<![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-usSun, 23 Apr 2017 08:15:05 -0400Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:15:05 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![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]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Keyla Correia]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:46:42 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/031017+SWAG+on+6+Keyla+Correia.jpg

At a school which has a marine science magnet program, you would naturally expect to find students who are concerned about environmental conservation. Keyla Correia takes that concern and turns it into passion. She founded a club at her school, Plastic Free Mermaids, that has its own website now.

"Our primary mission is to spread awareness about plastic pollution through education, outreach, and cleanups," Keyla explains.

More than 20 students have joined the club at South Broward High School, and they don't just talk about ridding the oceans of plastic garbage, they walk the walk, staging frequent shoreline cleanup days. They get it and work for the cause.

"By cleaning up and then educating about it the participants have like, a connection between what they're doing and it makes a bigger impact," Keyla said.

An impact, first and foremost, among her classmates.

"For example, the beach cleanup, I never done that before and I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't part of the club, I wouldn't understand the meaning behind it and the impact we have on nature by just leaving a straw on the floor," said Daniel Ortiz, one of Keyla's classmates.

Keyla took her activism and focused it on her school. She wrote a grant proposal that ended up netting the school a refillable water bottle station.

It's a popular spot on campus. Every time a bottle is filled up, it registers on a counter, which lets everyone know how many plastic bottles they've prevented from potentially ending up in the waterways of South Florida.

Teacher Debra Hixon sponsors the Plastic Free Mermaids club.

"She does inspire others around her, as I mentioned, she started the club, she's the president of a few others so because of her passion, she makes everyone else really excited about being part of the organization," Hixon said.

"And she basically instills in us to promote everywhere we go our club and everything that we do to help get everyone else on the bandwagon," said classmate and club member Eileen McGregor.

Academically, Keyla's one of the top students in her school. She's going off to the University of Florida next year, where she wants to study veterinary medicine and eventually specialize in aquatic animals. First, though, she's extending her reach and partnering with kids in India, Cambodia, Kenya, and Lebanon to clean up the oceans. She goes to conferences and lobbies local government agencies about conservation. Keyla thinks her message is getting through.

"It's like little bits of inspiration that I expose the people to and I spread my love to them and they are just addicted to it," Keyla said.

Getting people addicted to conservation and cleaning up the oceans? That's clearly a worthy goal.

<![CDATA[Students Working to Save Endangered Plants]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 20:45:16 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/030817+student+botany.jpg

What’s the best way to save a critically endangered, native Florida orchid? Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden figures getting citizen scientists involved is a good start. That’s how the botany kids at Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy got involved.

Through Fairchild’s Million Orchid Project, they’re propagating and cultivating seedlings of Cryptopodium punctatum, the Cowhorn Orchid. There are fewer than 30 of these plants known to live in the wilds of South Florida. This puts the MAST students at the cutting edge of plant science.

“I think it’s exceptionally remarkable because our students are involved in a real life, authentic science experiment that has environmental impact on our local communities,” said Andrew Kearns, the teacher who has spearheaded the botany project.

Fairchild’s goal is to repopulate the Cowhorn’s into the wild. At Jose Marti MAST, they’re investigating every stage of growth, from what medium is the most optimal to which kind of light is the best for seedlings.

“So we’re actually doing a statistical study with my ap statistics students where they’re doing comparisons of the proportions of survivors from led lights and fluorescent lights,” said Kearns.

The kids are learning real science, aided by technology. They use iPads with Google sheets to keep track of and share data with each other. It’s invaluable experience for the students.

“We have to make sure we water them regularly, we have to collect data, we have to draw conclusions from this data and all of this helps us learn the scientific method, what it is to be a scientist,” explained Hadrian Gonzalez, a senior at the school.

Cowhorns don’t develop flowers until they’re about ten years old. The oldest cuttings they have in their shadehouse at the school are about three, so patience is required. Senior Livia Martinez says the project is raising conservation awareness.

“The really cool thing is that Fairchild is working with schools and citizen science is really cool because it gets people involved, people who wouldn’t normally be able to participate in actual science,” said Livia, who told us she wants to become an environmental scientist.

Her teacher can barely contain his excitement.

“What we’re doing here is going to make a difference not just in the next six months but in the next six years, in the next 60 years,” Kearns says.

Maybe by then, the Cowhorn will be as numerous in the wild as it is in the shadehouse at Jose Marti MAST Academy in Hialeah.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Ramblewood Middle School]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 19:34:01 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/030617+brag+about+ramblewood+middle.JPG

Most middle schools offer a handful of classes, at most, that offer high school credit. It’s a different story at Ramblewood Middle School in Coral Springs, which has 16 high school credit classes, including 11 electives. The principal emphasizes student choice, especially in the arts.

"Not making it all about academics or testing but giving them an opportunity to try different things through elective courses that they might find a niche in and carry on into high school possibly even beyond high school,” said Cory Smith, Ramblewood’s principal.

There’s a lot of drama at Ramblewood. The school’s theatre troupe just won the state championship for its production of The Dogsitters, an English farce that features a stuffed dog. That experience helped unleash the talents of the drama class.

"It teaches them confidence, and they can carry that everywhere they go in all of their classes but not only that, in their everyday life they learn how to communicate with individuals,” said drama teacher Meagan Nagy.

Music is huge at Ramblewood, with the band program boasting more than 350 students. The advanced band sounds like a high school group, and the principal says it’s one of the school’s biggest draws.

Beyond performing arts, the visual arts have a prominent place here. The school’s walls are covered by murals, all of which are created and painted by students in their art classes. They make one new mural every school year.

Of course, there is no substitute for academic rigor, and Ramblewood has plenty of it. The principal just wants to make sure there’s something to pique the interests of every student.

"We pride ourselves in creating a certain culture here at Ramblewood where students feel accepted, welcome, and there are opportunities for them to learn not only in the classroom but the skills that will carry them on from high school and beyond,” Smith said.

Sounds like Ramblewood is barking up the right tree.

Photo Credit: Ari Odzer/NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Korri Lampedusa]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 20:36:29 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/030317+sawg+on+6+Korri.jpg

As soon as you meet Korri Lampedusa, her brilliance is obvious, and she’s devoted her talents to designing for the disabled.

“Because it’s hard to get bored in a project when you really care about the reason you’re doing it, I’ll just put it that way,” Korri said.

A senior at Design and Architecture Senior High, or DASH, Korri is a national finalist for the Presidential Scholar award. Her specialty is wearable technology, gadgets you put on your body, such as computer-infused booties to help kids who have cerebral palsy get through their therapy sessions.

“And based on these algorithms I picked up it could say oh, this child’s improving and it was like a kid’s game, like stepping on lava or ice, different little games kids play, it would mimic all of those in the device so that kids are having fun while they’re actually improving their impairment and working towards a really able life.”

Yes, it’s complicated, but that’s Korri’s thing.

“Designing devices to aid people that live with disabilities or any type of disorder because I noticed that, like, a lot of projects are based on luxury and what people want but I wanted to address more what people need,” Korri said, adding that she’s inspired by a friend who has ADHD and a sister who has a mental disability.

To her classmates, Korri is a star.

“In the senior class, if you don’t know Korri, then you don’t know industrial design because she is the definition,” said Alexander Lopez, one of her classmates.

“She serves as an inspiration for everyone, not just in ID but in architecture and film, just because of her work ethic,” said Fernando Diaz, agreeing with his friend, Alexander.

Korri’s teacher calls her a visionary who has the potential to turn ideas into reality one day.

“These are the kind of people and designers we need in society that make and change the world, and I know that’s a cliché but there are people that can change it, and can produce and make things better for people,” said Kelley Kwiatkowski, a veteran industrial design teacher at DASH.

One of Korri’s goals is to set an example for other young women that they, too, can succeed in the industrial design field.

“I think that women and young girls can be leaders in this industry just as much as men, not just in ID but all the different stem subjects of producing things,” Korri said.

Korri is looking forward to studying industrial design in college, and hoping to turn her sketches into real products. No one at DASH is betting against her.

<![CDATA[Explore NOVA's New Marine Environmental Education Center]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 19:19:14 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/030317+hollywood+marine+center.jpg

Captain the green sea turtle has her own pool, her own team taking care of her, and she seems to love the attention. She’s the star of Nova Southeastern University’s brand-new Marine Environmental Education Center, the MEEC.

“We have a great way to reach out, tell people the story of this turtle and all turtles, how important they are to the ecosystem,” said Dr. Dick Dodge, dean of the NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography.

Captain was critically injured in a boat collision and can’t be released into the wild. Of the world’s seven species of sea turtles, five are known to frequent Florida waters or nest on the state’s beaches. All of them are endangered, so the MEEC, which is a partnership between Broward County and NSU, takes it upon itself to educate the public.

