 16 straight years! Why take Latin? Studies show just two years of Latin can improve a student’s SAT verbal score by 78 percent!

"Students that are studying Latin generally do very well in math, they do extremely well in science, they’re very adept in English because it expands their vocabulary by about 87 percent," said Tim Kandel, who teaches the program.

Northeast High also has a great habit of placing students in state and national science competitions. A few years ago, one of its students showed off her project to President Obama at the White House Science Fair. Look for more science success to come as the Broward School District uses bond money to build new STEM labs at the school.

<![CDATA[SWAG ON 6: Piper High's Wade Augustin]]> Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:50:16 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/042817+wade+augustin.jpg

Sometimes, high school kids find poetry, and sometimes, poetry seems to find the right kids.

"I started taking bits and pieces of crucial moments of my life, making them poems and expressing them to other people just to know that hey, you’re not alone,” said Wade Augustin, a sophomore at Piper High School in Sunrise.

Wade is an honor student. Encouraged by the teacher who sponsors the poetry club, he joined the Lyrical Masters and basically took over. Wade competed and received high marks for his performances at the Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival.

"And he actually just started writing and he turned out to be phenomenal at it,” said fellow poet Abigail Lange.

Wade grew up without a dad. His father left the family when he was little.

"It’s been extremely hard, I’m not going to lie,” Wade said.

Then he and his mom moved to Florida from London, England. It was a difficult adjustment, especially with no dad in the picture, but it gave Wade a lot of material for poetry.

Here’s an excerpt from one of his works, which he performed for us:

"You always told me don’t cry, I feel like you left me to die, I feel like you did me so wrong, you always told me family’s first, you put your family last,” Wade said, in an obvious reference to his father.

"When I found poetry and writing lyrics as an outlet, it actually made me more confident because I was always insecure,” explained Wade about how poetry changed his outlook.

His poetry mentor says it’s obvious that Wade, and many other kids who get into spoken-word poetry, use it as catharsis.

"He started right here and now he’s moving up, he’s taking those steps to be great,” said Myrlene Augustin-Cox, sponsor of the Lyrical Masters.

Augustin-Cox, who is not related to Wade, says he’s mature beyond his years, always looking for ways to help his classmates.

He’s also involved in so many activities, one of his teachers calls Wade the renaissance man.

"She’s like, 'renaissance man, come here, we need your help,' and it makes me happy because I’m known for many things,” Wade said, laughingly.

He plays football and lacrosse. He’s involved in drama and journalism. He’s a leader in the JROTC. Wade took a narrow path to success and blew it wide open through perseverance and desire, always looking to impart his hard-earned life lessons to his peers.

"You can come up to him and speak to him about your problems, he’ll listen, that’s kinda hard to find nowadays,” said James Guerrero, a fellow member of the Lyrical Masters.

Maybe the day will come when Wade’s father will listen to his son, and hear what he’s been missing. Here’s another excerpt from Wade’s poetry:

"I’m the guilt that you can’t hide, I’m the guilt that’s inside you,” Wade recited, with dramatic flair.

He wants to be an actor one day. Wade seems to be a natural for the stage.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Coral Gables Teacher Pens Special Letter to Students]]> Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:09:58 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/042617+teacher+sends+letter+to+students.jpg

We walked in on a discussion of “The Great Gatsby” in Katrina Delgado’s class. As they talked about the classic novel’s themes of ambition and social climbing, you’d have to forgive the students if their minds wandered to a more immediate issue: taking the FSA exam. This is testing season in Florida’s public schools. At the high school level, every 9th and 10th graders must pass the Florida State Assessment.

“I want them to know they’re more than just a test score, they have more to offer,” said Delgado.

So she sent her students at Coral Gables High School a letter, which she read out loud to one of her classes during our visit.

“Dear students, the FSA does not assess all that makes each of you special and unique,” Delgado read. “The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you the way I do.”

Delgado knows what every parents sees at home. Testing season means monster stress on our kids. She saw a version of the letter and tweaked it, she says, to fit her own students.

“The scores you will get from this test will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything, there are many ways of being smart, you are smart, you are enough, you are the light that brightens my day, most of the time, anyway,” Delgado read, as the class erupted into laughter.

What effect did her letter have?

“It definitely relieved some stress,” said freshman Isabella Burgos-Sosa. “Made me feel a lot better.”

“It gave kids a very good sense of how to feel before going into a very big test like this, it made me feel more secure,” added classmate Van Galex.

