<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - ]]>Copyright 2018https://www.nbcmiami.com/feature/education-on-6http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.pngNBC 6 South Floridahttps://www.nbcmiami.comen-usTue, 16 Jan 2018 08:20:21 -0500Tue, 16 Jan 2018 08:20:21 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Plantation High's Duane 'The Role Model' Johnson]]>Fri, 12 Jan 2018 19:17:24 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/011218+Swag+Ari.png

He’s got a name like a movie star, and he’s already a star at Plantation High School. Duane Johnson’s favorite class is aerospace engineering, but he’s right at home in AP calculus or on the football field. He’s played for the Colonels for four years, and if there’s a student government meeting, you’ll find Duane there, too.

This Duane Johnson is the Rock of Plantation High. He excels at everything.

“I’m ambitious, I want to adventure, I want to achieve many goals, and I just feel as if, if it’s reachable, why not?” Duane said.

Calling Duane a leader is an understatement. His friends call him the Role Model.

“That’s someone I would love to be like, he’s a great student, he gets all his work done, has the grades, has everything,” said Otis Ragin, one of Duane’s football teammates.

“He's a go-getter,” said classmate Adam Sachs. “He’s willing to do anything and just get the job done, he’s always looking forward and willing to help other people.”

To fully appreciate the status Duane has achieved, it’s imperative to know the obstacles he’s overcome to arrive at this point.

“To be honest, I believe that whatever I set my mind to now I can achieve it, because if that was my bottom, there’s nothing I can’t do,” Duane explained.

Duane’s “bottom” was being homeless for four years, with custody of him and his sister bouncing from his mother, who had severe financial problems, to a father Duane says was abusive.

“I played football, so I had an escape route to keep me away from my dad,” Duane said.

The problems outside of school motivated this young man to work as hard as possible in school.

“And it really made me a man, it molded me into the person I am today, because it made me want to be more successful, it made me want to look past everything that I’ve been through and you know I just thank god that I went through that early because it really made me a better person,” said Duane.

Duane knows his experience can benefit others, so he joined a police-sponsored mentoring group to help kids beyond the classroom.

“I mentor people in situations almost the same as mine so it’s just me reaching out to them, telling them my story, giving them hope, because a lot of people lose hope easily, and I’m like, you gotta be a fighter in this world,” Duane said.

His fighting spirit and work ethic have already earned Duane thousands of dollars in college scholarship money.

“He’s going places, I can’t wait to catch up with him in 10 years and see what he becomes,” said Joe Vallone, Duane’s aerospace engineering teacher.

A decade from now? Duane hopes he’ll be working for NASA by then. Looks like he’s already got lift-off.

]]>
<![CDATA[Alumni Return to Hialeah High for Special Forum]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 18:46:49 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/122017+college+forum.jpg

High schools in which most of the students are from disadvantaged homes, with many still learning English, are not supposed to produce Ivy Leaguers every year. By that measure, Hialeah Senior High has been defying expectations for a long time.

Evidence for that proposition was on the stage in the school’s auditorium Wednesday morning. About 30 alumni, including current college students and recent college graduates, came back to give back to their school. They were part of the annual College Forum. The alumni represented some of the nation’s finest universities, including Harvard, Brown, Duke, Northwestern, UCLA, USC, and UF and FSU. There was also an alumnus who took a different course, through aviation college, and now flies B-52 bombers in the Air Force.

The Forum is all about giving advice, a chance for the high school kids to hear what college is really like from students who they can trust.

“Because we want to make sure that once they get there, they stay there, that they’re successful, they’re graduating from college,” said principal Heriberto Sanchez, explaining the reason for College Forum.

Everyone on the stage had roots in common, but they also have one other shared commonality, and that’s a sense of gratitude for Hialeah High’s college advisor, who was at the school for 16 years. Alina Grandal retired this year, and was greeted with a standing ovation when she addressed the students participating in the Forum.