“But it makes it a fun place for an educational institution and not just a lecture, it’s interactive, it allows young people to see the reason why we talk about saving the environment,” said George Hanbury, NSU president.

Located on Surf Road on Hollywood Beach, steps away from a sea turtle nesting area, the MEEC has exhibits ranging from which lights are turtle-safe, to computer screens tracking turtles that are tagged with satellite transmitters, to showing how TEDs, or Turtle Excluder Devices, work on fishing boats.

“Sea turtles are an integral part of the marine ecosystem and a really iconic animal so we hope that the children will learn about turtles but also about the broader picture of how important it is that we have a vibrant, healthy ecosystem,” Dodge said.

There’s no doubt that kids will be captivated by watching Captain in her pool. The MEEC will be a magnet for school field trips, and that’s really the whole point.

“This is huge because these are animals that people don’t get to interact with normally,” said Beth Whitman, a doctoral candidate at FIU who studies green sea turtles in the wild.

Whitman says the MEEC will leave an indelible impression on people.

“If they come and have a personal interaction with an animal like this and when they learn about their natural habitat they’re gonna have more ownership and be more invested in preserving their natural habitat,” Whitman said.

That’s certainly the hope that the light of conservation turns on for every visitor.

If you’re interested in seeing its exhibits, the MEEC is located at 4414 Surf Road in Hollywood. They converted the historic Carpenter House into the new educational center.

<![CDATA[Tuesday Marks Last Day For College Prepaid Sign Up Period]]> Tue, 28 Feb 2017 08:02:13 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Students-in-Hall-032312.jpg

Parents across Florida, listen up – today is the last day to enroll your children in Florida's Prepaid College Program and lock in current college costs for their future education.

After midnight, you’ll have to wait until the end of the year for the next open enrollment period. Plans are up an average of two percent over last year.

A traditional four-year university plan right now costs an average of $187 per month. There are also two year programs and hybrid plans between community colleges and universities. The cheapest plan is $47 a month for one year at a university.

“It is a way that you are able to actually plan your budget, based on what you can do," said spokesperson Shannon Colavecchio.

The prepaid college board promises to save your family money in the long run while gaining predictability at the same time. You can sign up by clicking on this link.

<![CDATA[Brag About Country Club Middle School]]> Mon, 27 Feb 2017 23:19:16 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/bragaboutcountryclub.JPG

A 600-student population is small for a public middle school in South Florida. That’s why the teachers at Country Club Middle School in the far northwest corner of Miami-Dade County know their students so well, including the kids in the biomed magnet program. They’re learning how to be first responders and everything they need to know to potentially save a life in an emergency situation.

“They take vitals, they learn CPR, they learn about diseases and conditions,” said their teacher, Tammy Jones-Smalls, who is a firefighter in her other job.

The biomed students in her class are exposed to careers in health care, from being a doctor or nurse to a paramedic or physical therapist.

“Even if they don’t want to become something in the medical field, they have learned or have experienced things that they can use in their own personal lives,” said Jones-Smalls.

County Club started a dance team this year, filling a need in the community.

“The students are taking dance within their school schedule so it’s allowing students that for whatever reason, they don’t have the opportunity after school, we’re giving that opportunity now and it’s all about giving students choices and opportunity,” said the school’s principal, Cynthia Prado.

Here’s another choice: the forensic science magnet program, in which kids can unleash their inner Sherlock Holmes. They learn all about using scientific evidence to solve crimes. The school is also a fertile place to learn about agriculture and aquaculture. They’re growing veggies and raising tilapia to use in the kitchen of the culinary arts academy. They learn basic cooking techniques, follow recipes, and make their fellow students jealous.

“Because they smell the aroma in the building and everybody’s knocking on our door just to get a piece of this, that or the next thing, they’re so excited about being a part of this class,” said the culinary teacher, Monique Brunson.

It’s precisely the elective programs like cooking and art and dance that get kids excited.

“It’s allowing the students to be enthused about coming to school other than for math, social studies, science and language arts,” said Prado.

At Country Club Middle School, they’ve got choices and opportunities. The rest is up to the students.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Country Club Middle School]]> Mon, 27 Feb 2017 12:56:07 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brag+About+Your+School+THUMBNAIL+Website.jpg

NBC 6 is bragging about another school Monday – this time, we’re at Country Club Middle School in Northwest Miami-Dade.

Home of the Hurricanes, CCMS has a dynamic reputation and is known for having one of the top biomedical and forensic science magnet programs in the county under the leadership of principal Cynthia Prado.

Join NBC 6 all day with Ari Odzer as we brag about another great South Florida school.

<![CDATA[SWAG On 6: Taravella High's Duran Cameron]]> Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:52:32 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/022417+duran+cameron.jpg

They call him the face of Taravella High School in Coral Springs. Duran Cameron does the televised announcements every morning, and he’s one of those students everyone seems to go to for advice, or just a hug.

"I just think that I’m very approachable, a lot of people when they have questions they know that they can come up to me and ask me, i won’t have a problem, as long as I’m available, I like to be really flexible for anyone who needs my help," Duran said.

At 6-foot-5, Duran is literally a standout at school, the president of the student body. It’s hard to picture now, but this senior was once paralyzed by shyness.

“And I think that’s why my biggest thing is getting everyone involved to show them that, like, you don’t have to isolate yourself,” Duran explains.

It’s one thing to be a popular kid on campus. It’s another thing to use that popularity to help your peers, and that’s exactly what Duran does. He became one of the leaders of the student mentoring club, Trojans in Transition, working to eliminate the fear factor for incoming freshmen.

“Yeah, I feel like having a senior friend is so cool as a freshman to have a senior friend but it’s also, like you have someone you can look up to and kind of aspire to be,” said freshman Kimberly Montalvo.

“When I first got here,” said freshman Morgan Schmidt, “I was very nervous, and he took most of that away by showing me there’s nothing to be scared of in high school.”

The faculty at Taravella says Duran’s a natural leader, the type of kid who could end up as a Congressman one day. He’s a problem solver with people skills so great, the principal told us they often ask Duran to intervene with students who are having issues.

“He can see a problem and take it by the horn and come up with solutions,” said interim principal Debra Johnson.

As an example, Duran organized a campaign against drunk driving, just before prom.

“A lot of people think they’re not affected by it and this won’t affect me, ever, but just to show you that this can happen to anyone, no matter what age you are, no matter who you are, you’re not invincible,” Duran said, explaining the reasons for warning his peers about driving drunk.

He’s an excellent student in the classroom, and after college, Duran wants to go to medical school to become a doctor. It’s hard to think of a better profession for someone who’s always helping everyone around him.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Student Brightens Lives of Special Needs Teens]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:57:54 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/215*120/021717+karen+uriostegui+swag+on+6.jpg

Seeing Karen Uriostegui volunteering with disabled students at Braddock High School is almost the same as watching a teacher at work. She uses flash cards to teach them about people, places and things. She uses toy clocks to teach them about time. The special needs kids may not even realize that Karen is just a student who developed a passion in freshman year.

“When I started working with them I really liked the feeling, helping others and putting a smile on their face, something so simple, but it felt good, it felt amazing,” Karen said.

She is the student government president, and the president of the club that brings disabled kids into the mainstream of student life. For Karen, it’s not a one-way street.

“I actually got one of the non-verbal students to say my name and that’s the moment that I was like, I want to do this the rest of my life,” said Karen, a senior.

“The whole aspect of, you get out what you put into it, and i think she puts a lot into it because she expects a lot out of it,” said Manuel Garcia, the principal at Braddock High. “That’s what she does, she just continues to give back and I think she likes stretching herself into challenging areas.”

The work Karen does with her mentally and physically disabled peers is noticed beyond the special needs classrooms. It inspires her friends.

“An extreme inspiration, it’s not something that i would picture myself doing but Karen does it and inspires me to do better,” said classmate Joel Gonzalez.

Karen’s sincerity is noticed.

“She doesn’t do it as a resume booster, she doesn’t do it so that people could recognize her, Karen does it because she truly wants to make a difference,” said classmate Patricia Velasco.

Karen also is an academic superstar. She has a 5.3 GPA in the Cambridge Program, she’s in the top 1% of her class, and she’s president of the peer-counseling HIP club. She will also be the first in her immigrant family to go to college.

“I came here when I was 8 years old, had to learn the language, had no one to help me, I had to teach myself English, I had to work on my own, but it feels good to see how much the hard work paid off,” Karen said.

She has also found a calling. Karen says she’ll turn her hobby of working with the disabled into a career after college.

<![CDATA[Valuable Lessons in 'Stitching History From the Holocaust']]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 19:40:51 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/021517+stitching+history+from+the+holocaust.jpg

Fashion and the Holocaust. Two things not normally associated with each other. At the Jewish Museum of Florida/FIU, an exhibit called “Stitching History from the Holocaust” is tying the two together and teaching kids valuable lessons.