It’s not just students. Delgado’s effort made an impression on parents, too.

“And I really want to see more teachers like that,” said Magali Sosa, who says she noticed a palpable change in her daughter’s attitude after she read her teacher’s message.

“It lifts them in a way that they’re in a better mind set to go and take a test, as opposed to having all that anxiety which has been building up since the beginning of the school year,” Sosa said.

The FSA is here to stay. Educators say it provides useful benchmarks on academic progress. Delgado shows there’s more to preparing for the test than just drilling the kids on facts, figures, and writing skills. Consider, she says, the child’s mental state going into the exam.

“So while you’re preparing for testing season, while you’re in the midst of it all, remember there is no way to test all the amazing and awesome things that make you, you,” Delgado reads to the class. “I wish you all the best on your exams this week, love, Mrs. Delgado.”

The burst of applause from the classroom tells you what the students think of their teacher.

You can read the entire letter below.

Photo Credit: NBC 6/Ari Odzer
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<![CDATA[South Florida Schools Ranked Among Top in America: Survey]]> Tue, 25 Apr 2017 10:09:58 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Generic+School+writing+.jpg

Students and teachers at several Miami-Dade County public and charter schools can boost about being among the nation’s best, according to the latest rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

Seven schools ranked among the top 100 nationally, with Design and Architecture Senior High – known as DASH – ranked the highest after coming in No. 22 out of more than 20,000 schools.

Schools also being honored include Little Havana’s International Studies Charter High (24th), International Studies Prep Academy in Coral Gables (31st), Young Women’s Prep Academy in Little Havana (52nd), Archimedean Upper Conservatory Charter School in Kendale Lakes (81st), Jose Marti MAST Academy in Hialeah (88th) and MAST Academy on Key Biscayne (100th).

Miami-Dade had four of the top 10 schools in the state of Florida by the survey.

Broward County had three schools ranked in the top 500, with Pompano Beach High School coming in the highest at 171st. Cypress Bay High School in Weston and Somerset Arts Conservatory in Pembroke Pines also reached that level.

Rankings are based on several factors, including graduation rates, scores on state standardized tests and the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses and scoring well on the end of year exam. The report does not rank private schools.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School: Miami Northwestern Senior High]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:29:01 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/201*120/Miami+Northwestern+Senior+High+BRAG+2017.PNG

Mention Miami Northwestern Senior High School, and most people think of a football factory, or perhaps an outstanding marching band. Those perceptions have a basis in fact. The school’s athletics history and its music program are the envy of most high schools. However, there’s another side to this Liberty City icon.

"They don’t see all those students that, extremely, do well inside the classroom," says Principal Wallace Aristide, speaking about the public’s perception of his school. "Those students that have been on the principal’s honor roll, superior honor roll, all kinds of honors they’ve received, students that are taking dual enrollment classes, students that are taking advanced placement classes."

The public doesn’t see, Aristide says, the millions of dollars in scholarship grants his students win every year, and most people don’t know about the school’s Performing and Visual Arts Center, a magnet program which hones the skills of dancers, musicians, actors, and artists.

"Our students are passionate about their talents, so we teach them more about their talents and we make sure they have what they need to go into the world and become the best dancer, the best singer, the best instrumentalist, the best actor," said Natalie Baldie, the program’s artistic director, who also points out another benefit to her program: "Data shows that students that perform in the arts have higher test scores."

Northwestern also has a medical magnet program. It gives students a baseline foundation to pursue any type of healthcare career.

"Anything you want to be, you don’t have to be an RN, you can be a physician, you can be a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, you can be anything you want to be, the sky’s the limit," said Sonia Warren-Salmon, a nurse who runs the program.

It also can be a tremendous time and money saver. For example, students graduate high school ready to take a six-month course which leads to LPN certification. Then, just one year at Miami-Dade College’s nursing program and they can become a Registered Nurse.

"So they graduate as an RN for free," Warren-Salmon said.

"We don’t believe in one size fits all," said Aristide.

That’s why Northwestern offers a cornucopia of technical programs to train the next generation of auto mechanics, cosmetologists, and chefs.

It’s a legacy school, with a proud alumni base, and that spirit permeates today’s students, as well. Aristide says Students from next year’s graduating class are already vowing to collectively earn more scholarship money than the class of 2018.

Now that’s healthy competition.