“I am so happy and so proud of each of you and the fact that you came back time after time to give back to your school,” Grandal said, fighting back tears.

Grandal has been instrumental in shepherding students to the next level of education, whether it’s Miami-Dade College or Stanford, MIT, Columbia, and Penn. There are Hialeah High Thoroughbreds at all of those institutions.

“Ms. Grandal has helped all of us immensely with the college application process, without her, truly, we would be super clueless,” said Jessie Rodriguez, who is a sophomore at Harvard.

“It gives me a feeling of satisfaction,” Grandal said, explaining what it’s like to see the returning alumni every year. “I know they didn’t go there because of me, sometimes they tell me I did it because of you, and I tell them no, I was just support.”

Now Grandal is passing the baton to her daughter, who is moving from math teacher to college advisor, pledging to bring the same passion and dedication to the job that her mother brought to work every day.

“I definitely want to make sure that all these kids get into the best schools that they can and continue her legacy,” said Christina Grandal Orfely.

She’s got huge shoes to fill, but the example has been set. Now students know that no matter how much poverty they face at home, if they work hard enough, they can follow the path blazed by the kids who came before them.

“We must have done something right,” Grandal said. 

]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Your School: Parkway Middle School of the Arts]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 19:06:26 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121817+Brag+Parkway.png

It’s always fun to expose a hidden gem, like that great neighborhood restaurant or the boutique your friends don’t know about. Consider putting Parkway Middle School of the Arts in that category.

“It’s a hidden treasure,” said the school’s principal, Bradford Mattair, in full agreement with our assessment.

The school sits in the heart of Broward County, but it’s in a quiet residential neighborhood, a bit off the beaten path. The performing arts community, however, knows all about Parkway Middle. It’s got the only middle school performing arts magnet in the county, and it’s been attracting talented kids for three decades.

“Thirty years of turning out stars, like Black Violin, like Jason Derulo, people who went here to Parkway and are now pursuing their dreams as artists,” said the school’s artistic director, Michelle Terl.

These days, Parkway’s choir is so stellar, they’re the only middle school choir in Florida to be invited to perform at Lincoln Center in New York. The event is in March, and is part of Manhattan Concert Productions.

Meanwhile, the school’s drama troupe won the Florida State Jr. Thespian Festival’s Mainstage contest, and will soon perform “Guys and Dolls” in an international theatre festival in Orlando. It’s another feather in the Parkway’s artsy cap.

“These kids are dreamers and they’re putting their dreams in front of them and projecting their dreams out to an audience and the audience has the opportunity to see these children, they’re striving to be the best at whatever they do,” Mattair said.

If they’re striving to be the best computer coder, they’re in the right place, too. In addition to performing arts, Parkway is a STEM magnet school. It includes classes in website design, robotics, drone flight, and more.

Many of the students are also in the school’s unique Center for Intellectually Talented Youth. The CITY program keeps gifted students together from third grade through eighth, doing extra enrichment.

“Socratic seminars, speech and debate, chess,” said Mattair, listing some of the enrichment activities. “Mathematics competitions, drone competitions, engineering, robotic competitions.”

The STEM magnet kids can take aeronautics, in which they learn to fly planes on actual flight simulators.

All of these activities and classes build up “the whole child,” as Mattair says, and Terl agrees.

“It’s really quite amazing to watch these young kids, they come to us, they’re 10 years old when they sign up and by the time they leave they’re 14, and they have confidence, and they’re going out there to pursue their dreams,” Terl said.

One of those dreams is to sing in that New York City event, but to get there, the kids need to raise $85,000. You can help by going to www.parkwayplayers.com, which has a link to their GoFundMe page.ter

]]>
<![CDATA[Student Working at Greatness: Natalie Lamas]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 19:22:35 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121517+Swag+Pic.png

Some kids sit in the front row because they want to. Others do it because they have to.