"There were so many people killed for no reason, just because of their religion,” said Beni Roberts, a 6th grader from West Miami Middle School.

On this day, a field trip from the school to the museum in South Beach takes a bus load of students back in time, to 1939.

"A lot of people with a lot of talent and they got persecuted for their beliefs,” said 7th grader George Ramos, explaining how the exhibit brings history alive.

The kids from West Miami Middle were immersed into the story of Paul and Hedwig Strnad, a Jewish couple from Prague who were desperately trying to escape the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia by immigrating to America. Paul wrote to his cousin Alvin in Milwaukee, asking him to help secure visas. Hedwig was a dressmaker with a thriving business in Prague, so Paul sent Hedwig’s designs along to prove they could work in their adopted country and would not be a burden on the government.

Fast forward to 1997. Alvin Strnad’s family found the letter and the dress designs and set out to uncover the story. They learned Paul and Hedwig were denied entry into the United States and died in the Holocaust, becoming two of the six million.

"The main purpose of the exhibit is to personalize the experience of the Holocaust,” said Jo Ann Arnowitz, the museum’s executive director.

Arnowitz says it’s hard for anyone, especially school kids, to grasp what six million actually means, but focusing on two people really brings the experience to them on their level.

"It’s better than reading in a textbook what happened, they can really get the picture of what it was like,” Arnowitz said.

The Strnad family brought the artifacts to the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre took the dress designs and recreated them. The fashions from 1939 look vibrant and current in 2017.

"At the darkest period in history you have this woman who is creating something really lovely and in her way, making the world a better place,” said FIU theatre professor Michael Yawney.

As the kids walked through the exhibit, they learned not only about history, but also about the tragic tale of two refugees. That, of course, resonates today.

"We didn’t know when we started working on this how timely this would be,” Yawney said.

He and some colleagues wrote and produced a play which brings Paul and Hedwig to life. The students from West Miami Middle watched it on video.

"This museum is not just about preserving the past but also giving direction and lessons for the future,” Yawney said.

Of course, evaluating the plight of refugees and how our country should respond to them is a complicated issue. At least for adults.

"I think we should let them all in,” said 6th grader Lynet Brito.

It’s much simpler for children who have just internalized a lesson from history.

Stitching History from the Holocaust is on display at the museum through March 19th.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Miramar High School]]> Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:37:05 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brag+About+Your+School+THUMBNAIL+Website.jpg

Miramar High School is mostly known for two highly unrelated things: powerhouse football teams and for being the alma mater of Johnny Depp. Oh, but there’s so much more going on at this south Broward County institution. The home of the Patriots has two magnet programs and, basically, something for every interest.

"We have over 60 clubs and organizations, it’s actually hard to think of something Miramar doesn’t offer," said Maria Formoso, the school’s principal.

Got school spirit and an overwhelming desire to let it show? Miramar High’s cheerleading squad just finished among the nation’s top ten teams at major competition in Orlando.

One could argue the signature program at the school is the aviation magnet, in which students learn all facets of flying and the aviation industry. It’s a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. When students in the program graduate, they leave high school with 24 college credits from Embry-Riddle.

"It really prepares them, not only for college but also beyond," said Formoso, who points out the program also exposes kids to contacts in all areas of the aviation world.

"The aviation program, of course, has a strong stem connection and it allows the students to explore areas, everything from flight to air traffic control to engineering, meteorology," said John Lamb, who is the school’s magnet program coordinator.

Miramar High has an award-winning speech and debate team. It also has a unique partnership with the Miramar Police Department, which sponsors the criminal justice course. The City hopes the new, extremely popular program will funnel new recruits into law enforcement careers.

Several high schools have the International Baccalaureate Program. Miramar’s is the largest in Broward County. The academically rigorous magnet program sends graduates to the best universities in the country, from MIT to Stanford, in part because it teaches students to connect the dots between subjects.

"They are gonna be able to be better readers, better thinkers, and they’re gonna be able to see things as a whole and not just a narrow field of view,” explained Jermaine White, who teaches IB biology.

Next time you drive by that big school on the north side of the Turnpike Extension just west of University Drive, think about all the learning going on behind those walls.

<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Fort Lauderdale High's Adler Fleurizard]]> Fri, 10 Feb 2017 20:02:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/021017+Adler+Fleurizard.jpg

Adler Fleurizard doesn’t play, but he’s still the heart and soul of Fort Lauderdale High School’s soccer team.

"Adler has been an inspiration to this team, on and off the field, he’s considered my assistant coach, he has a really huge impact on the boys," said soccer coach Andre Reynolds.

Adler is extraordinary in many ways. He’s a special needs student with a developmental disability. That hasn’t stopped him from becoming perhaps the most popular kid on campus, from volunteering at the hospital, from acting in school productions, and from being the primary motivator for a soccer team that won the district championship.

"We have a joke that Adler was in the Patriots’ locker room and he helped them come back from that deficit because there’s only one person I can think of who could ever inspire anyone to be able to come back from something like that," said the team’s goal keeper, Parker Malman.

"I always tell them, I be telling them, losing’s not an option, I be telling them to stay focused on the game," Adler said. "Soccer season is over now, I can’t wait for next season and we will bring the championship home right here!"

The players listen, they listen and respect this young man, regardless of his disabilities.

"He’s a part of us, so we don’t really look at his disabilities or anything," said Asari Hay, a member of the soccer team.

Everyone at Fort Lauderdale High knows Adler. He’s almost a larger-than-life presence with his perpetually positive attitude.

"I like to study, I like to study, I always focus on my work and I always listen to my teachers to get my stuff done," Adler said.

Adler’s impact goes way beyond the soccer team and even beyond students. He inspires the adults around him as well.

"When he was on the stage doing his Shakespeare things, you know, I just, there’s a Jewish word for it called kvelling, and I kvelled," said Harve Brosten, his eyes welling with tears.

In a former life, Brosten wrote episodes of the landmark sitcom, "All in the Family," winning an Emmy award for his work. Now he teaches and mentors special needs kids like Adler. Brosten suggested Adler take up acting, and introduced him to Shakespeare.

"This is King Henry the Fifth," Adler explained, before showing us his acting chops. "Once more to the breach, victory will be ours! My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse! That’s King Richard the 2nd."

Now Adler loves acting, and his volunteer jobs at Broward Health Medical Center and at Publix.

"If my boss tells me, 'you can do this for me, Adler,' I’m like yes, I will do it for you, I can finish it and I can go to the next task,'" Adler said, demonstrating his can-do attitude.

He’s in a special program at school that teaches life and employment skills, and he’s hoping to get a job when he graduates.

"And I can be a hard worker, get my tasks done, and I can be anything I wanna be," said Adler, beaming.

"He’s very ambitious and he will succeed," Brosten said. "Our job is to make sure that he has all the tools to succeed."

Adler’s dream is to play soccer for Manchester United. Not likely to happen. Whatever he does, though, this is likely: Adler Fleurizard will make people happy.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Teacher Shortage in South Florida]]> Wed, 08 Feb 2017 19:29:52 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/020817+teacher+story.jpg

We send our kids to school every day and just expect teachers to be there, but it’s not that simple. There aren’t enough teachers to go around.

"We would anticipate that we’re gonna have about 1,500 vacancies to start off the school year,” said Susan Rockelman, the director of talent acquisition for Broward County Public Schools.

You read that correctly: the Broward County school district is expecting a shortfall of 1,500 teachers for next school year, due to attrition, fewer college graduates going into the profession, and expanding school programs and student bodies.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools wouldn’t provide a number for this report, but it’s reasonable to assume the district, which is significantly larger than Broward’s, will have a similar amount of teacher positions open.

Both districts are busy recruiting teachers now for current openings as well as the expected open positions for next school year. Rockelman leads the effort in Broward, and says because it’s especially hard to lure qualified science, technology, and math teachers, her team casts a wide net.

"We will go to the universities and we specifically will go and talk to engineering classes, mathematics classes and to those schools of education and let those students know there are careers in education for them,” Rockelman said. “Some people have the idea that you had to go to school to become a teacher, however that is not correct.”

One study showed a 35-percent enrollment decrease nationwide in teacher preparation programs from the years 2009 to 2014. How should society reverse that trend?

"Invest in education, and invest in our teachers and the future pipeline of educators so that it’s a well-respected position and it’s well-compensated," said Robert Runcie, Broward School Superintendent.

If it was just about salary, it would be even harder to recruit anyone to teach science classes and other areas of need, such as special education and language arts. However, veteran teachers will tell you there are many more rewards to the job than just a paycheck.

Katie O’Fallon went from marine biologist to science teacher to the magnet program coordinator at New River Middle School, and she’s never regretted the move to her new profession.