Photo Credit: Ari Odzer]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6 - Anthony Sarkiss ]]> Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:54:12 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/042117+swag+on+6+anthony+sarkiss.jpg

It’s not uncommon to see Anthony Sarkiss tutoring a fellow student – this time, he’s showing invasive plants and fish in a display at his school's Eco Fair.

The Fair seems to revolve around Anthony. As president of both the Ecology Club and the SCUBA Club at Miami Beach Senior High School, Anthony is the heartbeat of the student environmental movement here.

"I found that there's an interest in environmental protection and restoration and conservation and I thought, this is my thing, I can help out here," Anthony said.

He leads dune cleanups at the beach every week, he's forged ties between his school clubs and outside conservation agencies, and Anthony still gets straight A's in the challenging International Baccalaureate program.

"Anthony is the single greatest student I have ever had," said Jennifer Silveira, a science teacher and sponsor of the Ecology Club.

"He leads by example and he brings everyone along with him, myself included, I learn from him every day, every day."

Anthony's classmates echo that sentiment.

"He has this sort of passion that makes you want to speak to him, makes you want to know what he knows and I love that about him," said Nicole Goetz, a senior who has known Anthony since middle school.

"He’s really smart, in class, as a student, and he really shows a lot of qualities of a leader, he's bringing students together around him whenever he can," said close friend, Lucas Arrow.

From trying to rid South Florida of invasive species to fighting against climate change, Anthony's passions are obvious, and his efforts have taken him a long way: he's going to Yale University in the fall. He's also had to overcome adversity along the way.

"There have been times when I have been discouraged but I knew I had to keep going," Anthony said.

Anthony's dad died when he was a toddler. With no siblings, his childhood consisted of just him and his mom, bouncing from Curaçao to Lebanon to Venezuela to Miami Beach. It was always a struggle to fit in, Antony says, but it made him self-reliant at an early age.

"I realized, I have to face this by myself because this is all I’ve got right now, I’m alone in this room and I have to face this by myself," Anthony said, describing his childhood.

Now Anthony is setting his sights on his future, and on the planet's future.

"I want to be actually out there solving problems, so I’m really interested in research, I’m interested in finding the solutions to the problems that we are facing," Anthony said.

Organized, focused, and ready to work on the most pressing issues of the day – Anthony Sarkiss is ready for the Ivy League and beyond.

<![CDATA[Deaf South Florida Students Participate in Museum Program]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 18:59:40 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/041917+frost+museum+deaf+students.jpg

When deaf people watch the news, they can use closed captioning to see what's being said. Real-life doesn't have captioning. Art hanging on a wall may speak to anyone who sees it, but figuratively, not literally. That's why a field trip to the Frost Art Museum at FIU was such a valuable experience for not just deaf kids, but the hearing-abled students on the trip as well.

"We really want to be a museum for everyone," said Miriam Machado, the Frost Museum's Curator of Education.

The field trip was an interesting exercise in bonding between high school kids who are learning sign language, just because they want to, and their peers who use sign language because they can't speak vocally.

The trip was organized by Braddock High School teacher John Paul Jebian, who is deaf and teaches sign language classes.

"It's great for the deaf students to have interpreters so that way they can see that the hearing students can have the same experience as them," Jebian said.

Jebian founded WavingHands.org, a non-profit group which helps deaf people overcome society's boundaries. He was gratified to see his students from Braddock using their sign language skills to talk to the deaf kids from South Dade Senior High School, as they strolled through the museum's exhibits. This field trip was Jebian's idea.

"They're learning about the deaf culture, their language and they're able to communicate with the community which is the key," Jebian said, through a sign language interpreter.

Lisa Christie is deaf, and teaches a variety of subjects to deaf students at South Dade High.

"My students told me they're learning an enormous amount about all this variety of art and this new exposure they're getting, they're loving it," Christie said, through a sign language interpreter, about the reactions she witnessed at the museum.

Art speaks to everyone, and its message is always subject to interpretation, from everyone, regardless of hearing ability or anything else. That may be the takeaway from the outing to the museum.

"I think it's fantastic, I think it's great to be able to bridge all the gaps between us as humans and as individuals," Machado said.

Photo Credit: Ari Odzer/NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Coral Springs High School]]> Mon, 03 Apr 2017 18:49:39 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brag+About+Your+School+THUMBNAIL+Website.jpg

The school has more dual-enrollment classes on its campus than any other high school in Broward County. It leads the district in reassignment requests, meaning more students want to transfer in to Coral Springs High School than to any other high school. So there’s a lot to brag about at the home of the Colts.