"It makes you feel like, I’ve made a difference and I am leaving my legacy in each and every one of these students," O’Fallon said. "I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of information that’s not being shared with people about how much you can really impact students and how rewarding it can really be."

Starting base salaries for teachers in Broward range from $40,724 to $45,254. In Miami-Dade, the starting base salary for a rookie teacher is $40,800. It’s tough to pull people from the tech sector into teaching with salaries like that. That’s why recruiters are looking for people who might be dissatisfied with their current careers and are looking for a change, especially a job that has three months off. The school districts will train career-changing professionals to take their expertise into the classroom.

"When we’re looking for teachers we’re looking for someone who’s passionate about being with children, it’s not always about the money they’re gonna be making," Rockelman said.

We’re fairly certain that most teachers know that already.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About South Miami High School]]> Mon, 06 Feb 2017 22:41:54 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/020617+brag+about+south+miami+high.jpg

The list of schools that can claim to be both sports and arts powerhouses is short. South Miami High School is in fine company, making the list for its magnet programs, which emphasize music and visual arts, and for its champion boys basketball team. The band consistently wins the highest honors, as does the orchestra.

“They may be small in numbers,” said Principal Gilberto Bonce. “But, they are instrumentally phenomenal, those kids are true musicians, they’re very talented.”

Speaking of talented, five members of the Cobras basketball team already have scholarship offers. The squad recently won the Greater Miami Athletic Conference championship and is favored to make a return trip to the state tournament.

The school is also making a name for itself in robotics and coding.

“We started off with a little club, went to a couple of competitions for the mini urban challenge, and they ended up going all the way to state championship and the national championship,” Bonce said.

South Miami also has a television production course which is a part of the magnet program. It’s led by the newly-crowned Miami-Dade County teacher of the year, Rudy Diaz.

“There are many, many teachers out there that deserve the same thing, I just got lucky this year and got recognized,” Diaz said about the award.

He teaches everything from production and editing to videography and reporting, and Diaz can boast that many of his graduates are currently working in the TV news, including sisters Julia and Marissa Bagg of NBC6 and Carlos Suarez of WPLG. Diaz says his program is constantly evolving to keep up with the industry.

“And, now we’re doing VR, which is virtual reality, and we’re doing actually a documentary in virtual reality, so we’re always keeping up ahead of technology,” Diaz said.

New to the school is the Cambridge Program, for students who want to hone their analytical skills to be college-ready.

“Absolutely, because of the rigorous load those students are even more prepared than other students to handle the demands of college,” said Elena Ruiz, who teaches language arts in the Cambridge Program.

Bonce says his goal is to provide something to match every student’s interest, giving every kid a chance to succeed.

“Why should parents send their kids to South Miami? I send my own children to South Miami senior high, my oldest graduated a few years ago, and my youngest is a senior this year,” Bonce said.

Eighty-five percent of the magnet program kids come from outside the school’s boundaries, and because it’s attracting students who really want to be there, Bonce says South Miami High School has tremendous school spirit. It also has a student body aiming for tremendous achievement.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - South Miami Senior High]]> Mon, 06 Feb 2017 12:43:01 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brag+About+Your+School+THUMBNAIL+Website.jpg

NBC 6 is bragging about another school Monday – this time, we’re at South Miami Senior High School.

Home of the Cobras, the school is known for its magnet programs in music, art, digital photography – as well as the TV Production magnet program taught by the reigning teacher of the year in Miami-Dade County, Rudy Diaz!

The TV Production magnet has produced talent working across South Florida – including NBC 6’s very own Julia and Marissa Bagg.

Join Ari Odzer in “Cobra Country” this afternoon on NBC 6!

<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Westland Hialeah High's Santiago Correa]]> Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:14:49 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/020317+Santiago+Correa.jpg

Let’s talk about overcoming obstacles with someone who’s been there, done that.

"My father was murdered when I was five years old,” said Santiago Correa, a senior at Westland Hialeah High School.

It happened back in Colombia, and the tragedy thrust Santiago’s family into poverty. His suddenly widowed mother had to find a way to manage.

"And for almost 13 years, like from that moment that happened until I came here, it was a big challenge for us, so coming here, we came with just enough money for my mom to pay for her residency," Santiago explained.

Now let’s talk about succeeding against the odds. Santiago came to Westland Hialeah High in 2014, a 10th grader who spoke no English. Since then, he’s learned a new language, took the hardest classes, worked a part-time job, enrolled in the Early College program, and this year he will graduate with a high school diploma and an AA degree from Miami-Dade College and one more thing: he earned a full scholarship to complete his college studies at Syracuse University. Santiago puts the “work” into Students Working at Greatness.

"Since I came here, like, I've been trying my best to get A's and to learn and to take advantage of every single thing that I've been able to because there is so much here, so much help, that kids in other countries don't have," Santiago said.

"It is quite a story, considering that he came in 10th grade," said Santiago’s college advisor, Myrna Bromfield. "I sure hope other students look at his example and try to follow his footsteps."

As president of the Math Club at school, Santiago also spends hours of his time tutoring his peers, who see him as a role model.

"I admire his dedication to the work that he puts, not only into the academics but also in everything that he does in his daily life," said Juan Calderon, one of Santiago’s classmates.

Obviously, Santiago has come a long from his struggles in Colombia, but there’s much more on his agenda. He wants to major in engineering at Syracuse and then one day, start up his own company.

"Also, I want to give back to my community, and I think by having a corporation I will create jobs but not only that, I want to sponsor kids like myself that have overcome so many challenges in their life and they have gone through everything and are still standing on their feet strong and going for what they want to do in their lives," he said.

Santiago knows that in a school with many immigrant kids, he sets the bar high, and he has advice for his fellow strivers.

"Set your goals clear so you know where you're heading,” Santiago said. "I've learned lessons in life that have taught me to be strong and determined and I grabbed my dreams, I hold them tight."

And he’s not letting go of those dreams any time soon.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[South Florida Educators Voice Concern Over Devos' Nomination]]> Thu, 02 Feb 2017 22:21:26 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/211*120/020217+betsy+devos.jpg

She’s a billionaire from Michigan who has spent years and millions of dollars promoting charter schools and denigrating public education in that state. Now Betsy Devos is a senate vote away from becoming the Secretary of Education, alarming those who think she’s unqualified for the job.

Karla Hernandez-Mats, with the United Teachers of Dade, opposes Devos confirmation.

“This is not about party lines, this is about doing what’s right for children and our children deserve better than this,” said Hernandez-Mats.

The United Teachers of Dade joined the National Teachers Unions in criticizing Devos when she showed little knowledge of educational policy at her senate confirmation hearings. Devos refused to say guns don’t belong in schools, drawing ridicule for citing a school in Wyoming’s bear country.

Two Republican Senators have said they will not support Devos, who has never worked in a school system and supports spending taxpayer dollars on private school vouchers.

“I’m worried about funding. I’m worried about a leader who has no education background trying to make education policy on things she has no knowledge of,” said Mats.

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says if Devos is confirmed, she needs to educate herself about the nation’s public schools.

“I think Secretary Devos needs to have a greater level of interaction with greater America, where 90% of kids are taught with teachers and principals across the country to make a more hopeful perspective of the reality of education in America. It is not as dark as some people paint it. It needs to be improved, but it is through collaboration, not accusation, that we get that done,” said Superintendent Carvalho.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Broward Middle School Offers Marine Science Magnet Program]]> Wed, 01 Feb 2017 20:11:09 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/020117+new+river+marine+science+program.jpg

South Florida’s public schools offer students a plethora of choices at all grade levels, with dozens of magnet programs catering to every interest. In Broward County Public Schools, the deadline to apply for one of the 70 magnet programs is coming up fast, next Wednesday, February 8th.

One of the more popular options is the marine science magnet program at New River Middle School in Fort Lauderdale.

“They’re learning about all the different aspects of marine science, physical, chemical, biological, oceanography and we get them out in the marine environment so they can learn about the seagrass beds, the mangroves, the coral reefs, which is right here in our back yard,” said the school’s magnet coordinator, Katherine O’Fallon. “We also expose them to the marine industry and the careers which are also right here in their back yard.”

They take their marine biology seriously here. We watched students dissecting clams. They’ve already taken squids apart and sharks are next on the dissection list.

You could say there’s literally an art to marine science when students create art from beach debris. They went on a beach cleanup mission and now they’re making art to make a statement about keeping out shorelines clean.

Students use computer coding and engineering skills to design underwater robots, called Remotely Operated Vehicles, or ROV’s. They test them in a pool on campus; practicing their skills by making the ROV’s perform tasks. Then they take them to competitions.

“The ROV competitions really expose them to operating, how to apply the concepts that are in the design of the ROV,” said O’Fallon. “So they can see that not only are ROV’s used for exploring the ocean but they can also be used for different tasks under water such as exploring oil rigs and salvaging wrecks.”

Students seem to love the experience at New River, from snorkeling and shark tagging field trips (arranged by researchers from the NSU Guy Harvey School of Oceanography) to everything they do on campus.

“You get to experience so much that you would never even know about if you went somewhere else,” said Michael Moss, an 8th grader and veteran ROV pilot.

“The best part is you get to do a lot of fun experiments and you get to dissect things and it’s a lot of fun,” said classmate Emma Mosher.

“We go on a lot of field trips like snorkeling, shark tagging, and it’s a lot of fun,” chimed in 8th grader Xavier Vargas.

There’s enough variety to pique the interest of every student.

“Some of our students who maybe didn’t grab on to the marine biology part because it wasn’t their thing are finding a lot of excitement around building these remotely operated vehicles,” said Principal Melinda Wessinger.

Wessinger is a tireless promoter of her school’s program, but knows it’s not for every kid, and has a message for parents.

“Find out what your child’s passion is, middle school is a difficult time for all kids, if you can stoke that passion in middle school, they will become lifelong learners,” Wessinger said.

Admission to New River’s marine science program is done by lottery. To register for any of Broward’s programs, click here.

Miami-Dade’s magnet application deadline was January 15th.

<![CDATA[Brag About Hallandale Magnet High School]]> Mon, 30 Jan 2017 19:56:26 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/013017+hallandale+magnet+high+school+new.jpg

When a school attracts students from all over Broward County, it’s fitting to put the word "magnet" right into its name. Hallandale Magnet High School definitely has pull, thanks to its six magnet programs, all under the umbrella of its Entrepreneurship STEM and Multimedia Technology Academy. The programs include Criminal Justice, Health Science, and Graphic Design.

The STEM academy students build, program and fly drones. They design robots and show them off at competitions. It’s all part of the process of learning coding, engineering, and even entrepreneurship, which is stressed throughout the school.

"So our students are not just here for their program, they’re learning how to create their own business," said magnet program coordinator, Marilyn Santiago. "We are very fortunate, we have a company called Odyssey Toys which actually gives us drones that have been returned, so our kids take them apart and rebuild them."

The Health Science program has an emphasis on sports medicine.

"The sports medicine area can include everything from orthopedic doctor to physical therapy, so they’re still learning techniques that you can use in a hospital setting but they’re getting a different aspect in Hallandale through athletics," explained Derek Rivera, who runs the program.

Hallandale Magnet High has a long history, an inner-city school with small town feel.

"It's a smaller school, and so that means that we’re able to personalize the learning, we’re able to monitor students from when they come in freshman year to their senior year," said principal Mark Howard, explaining that with 1,400 students, his school is one of the smallest high schools in the county.

Creative thinking, problem solving, and performance are all emphasized here. The drama club recently took first place in a theatre competition, and the school has always been known for producing top-flight basketball and football players.

"There’s a great source of pride and tradition at Hallandale," Howard said. "You know, you can’t hide that Charger pride."

They are justifiably proud of their television production magnet course, which boasts state-of-the-art facilities. The students in every program here graduate college-ready and career-ready, if they choose to skip college.

The Chargers are ready to charge into their futures.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Dillard High Senior Helping Classmates Succeed]]> Fri, 27 Jan 2017 19:59:11 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/216*120/012717+swag+on+6.jpg

Where Olivia Aiken goes, her friends follow. That’s a good thing, because Olivia sets the academic pace at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.

“This private, this quiet, this shy little girl is making a difference in the lives of so many people,” said principal Casandra Robinson. “I mean, she is the model student.”

Olivia is on track to be valedictorian of her senior class. She’s taking all AP and dual enrollment classes, but she has spent her years in high school looking outward, not inward.

“I am a naturally giving person so I think that’s just kind of my nature, so if anyone needs help with anything, if I’m available, I’m always there,” Olivia said.

It started with an English class in 10th grade. Olivia’s friends were struggling. Half the class was struggling. So Olivia stepped in on her own time to help.

“Honestly, I didn’t know that i had such a profound impact on people and it kind of makes me feel good to hear it,” Olivia said.

Olivia voluntarily tutored more than a dozen classmates, who say she saved their grades then, and inspires them now.

“I personally believe without the help of Olivia I don’t know if I would’ve passed,” explained Khadijah Anderson.

Another classmate, Darylin Smith, said, “I feel like she pushed us, everybody always wanted to be on Olivia’s level.”

“She’s like, motivated me and pushed me to be better than what I am and make sure I’m on top of my grades,” said Sheree Ramsey.

Mention any of this to Olivia, and she can’t hold back a grin.

“It makes me feel very good to know that i could help them get to where they’re going or help them reach their goals and it’s just a joy seeing all of my peers succeed as well,” said Olivia.

That generous spirit of giving doesn’t end with her classmates. Olivia’s taken it upon herself to feed the homeless at Thanksgiving. Not by volunteering at a shelter. No, she talked her family into making extra food to feed people outside their own home. They’ve been doing it for the past four years, and nearly 200 people showed up this past Thanksgiving.

“They just show their gratitude and how grateful they are and it really makes me happy that I’m able to help them and impact them with something as simple as a meal,” Olivia said.

So what’s next for this superstar kid? Here’s her to-do list for college and beyond: become a CPA, or open a vegan restaurant, or go to medical school.

“I feel like anything i put my mind to I’m able to achieve it,” Olivia said.

We’re thinking, all of the above.

<![CDATA[Rudy Diaz Named Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year]]> Fri, 27 Jan 2017 00:38:49 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/012617teacheroftheyearmdcps.jpg

Miami-Dade County Public Schools named Rodolfo "Rudy" Diaz as its 2018 Teacher of the Year Thursday.

Diaz is a long-time TV production teacher at South Miami Senior High. He has been teaching for 30 years.

The honor was announced Thursday evening during a ceremony held at the Doubletree By Hilton Miami Airport & Convention Center.

"It's a great honor. I'm very humbled by this. It's a great night for educators everywhere," said Diaz. 

He celebrated the recognition along with NBC 6 reporters Julia Bagg and Marissa Bagg, who were once students of the teacher. They credit Diaz with helping shape their careers.

"You know there's so many stand out teachers but he is one who cares for you like you're his own son or daughter," said Julia Bagg.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the educators they are America's freedom fighters and thanked them for their tireless work. 

Diaz was prized with a brand new Toyota Yaris. Carvalho made a surprise announcement. He donated $5,000 from his salary to Diaz. 

The TV Production teacher was among four finalists vying for the award -- Nadia German from Ojus Elementary, Laura Ortiz from Robert Morgan Educational Center & Technical College and Alfreida Joseph-Goins from Dorothy M. Wallace C.O.P.E.

Also recognized Thursday was Dontricia Jones from Norland Elementary as Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Superintendent Carvalho donated $1,000 to the other finalists and $500 to the Rookie Teacher of the Year.

<![CDATA[Miami-Dade School District's Mission to Bridge Tech Gap]]> Tue, 24 Jan 2017 19:48:26 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/012417+edu+on+6+computer+giveaway.jpg

Persistent poverty robs school kids of opportunity. The Miami-Dade School District knows this, and one of its solutions to this widespread problem is providing technology (in the form of computer laptops) to families who can’t afford it on their own.

“Not everybody has laptops in their homes, their computers, or free Wi-Fi so it’s really good and they get to learn at school and at home,” said Juan Garcia, a mother of three small children, saying it’s a big step forward for her family.

It’s called, Connect@Home, the MDCPS initiative to provide needy families with free laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, and educational software. So far, more than 300 households have received the tablets, including 39 today at Orchard Villa Elementary School in Liberty City.

Miderge Lafleur said her daughter, Christianna, who is in pre-K, can’t wait to use her new laptop.

“She’s already engaged in the classroom, I can tell, she talks about things she learned in class, but now I think she can take it a step further,” Lafleur said.

Taxpayers funded the Connect@Home program, and without it, some kids would simply never have their own computer.

“We need to recognize in schools like orchard villa, where a hundred percent of the kids live below the poverty level, that many parents do not have access to internet at home or the computers themselves, therefore their kids stop learning at the last bell,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

Parents at this morning’s giveaway and training event told us they feel like their kids now have an opportunity most kids take for granted.

“Yes, yes, because now she’s equal,” said Katherine Santiago about her daughter.

It’s not just a giveaway. The district staff is teaching parents how use the equipment, and in the process, showing them how to be better teachers of their own children.

“And the parents, and the fathers, they are here to let the world know they care about their children, so that’s what makes it great, it’s a collaboration, it’s a partnership,” said School Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall.

Think of it as leveling the academic playing field.