"We have so many more choices than other schools, we have four innovative programs, we have so many programs for each different student,” said Vivian Suarez, the school’s principal.

For example, the Colt Chorus is an institution, 250 students in harmony, regularly winning superior awards. On the other hand, for kids who want to bang on their drums all day, the Colt Drumline makes a raucous noise that will make your heart pound. Different strokes, as they say, for different folks.

Let’s say your kid is a techie. The school has a four-year course in video game design, complete with motion-capture capability. It allows the students to design games with characters that move like real people. The course gives the kids an avenue into tech careers.

"Just knowing the ins and outs of gaming and computers, it’s gonna give them an opportunity to be able to launch to any kind of technology career,” said Jason Freedman, who teaches video game design. “Whether they do want to go into gaming and animation or they want to go into something like network engineering.”

Thanks to a partnership with the Coral Springs Fire Department, students here can train like real firefighters. They wear the gear, they practice with real hoses, they learn fire suppression and emergency medical response skills. The idea is to expose them to a career option.

"They get early education, they get a jump start on a career, a lot of kids when they started weren’t sure what they were going to do, and this gives them a little direction to let them know this could be something they’re interested in or not,” said Zac Roseboom of the Coral Springs Fire Department.

The school also has a growing agricultural science program, in which students raise fruits, vegetables, and chickens. Those chickens produce lots of eggs, which are sent directly to the culinary program. Farm to table.

"So the agricultural science actually feeds, for lack of a better word, into the culinary so we have our own chickens that hatch eggs and our students prepare the eggs,” explained Principal Suarez.

The students do catering jobs, they make lunch for the faculty, and they get real-world culinary experience in the process.

Coral Springs High also has a solid athletic program. Their boys won the class 8A state basketball championship last year, and the cheerleading team almost won a national championship, recently finishing second in a nationwide competition.

"What makes us most proud is that we really have a welcoming environment, our teachers and staff welcome all students, and we treat everyone as is they are really focused on just that one child,” Suarez said.

<![CDATA[Inside the Florida Science and Engineering Fair]]> Wed, 29 Mar 2017 18:59:51 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/032917+IMG_0459.JPG Hundreds of kids are participating in this year's State Science and Engineering Fair in Lakeland. All photos by Ari Odzer/NBC 6.]]> <![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Cutler Bay Senior High School]]> Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:40:37 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/032717+brag+about+cutler+bay+hs.jpg

You’ve heard of boutique hotels. How about a boutique high school? The label fits Cutler Bay Senior High, a public, all-magnet school with only 480 students.

"I believe it’s the small feel, the small atmosphere that makes us special, but at the same time we have all the activities a large high school would have," said Lucas Delatorre, Cutler Bay’s principal.

They just do things a little differently. For example, instead of a traditional marching band, Cutler Bay has a rock band. Instead of big sports like football and basketball, they have varsity water polo, swimming, and cross country teams. The school’s focus is on academics with a heavy dose of clubs to get kids involved. The PAC, or performing arts club, for instance, gives students an outlet for dance and music.

"And these are students that are here for the academics but at the same time they have the talents to be a participant in the performing arts club after school,” Delatorre said.

The school has more than 20 clubs. Still, being small means sacrificing some activities. Being small also has its perks.

"I think the advantage is that you’re able to have a voice in this environment," Delatorre said. "We don’t have the issue of large numbers so I think the students are given more opportunities because we are small."

The school has three academies: the Cambridge diploma track, iPrep Academy, and a marine science academy called COAST. As you would think for a school so close to Biscayne Bay, Cutler Bay High School puts a lot of emphasis on the COAST program. Students go on camping trips to Elliot Key, they go kayaking, they go fishing in the Keys, and they get internships at Biscayne National Park.

"So we try to get ‘em out into the environment to experience the marine environment in addition to the activities in the classroom,” Irene Montano, the marine science program director.

They do have some sports here, including cheerleading, water polo, cross country and swimming. Delatorre says they will be adding sports as the school grows to its capacity of 600 students. Those who choose to attend this all-magnet school, Delatorre says, are high achievers who care about society and each other.