“The idea here is to create an echo of learning that goes from the school to the home and that takes the parent, it takes the teacher, it takes kids, and it takes technology,” Carvalho said.

It starts with the pre-K years, and the superintendent says it won’t finish until every kid has computer access at home.

<![CDATA[SWAG On 6: Coral Reef High's Sophia Aime]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2017 21:30:45 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/012017+Sophia+Aime.jpg

At first glance, it looks like any other coloring book, albeit with French and Creole wording. Sophia Aime’s creation is much more than something you could buy in a store. This senior at Coral Reef High School designed the book to inspire orphans in Haiti, children who often end up as child laborers.

"I created coloring books in their French and Haitian Creole language to you know, encourage these kids, boost their spirits," Sophia explained.

Sophia delivered dozens of her vocational coloring books, along with crayons, to an orphanage in Haiti last summer. Each page features a man or a woman engaged in some sort of occupation, from doctor to baker to engineer and many more.

"And I explained to them what these books mean and how they’re supposed to empower them and how they’re supposed to inspire them to become greater," Sophia said, explaining how she presented the books to the kids.

The coloring books are a marriage of Sophia’s passion for art and activism.

"She’s one of those kids who feels she has a mission, that she is here for a reason," said chemistry teacher Hemisha Barkow, one of Sophia’s mentors at school.

Her classmates notice the same quality in Sophia.

"She strives to do good for other people and she’s such an empowering woman," said fellow senior Mahek Lalani.

Sophia’s road has been challenging, to say the least. A few months ago, she lost her father. After his death, the family lost its home, sometimes the electricity bills went unpaid, yet throughout it all, Sophia continued her straight-A academic performance in the challenging International Baccalaureate curriculum.

"It just shows your strength, that if you’re able to overcome this, you’re able to overcome anything," Sophia said.

That perseverance and determination awes her friends at school.

"And she just continues to have this confidence and she just powered through it and that’s what truly inspires me because if I had to go through that I know I wouldn’t be able to make it," said classmate Sarah Alkhwlani.

Sophia won a full scholarship through the Questbridge program to Macalester College in Minneapolis. Eventually, she wants to become a civil rights attorney.

"You know, give a voice to those who are discriminated against, those who are mistreated, those who had injustice in their lives," Sophia said.

So her desire to help society is at the heart of her ambitions. What else would you expect from someone whose name means "love" in French?

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Kendall School Has Special Program for Hearing Impaired]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:24:46 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/011817+hearing+impaired.jpg

Walk into the class, and it looks like any other in an elementary school, until you look a little closer. You will notice all the kids are either wearing hearing aids or they have cochlear implants, because this is a special program for kids who have hearing deficiencies.

"The object is to open perception so that they can learn any language in the world, and that’s what we want them to do, to learn everything," said Marie Mazzara, a speech language pathologist who leads the program.

It’s not a new fad, Mazzara started the verbal-tonal instruction model program at Kenwood K-8 Center in Kendall back in 1984.

"We add rhymes and rhythms, all the speech sounds that we work on are immediately driven into a word, gone into a phrase so it becomes something meaningful," Mazzara said. "We use role playing and we make it a lot of fun for the kids."

One goal is to raise the communication skills and the confidence of hearing-impaired students.

"I learned a lot of words here and it helped me communicate better," said 6th-grader Emily Fuerte.

8th grader Jared Martinez transferred into Kenwood’s program.

"I’m from another school I went to, I didn’t learn very much, then I went here, it helped me a lot," Jared explained.

The teachers wear microphones so that everything they say as they teach their classes is amplified by speakers, or wirelessly goes directly into the hearing aids worn by the students.

So how does one judge the effectiveness of a program like this? Of course, there are analytic measures, such as test scores over the years. Or you can simply ask a parent.

"He has been able to go from being completely non-verbal to speaking without any issue," gushes Amy Stetson about her son, Cody. "He read a book to us last night which was unbelievable, so it’s just been a miracle."

The program is also a bonding experience for the 61 students in it at the moment. They understand each other because they all they know what it’s like to rely on hearing aids, they all have similar issues, and hopefully, unlimited futures.

"That they get to choose what world they want to walk in, what community they want to be a part of so that they’re not limited in this world, the world is open to them," Mazzara said.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Student Helping Classmates With Life's Stresses]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 19:53:02 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/011317+swag+on+6+hope.jpg

From worrying about grades, their appearance, boyfriends and girlfriends, high school students navigate through stress mine fields every day.

A student at one Broward high school started a club just to help his stressed-out classmates.

Students in the Hope Club volunteer their time to simply listen and encourage their stressed-out peers.

It started because one student lost a friend to suicide, couldn’t stand that pain and decided to something about it. That’s why Derek Sheinberg founded the club here at Cypress Bay High School.

“We just established something here that I think will last a long time and that’s because of Derek,” said teacher and club mentor David Deller.

“Just to be here and let them know that we’re here for them, they’re able to come here and talk to us about any issues that they have,” said Sheinberg.

Sheinberg is only a sophomore. He started the club last year, and says students at his school have issues you’d find anywhere, in every school.

“It’s pressure to perform well, it’s anxiety, OCD, there’s plenty of bullying going on in this school,” he said. “That’s really a big problem, and stress and anxiety, those are very big, depression, I could go on and on about that.”

From a handful of kids, Derek’s club has grown to 35 volunteers, all of whom say they can relate to the stress issues they hear from their classmate - who need a sympathetic ear.

“Since the things I’ve been through as well you know it’s good to know I’m not alone and helping people makes me feel a lot better,” said club member Camila Corrales.

“It’s not only helping other people, it’s helping me as well,” Derek said. “I’ve really grown, my perspective about people and issues have grown tremendously.”

“I think he’s the main reason why there are so many people coming to this club,” said member Nikki Rubinsztain.

If they find serious issues, the school’s social worker is called in. But just by showing concern, the club provides hope for kids who feel desperate.

“Our first year here, we actually had some letters sent back from parents describing how their children have gotten better from these issues,” Derek said.

The experience has transformed Derek, who’s hoping the hope club concept spreads to every high school and every student who needs someone to talk to.

<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Schools Offers Unique Veterinary Magnet Program]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 20:20:50 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/011117+miami-dade+vet+magnet+program.jpg

Consider this your wake-up call. Any student interested in joining a magnet program in Miami-Dade Public Schools for next school year needs to act quickly to get in on the action. The deadline is January 15th. That’s this Sunday.

"Talk to your child, make sure that they know what they’re getting themselves into and that they’re going to love what they do, but with all the choices that we have, there’s going to be something for everyone," said Rafael Villalobos, principal at Ferguson High School in Kendall.

Miami-Dade Public Schools has more than 500 choice and magnet programs spread throughout its grade levels.

Ferguson High has one of the more unique offerings, a veterinary sciences program which teaches students how much hard work goes into taking care of animals. They’ve practically got a farm on the campus.

"The animals teach them something, they teach the animals things, it’s a symbiotic relationship, it’s a beautiful thing, they work really hard, they get in the ring with the animal," said teacher Erin Abramoff.

The kids in the program learn all aspects of animal husbandry, from milking goats to grooming cattle to feeding everything. They are responsible for the overall health and well-being of the animals, they learn from real veterinarians who periodically visit, and they bring the animals to FFA competitions.

"What I really like about this program is everything is hands-on, everything is student-run," said student Nicholas Herdocia.

"Everybody thinks, ok, agriculture, it’s animals, but it’s much more than that," added student Jessica Casarreal.

Her colleague, Bernie Forteza, explains that the veterinary program provides skills that are useful in every class.

"It really develops their public speaking skills and actually adding more work to our schoolwork, it helps us manage our time," Bernie said.

You could say the program grooms students for college and careers beyond the veterinary world.

"A lot of our students are able to go to amazing universities and really do flourish because they’ve had this experience," Abramoff said.

Ferguson isn’t the only school with a veterinary program. The point is, students have lots of choices these days, so it’s time to break out of the herd mentality and investigate the options.

Note: the deadline for magnet and choice applications in Broward County Public Schools is February 8th.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Norland Middle Kids Star in Golden Globe-Winning 'Moonlight']]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 20:10:15 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/172*120/Norland+Moonlight+Students.PNG

They say they’re just average seventh-graders in every way. Good luck trying to persuade their classmates at Norland Middle School that Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner are run-of-the-mill kids, especially now that Moonlight just won Best Picture at the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night.

Alex plays the main character in the movie as a child, and his real-life buddy, Jaden, plays his best friend in the film.

"It was amazing, beautiful really. In our neighborhood, you're probably known for basketball or football, but this time, people don’t even believe that I'm in a movie," Jaden said.

For Jaden and Alex, this was a full-immersion experience into the world of movie-making. Suddenly, these kids were surrounded by pros.