"And it’s those values the students have that, I believe, it’s something to brag about,” Delatorre said.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG ON 6: Student Overcomes Disability to Spread Positivity]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 23:09:36 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/032417+bob+woodruff+swag+on+6+plantation+high+school.JPG

It’s not an exaggeration to say the entire student body at South Plantation High School knows Bob Woodruff. He’s almost larger than life, a commanding presence in the halls, the library, the classrooms, everywhere. Yet Bob won’t be able to click on this article and read it like every other kid. Bob is blind, and despite that, or maybe because of it, he’s a relentless force of positivity.

“You just got to have a positive outlook on life, you know, ‘cause just being down isn’t going to get you anywhere, so you have to look up, and you have to think up,” Bob says, using one of his favorite phrases.

In freshman year a teacher nicknamed him, “Dr. Bob,” and it stuck. Now he can rightfully claim the title of The Voice of his school, as Dr. Bob does the announcements every day over the intercom system, he is the stadium public address announcer at sporting events, and he welcomes everyone to school plays as the voice that tells the audience to silence cell phones and enjoy the show.

The kid is also famous beyond his school. Last week, the Broward County Commission declared a “Robert Woodruff Appreciation Day.” As he navigates the halls with his white cane, tapping along, Dr. Bob is like a walking billboard for disabled equality.

“Lots of people just assume that because I am disabled in one way that I am not able to do everything else, some people just don’t see beyond being blind like i do,” Bob said.

“I wish everybody had Bob’s drive, he’s all in,” said one of his teachers, athletic director Mike Collins.

Dr. Bob is known for passing out cookies to his classmates, it’s one of his prescriptions for anyone having a bad day. His classmates learn life lessons just by hanging out with him.

“It teaches you that it doesn’t matter, even though he can’t see things he still can do anything that anyone else can do,” said Brianna Anderson, one of Bob’s friends.

We watched Dr. Bob walk through the school, being greeted by students who just seem compelled to soak in the good vibe he brings along.

“He has so much joy in his voice, so he makes me happy whenever he walks by,” said Jelinsky Gelin, a junior.

It’s amazing: a young man who can’t see, yet has so much insight into how everyone is feeling.

“Bob has a beautiful soul,” Collins said, and he’s able to lead his classmates. “He can get the best out of them, so they rise to his level, it’s very unique and awesome.”

Dr. Bob is a college-bound senior. Unlike most kids his age, he can’t preserve memories with selfies and pictures, so he always carries a voice recorder with him, capturing conversations which he then edits and keeps. It’s good practice for his career goal: Bob wants to be a newsman, on the radio or on television.

“Maybe I’ll be the next Tom Brokaw, or Lester Holt now,” he said.

He’s already got a catchy sign-off to his school announcements, and every kid at South Plantation knows it by heart:

“Remember: heart, soul, South,” Bob says.

He embodies all of that.

<![CDATA[Local Students Learn About Ecosystem on World Water Day ]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:58:57 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/032217+world+water+day.jpg

There is literally nothing more important to life, all forms of life, than water. World Water Day is an occasion for communities everywhere to take stock in their water supply. What better way to learn about the water that surrounds us in South Florida than to get out into it, armed with tools to conduct scientific observations?

“Is this a little more exciting than hanging out in a classroom?” asks Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the famed marine explorer and conservationist. “Yesss!” comes the reply from a group of fifth graders standing knee deep in the ocean.

130 kids from Miami’s Citrus Grove Elementary School and from American Heritage School in Plantation are part of the EarthEcho Water Challenge. Cousteau is the founder of EarthEcho International, a world-wide environmental advocacy organization.

“We need to be vigilant as citizens in a community to take action and protect our water,” Cousteau said.

That means the entire watershed. Using kits provided by EarthEcho, the kids are testing the clear, calm waters at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne for purity, and they’re also examining the health of the ecosystem. Nothing excites this age group more than scraping a net along the sea grass and seeing what critters come up.

“What people tend to forget is the influence and power young people have,” Cousteau said. “When we talk about educating kids, we’re really talking about educating the community, that’s the best way, not only to help the present, but also to influence, positively, the future.”

Experiences like this make an indelible imprint on young minds.

“And it just provides a little bit of motivation to step out of their boundaries and just excel,” said Nicholas Delgado, a teacher at Citrus Grove.

EarthEcho is sponsoring activities like this all over the world, encouraging people to test the water quality in their taps, in their streams, in their reservoirs, and then to share the data. That data base can be useful in responding to the challenges this planet faces.