"I'm just like this small little kid, but they were good, they were great, they gave me a lot of tips and tricks on how to act," Alex said. "I really don’t like watching myself because every time I watch myself I always feel like I could do better."

Norland Middle has a performing arts magnet program that attracts kids like Alex and Jaden, so it wasn’t like they just walked off the street onto the movie set. The boys already had some acting training.

"The very first thing we teach is discipline, you have to have discipline in the arts, so I think that really helped them on the set because as I always tell them, you can be talented all you want, but are you employable?" said their drama teacher, Tanisha Cidel.

"Words cannot express how proud I am of them."

Moonlight is a coming-of-age movie that takes place in the projects of Liberty City. As kids can do, they distill the film’s mature themes to their core messages.

"It makes people feel like they can overcome their fears, and face their obstacles in life," Jaden said.

"It teaches you a big lesson on how to like, not judge people or be mean to anybody, 'cause you don't know what their struggles are or what they're going through at home," Alex explained.

Did I mention the boys' teacher is also in the film? Tanisha Cidel plays the school principal, so Alex and Jaden have a built-in role model at Norland. Both of them say they want careers in acting, and judging by Moonlight, they’re already on their way to the spotlight. 

<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Ferguson High School's Abraham Cardenas]]> Fri, 23 Dec 2016 19:50:41 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/122316+Abraham+Cardenas.jpg

Whether it’s shooting pictures or video, Ferguson High School senior Abraham "AJ" Cardenas has a knack for it.

"Anything that revolves around the camera is my speciality, it’s my passion," AJ said.

When the Miami-Dade school district needed a video to promote its contest to design a new logo, it turned to AJ to make it. Take it from us television pros, AJ’s video looks totally professional. He’s such a wiz with editing and shooting, he inspires his film class teacher.

"I don’t mind saying 'ok, I don’t know how to do this, let’s ask AJ,” said teacher Juan Moreno. “He puts a lot of himself into his work.”

There’s no question that AJ is tremendously skilled at shooting and editing video but to get to his level of achievement, he had to overcome something most students don’t have to deal with: AJ has autism.

"I feel like everyone goes through obstacles in life, as me with autism," AJ explained. "It used to be a hardship to me because when you’re little you are clueless about it."

Through years of working on socialization skills, AJ has learned things most of us take for granted, such as understanding non-verbal cues and making small talk. He says for much of his life, he would just freeze and say nothing at all for fear of saying the wrong thing in conversations.

"I would have social issues, making friends," AJ said.

Those days are behind him. AJ is an admires student at Ferguson.

"Everybody looks up to him," said classmate Gonzalo Fuenmayor, "because he's very courageous."

His film teacher, Juan Moreno, said when he found out AJ was on the autism spectrum, it made him appreciate his work even more.

"Other than just the artistic intelligence that he has, he also has an emotional intelligence that’s unlike anybody else, really, his age," said classmate Humberto Mendez.

AJ’s mother actually went back to college to earn a degree in child psychology so she could provide therapy at home for her son. AJ says battling through the effects of his disorder allows him to see those who have more severe levels of autism through a more understanding lens.

"I feel like I can communicate with them better because when it comes to an autistic person you gotta remember they are a completely normal human in a physical prison," said AJ.

So does this young man want to become a Spielberg or a Scorsese? AJ has his own idea of success, which is using his film-making ability to one day help the Autism community.

"With these skills that I have I can go and use them and not only help those but give hope to the parents of children with autism," AJ said, explaining that he’s a role model for other kids on the spectrum.

He hopes using a camera to break out of his shell may be a path others can follow, too.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Miami Edison High School]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 20:01:30 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brag+About+Your+School+THUMBNAIL+Website.jpg

It’s one of South Florida’s originals. We now know it as Edison High School in Miami, but it started out as Dade County Agricultural High School in 1915. They changed the name to honor the inventor of the light bulb in 1931.

So there’s lots of history at Edison High, but schools can’t survive by looking backward. They need new programs, they need to innovate, and Edison is doing just that.

"We are a major advocate of rigor in the classroom and again, just preparing our students for life after high school, and our goal here is just to make sure that students have several options,” said principal Try Diggs.

One of those options is Edison’s magnet academy of finance. It’s a real credit union branch, actual banking takes place there, and the students run the place.

"The students get a chance to actually work on transactions, do deposits, open up accounts and actually see what it is and how it is,” said lead magnet teacher Yolette Mezadieu, explaining that teaching financial literacy is vital. “We start off early, in ninth grade."

The school’s culinary program provides an avenue for students looking to work in the hospitality industry after high school.

"We do have students who are not college bound, they don’t want to go to college, so we want to make sure they’re ready for the real world with career readiness,” Mezadieu said.

Edison also has the Cambridge magnet program for kids preparing for college-level work, and a health sciences program which trains students to be emergency medical technicians, gets them ready for health studies in college, and more.

"It prepares them for real-life scenarios, I've had two students so far this year that have been able to intervene in family emergencies and had a successful outcome because of this course, it make me very proud of them,” said teacher Virgil Rodriguez, who is a trained EMT.

The students in his program ride with him on actual ambulance calls as part of the course.

They’re proud of their Marching Red Raiders band at Edison, which is noticeably smaller than most high school bands. That’s because the school only has 800 students, and sometimes, as the principal says, less is more.

"It’s a very small atmosphere so the students know us and we know them and it’s a very personalized atmosphere so we can insure that we can go above and beyond with regard to our students,” Diggs said, saying smaller class sizes and individualized instruction are the norm in her school.

That’s especially helpful in a school in which many students are not native English speakers. Diggs says in five years, the graduation rate at Edison has jumped 20 percent, about 80 percent now.

Smaller classes, more personal attention. It’s another Edison bright idea.

<![CDATA[SWAG ON 6: Kaitlyn Coyne Helps Students Dress For Success]]> Fri, 16 Dec 2016 21:19:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000027048431_1200x675_835345987752.jpg

When we met, Kaitlyn Coyne was folding dress pants and shorts, hanging them up on clothing racks. This junior at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs doesn’t work in a boutique. The racks were in the principal’s office, temporary storage space for Kaitlyn’s project, called “Suit Up With Kaitlyn.” She saw a need and did something about it, which is no surprise to those who know her.

“She’s a very strong-willed person in terms of wanting to make this world a better place, she sees a problem, she thinks about what she can do to fix it, and then she’s very proactive in achieving it,” said teacher Staycee Lehrman, who has helped Kaitlyn organize her efforts.

Kaitlyn is on the debate team, and she noticed that some kids can’t afford business clothing to look professional when they go to debate tournament. So she started a crusade to solicit donations.

“I’ve been absolutely astonished by the response, it’s been completely overwhelming, the amount of clothing I’ve received,” Kaitlyn said.

Dress for success was only a concept for some kids, until Kaitlyn handed them donated men’s and women’s suits, ties, and jackets.

“And you kinda see almost a spark in their eye, this confidence just builds up because they know I look nice and the audience and the judge knows I look nice so it really adds a confidence boost, absolutely,” said Kaitlyn.

“Suit Up With Kaitlyn” is even having an impact of kids who don’t need donated clothing. Kaitlyn has inspired her friends.

“It’s pretty impressive, I’m inspired by it to want to do more to help her out with it as much as I can because it’s a cool thing, it’s a really great cause,” said classmate Alexa Babinec.

“I think it’s a really good idea and it’s really gonna benefit a lot of the kids in this school who can’t get the type of business clothes they need for DECA and National Honor Society,” added Frankie Gaynor, another of Kaitlyn’s friends.

Last week, a school board member met with Kaitlyn to discuss ways to implement her program district-wide. She already has a room full of clothing, but they can always use more. The need is great, and Kaitlyn’s project may be the solution.

“I never expected it to take off this much at all, it’s been kind of spectacular,” Kaitlyn said with a grin.

Now this straight-A student with Ivy League ambitions is hoping her idea will help other kids realize their ambitions as well.

<![CDATA[Blind, Sighted Kids Learn Value of Inclusion in Pre-K Class]]> Wed, 14 Dec 2016 21:26:53 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121416+miami+lighthouse+for+the+blind.jpg

It may look like any Pre-K program and that’s the idea, but this classroom at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind is breaking new ground.

The center has launched a pilot program this year which schools students on the value of inclusion. The center has a classroom which includes visually impaired children, learning alongside their sighted classmates.

Miami Lighthouse worked with Miami-Dade Public Schools to help visually impaired students prepare for mainstream public school. “By the children beginning now with daily Braille skills they should be good Braille readers,” said Virginia Jacko, who works at Miami Lighthouse.

In addition to Braille, the blind kids get a boost in confidence.

Monique Reid’s son, who is visually impaired, has been attending the class. She says the program has helped him to feel accepted and one with the other kids. “I think that he’ll notice at some point that his vision is not as good as everyone else. But, because he sees himself as great, when he sees someone else with a disability, he’ll accept them,” said Reid.