“There’s also global issues like climate change where we’re going to see increasing amounts of drought, sea level rise, which is a concern here in Miami and a lot of concerns about salt water getting into the fresh water aquifer,” Cousteau said.

With problems on the horizon, we’re going to need an army of eco warriors to fight back. Basic training started for a group of youthful soldiers today in Key Biscayne.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Flanagan High School]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 18:22:54 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/032017+brag+about+flanagan.jpg

It’s not easy to achieve excellence in academics, athletics, and the arts. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines has managed to hit that trifecta.

"We actually have amazing programs for accelerated students, for average students, for struggling students, there’s really something for everyone,” said principal Michelle Kefford.

Lets’ start with the arts. Flanagan has a color guard team which has won the world championship twice. What? You say you didn’t know there was such a thing? There is, and when you see Flanagan’s team in action, performing a highly choreographed routine that seems like something from a Broadway show, you can see why the team is so highly regarded. The students practice long hours to achieve this level of excellence, and it leaves an imprint on them.

"No kid’s gonna leave here and go be a professional color guard spinner, but they are gonna leave here with the leadership qualities that they learn to work in a group and excel at the highest level of competition there is, so we really try to focus on those things, those core personal values that make them better people in the long run,” said Dean Broadbent, the color guard teacher.

Musical students have several bands to choose from, including a group called the Flanagan Winds. Picture the color guard performance with kids playing instruments during an intricate series of movements resembling modern dance and you have an idea of what their routine looks like. It’s highly creative and simply impressive.

Creativity at Flanagan, however, doesn’t end with music and dance. The school also has a speech and debate team which features two state champion orators. They just started the program five years ago.

"It helps them in life with their communication and helps them have confidence, basically what we do with speech and debate is give children a voice, their own voice, and that’s one place they can go and actually have adults listen to what they have to say,” said debate coach Susan McGraw.

"There’s a culture here and you can just feel the welcoming environment when you come into the school, we call ourselves a family and we really are that,” added Kefford.

In sports, Flanagan won the state football championship last school year in the biggest school classification, 8A, and its baseball team is always in contention for a title.

Academically, students can choose from a full slate of AP classes, as well as dual enrollment courses through partnerships with FIU and Broward College.

"We’re very unique here in that we offer a multitude of classes here on our campus, so we have professors that come during the school day so kids can take a college class on Flanagan’s campus," Kefford said.

It’s one of those schools with a lot of high-achievers, the kids who end up in the Ivy League and at the best universities in the nation. The Flanagan Falcons have every opportunity to soar.

Photo Credit: Ari Odzer/NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Your School - Westland Hialeah Senior High School]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 18:45:34 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/031317+brag+about+westland+hialeah.jpg

Forgive yourself if you’ve never heard of Westland Hialeah High School. It just turned 10 years old, so as high schools go, that means it’s just getting started. Yet, the Wildcats have already established a tradition of excellence.

"This year, Westland Hialeah Senior High had the highest growth in graduation rate in the district," said principal Giovanna Blanco. “And I attribute that to a lot of great teaching, a lot of amazing teachers, students that do see the value of an education, that want to be part of this society."

It also helps that the school provides programs, like dance, music, cheerleading, and sports, activities which motivate students and make them excited to come to school every day.

Westland’s magnet program in health sciences is one of those motivator programs. Students learn first responder basics from a Hialeah firefighter. They also learn nursing and medical assistant techniques that make them ready for the job market or for college, and it’s incredibly popular.

"We have full classes, all of our classes are really full and sometimes we have a waiting list, we have students who say 'miss, I want to be in your program but your classes were full,'" said Margarita Carrasco, the lead health science teacher. “I have a student who went to the University of Florida to do pre-med, and he’s always complemented on his skills that he learned here."

Westland Hialeah also has one of the biggest dual enrollment programs in Miami-Dade County. Students can graduate with a diploma plus an Associate of Arts degree, through partnerships with Miami-Dade College and FIU.

"So students can, in essence, be enrolled in the A-P Capstone program, FIU, and Miami-Dade College all at the same time,” Blanco said.

With a full range of AP classes, Westland sends graduates to the nation’s best colleges every year, and with an 8-period day, they can choose electives such as television production. The students in that class put a full newscast together every day, learning the basics of broadcast journalism.

It’s all part of creating a comprehensive educational environment, and the principal knows there’s no time to slow down or stand pat. Next year, she’s adding a robotics program.

Photo Credit: Ari Odzer/NBC 6]]>