The students use a modified version of high-scope curriculum which prepares them for kindergarten and gets them ready to interact with people who may be different from them.

Annie Larosa’s son is not visually impaired. She says the program will allow him to know that people with disabilities may need extra help but should be treated equally. “They’re no less or no greater than you,” said Larosa.

Kids in the program will take that spirit of acceptance and tolerance with them for years to come.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School: Monarch High]]> Mon, 12 Dec 2016 21:58:00 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121216+brag+about+monarch+high.jpg

Even though it’s 14 years old, Monarch High School in Coconut Creek is the new kid on the block among North Broward high schools. With fresh paint and a design that evokes a college campus, complete with a hilly, tree-shaded courtyard, Monarch still feels like it just opened.

The school distinguishes itself by offering innovative programs and with a marching band that just brought home the third-place trophy in the statewide band competition. The music director says that kind of experience goes beyond just playing their instruments. It teaches kids the same skills they’ll need for job interviews.

“It’s a lot of nerves involved when you have to get out there and perform, you have to make sure you’re ready to go with everything and you have to be well-prepared,” said band director Darrell Haynes.

Monarch is a traditional, full-service high school with a heart. They integrate special needs kids into regular classes whenever possible, and they’re created a mentoring group called Latinos in Action to counsel and help students who are in the process of learning English. The Latinos in Action frequently go to neighboring elementary schools to serve as role models for the younger kids.

“The younger kids down really, really love the fact that their peers come to speak to them in their native language,” said Principal James Neer, explaining how the Latinos in Action inspire their younger counterparts.

The school offers special courses in engineering, tourism and hospitality, and early childhood development.

“Of course, the core academics is what we’re here for but those special programs really attract kids to come to monarch and they’re very proud to be part of the school,” Neer said.

They’re also proud to have the AP Computer Science Principles class. This is the first year the College Board is offering the class anywhere in the nation. Monarch had a flood of kids wanting to take it, knowing the jobs of the future are in the high tech sector.

“So they’ve had a huge push about computer science and programming and trying to develop it, creating apps like they’re doing here make it more fun,” said teacher Lori Fuller.

The kids are wired, and so is their school.

“We have thousands and thousands of computers, as you can see in this lab, it’s a fully functional mac lab, we have six other p-c labs, so the opportunity to utilize technology anywhere a student needs to, it’s available to them,” Neer explained.

The band members aren’t the only Knights striving for excellence at Monarch High.

<![CDATA[Twin Sisters Share Pain and Pride at FIU Graduation]]> Mon, 12 Dec 2016 21:57:34 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121216+tiffany+eileen+gomez+fiu+grads.jpg

It's a season of celebration at college campuses across South Florida as students mark their academic accomplishments. The moment of pride shared with loved ones, friends and professors. For twin sisters Tiffany and Eileen Gomez, it's a moment of triumph after years of trials and tribulations.

In the sea of navy blue caps at Monday's commencement ceremony at Florida International University, Tiffany and Eileen stand out because of their story of struggle.

Overwhelmed with emotion, the twin sisters walked across the FIU stage together, both with heavy hearts knowing their mom and dad could not cheer them on from the crowd. The sisters' mother passed away when they were only four years old. They were raised by their father, Vito. Sadly, a terminal illness took his life two years ago. The sisters had to take over their father's business, Vito's Bakery, while continuing their studies. "Today was significant for me because aside from graduating for my father and myself, I was walking for my sister as well because she was not able to walk for her graduation," said Tiffany.

She received the resignation of the "Worlds Ahead" graduate - which is awarded by FIU to individuals with strong leadership qualities, a desire to change lives and a record of academic achievement.

Tiffany's twin sister, Eileen, graduated in 2013, but she wasn't able to walk across the stage because at the time, their father had fallen ill. FIU's faculty made sure Monday's ceremony was extra special for the twins. "The twins became bakers, business owners and caretakers at the same time they continued pursuing their degrees," said FIU President Dr. Mark Rosenberg.

The sisters say they know their parents are watching from above as they marked the major milestone. After graduation, the twins plan to continue running their dad's bakery.

<![CDATA[NBC 6 Brag About Your School - Monarch High School]]> Mon, 12 Dec 2016 13:11:34 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brag+About+Your+School+THUMBNAIL+Website.jpg

NBC 6 is bragging about another South Florida school Monday – this time, we’re heading to Monarch High School in Coconut Creek.

Home of the Knights, the school boasts one of the top marching bands in the entire state, recently placing third in the Florida Marching Band Coalition 2016 Championships held in St. Petersburg.

The school, which opened just 14 years ago, also kicked off a new program being implemented at several Broward County schools called Latinos in Action – a program where students work with kids in elementary schools who are learning English and helping them to adjust to their new environments.

Join Ari Odzer live starting at 11 AM on NBC 6 as we brag about Monarch High School!

<![CDATA[SWAG On 6: Madison Chamizo]]> Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:48:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/120916+Madison+Chamizo.jpg

Most high school kids spend their free time having fun. Madison Chamizo likes to monkey around, too. Literally. Madison has volunteered more than 2,000 hours at Monkey Jungle’s DuMond Conservancy.

“They don’t have a voice so we basically need to speak for them and we need to help them out,” Madison said, referring to the primates with which she works.

They are owl monkeys, named because their big, round eyes make them look like furry owls. The ones Madison cares for are retired from bio-medical research. Some are blind, some are missing internal organs. These monkeys helped humanity, now Madison is helping them. This high school senior has been volunteering at the conservancy since she was in middle school.

“All of us at the DuMond Conservancy are in awe of Madison, not only for her enormous commitment and dedication to helping us care for these wonderful monkeys but also for her humanitarian concerns,” said Dr. Sian Evans, the conservancy’s director.

Evans is talking about Madison’s efforts to recruit other teenagers to join the conservancy’s project to use the monkeys to help disabled teens.

“They basically learn how to do independent and employability skills, they cut fruit, they clean their cages, basically things that they need in their everyday life that we can teach ‘em here,” Madison explained.

At Southwest Miami High School, Madison is an academic achiever. She’s in the top 1 percent of her class, taking all AP and dual enrollment classes. One of those classes is AP Art. Her artwork was recently selected to be displayed in a gallery show. Madison is also a star on the school’s championship badminton team. Is there anything this kid can’t do?

"I don’t think so, anything she puts her mind into, she’s gonna succeed,” said her coach, Marta Guinea.

Madison’s classmates say her love for wildlife conservation rubs off on everyone.

"And she’s very passionate about it and she’s really made me more conscientious about the environment and what we need to do to conserve it,” said Emily Diaz, one of Madison’s friends.

Another friend described Madison as the kid everyone turns to for help.

"And she’s gotten me involved in thinking of nature and how i can make it better,” said Kristen Gandon.

The way Madison sees it, spreading environmental awareness is a mission.

"A lot of this stuff isn’t really taught in schools, so I try to teach them what I know so they can help the environment as much as they can,” Madison said.

In many ways, Madison Chamizo is just getting started. She plans on studying zoology in college. The monkeys have taught her how rewarding a career dedicated to wildlife conservation can be.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[PAMM Teaching Students About Contemporary Art]]> Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:43:39 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/120716+pamm.jpg

Sometimes, it’s good to get kids out of the classroom, especially if you want them to have a hands-on, eyes-on experience. That’s why school buses line up outside the Perez Art Museum Miami every day. More than 45,000 students have toured the PAMM in the last two years, guided and taught by artists-in-residence at the museum.

"There really is no substitution for seeing art in person, to see the textures, to experience work that’s sometimes interactive, to walk through art, it’s just a whole other type of learning experience that you really can’t do sitting at a desk in a classroom and it contributes to the classroom experience,” said PAMM education director Marie Vickles.

We watched a large group of fourth graders from Myrtle Grove K-8 Center in Miami Gardens soak in all the museum has to offer.

"It is an exciting day because it’s something that many of them have never had the chance or the opportunity to come and see," said one of their teachers, Carla Williams. "Paper and pencil, yes, that’s great but sometimes you need that outlet where you can do other things."

The kids are learning not just what it takes to be an artist, but to appreciate art, too. It’s one of the primary missions of the museum.

“I think it helps to foster critical thinking, it helps to connect the dots across many different subject areas,” Vickles said, talking about the benefits of the experience students get on these field trips.

The kids didn’t expect to learn lessons in science, math, and social studies at the art museum, but they did. They also got a boost in confidence, with several students saying they were looking forward to making their own art works.

At this age, the fourth graders are like a blank canvas. The experience they had at the PAMM can certainly help fill in the picture.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:47:43 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/BRAG+Arthur+Polly+Mays+Conservatory+%284%29.JPG ]]>