“When they had the kindergarten hearing test I thought I was doing the test wrong because everybody’s hands were going up and I just didn’t hear anything,” Natalie Lamas recalled.

They diagnosed Natalie with severe hearing loss back then, but look at her now: she’s graduating in the top five percent of her senior class at Hialeah gardens high school, she has straight “A’s” in the demanding Cambridge program, she’s a silver knight nominee, she’s going to FIU next year on scholarship, and she’s a black belt in Taekwondo.

“Life is like, 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent what you make of it,” Natalie said.

Natalie has spent her entire academic career struggling to hear the teacher, to hear her classmates, to hear, period, but her friends say she never uses the disability as an excuse or as a crutch.

“I was always like, I don’t understand why she’s always asking me what the teacher’s saying, I just thought that maybe she wasn’t paying attention, until one day she actually told me I’m hearing impaired and I honestly didn’t notice, she doesn’t make it known, she’s not like 'hi, I’m hearing impaired, pay attention to me,'” said Natalie's classmate, Amanda Rosario.

That’s not Natalie's style. She puts her head down and gets to work.

“You have to work harder, but I’m a person who, if I have to work harder for my goals, I don’t mind doing it,” Natalie said.

“She had goals and she was gonna do whatever she needed to do to reach those goals,” said guidance counselor Yvette Pino.

So Natalie turned to the latest, high-tech hearing aids for help. She says since she got them last summer, her world has changed dramatically. For the first time in her life, she heard a bird chirp, and now, she doesn’t have to struggle as much to understand her teachers. Natalie feels new opportunities have opened up for her.

“If you really want it, you can go get it, so even though the hearing aids are helping me, they’re not what’s getting me there,” Natalie said.

What’s getting her there is her drive to succeed and help others. She’s raised $5,000 for a charity that provides kids with hearing aids in third world countries, and Natalie also counsels students like herself.

“like I was never comfortable with getting help because I always thought it was an embarrassment, and a lot of people feel that way, but people need to understand that resources are there for a reason,” Natalie said.

That message will be heard – loud and clear.

]]>
<![CDATA[FIU Suspends All Greek Life Activities Starting in January]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:43:53 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/032316+fiu+fostering.jpg

Florida International University announced Friday afternoon that they have suspended all Greek activities.

According to a statement released by Mark Rosenberg, FIU's president, they have decided to suspend all Greek activities for at least one month starting January 1, 2018.

In a statement, the university cites “growing concerns about the state of fraternity and sorority life at FIU as well as around the nation,” for suspending the activities.

The university will announce more details of the suspension to the members of Greek councils, chapter members, advisors and interested alumni.

All activities are suspended, with the exception of chapter and council meetings and educational workshops that are held with the purpose of improving Greek life at FIU and discussing next steps, the university said.

“I appreciate the work done thus far by Greek leaders who understand that the current state is not acceptable,” said Rosenberg.



Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Pinecrest Elementary Music Teacher Develops Talented Kids]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:23:56 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121317+Ari+Kids+Scool.png

Nothing is more rewarding for teachers than seeing their students grow up to be successful adults. For elementary school teachers, it’s a long wait to see the seeds they plant bear fruit.

Cynthia Kohanek is seeing her efforts pay off.

Kohanek is in her 20th year leading the music program at Pine. Five years ago, The Village of Pinecrest declared December 13th to be Cynthia Kohanek Day. So the fifth-graders singing in the chorus may not realize it, but they’re following a path to choral excellence blazed over two decades.

“I’m most proud of the students that have come through this program, the humans they have become, the citizens that they have become,” Kohanek said.

“Ms. Kohanek is just one of those exceptional teachers, above and beyond, the work ethic, the passion,” marveled Kohanek’s boss, principal Lynn Zaldua. “A school without the arts and music? It’s just a building with academics and books, this adds life.”

Kohanek’s passion and dedication rubs off on her students.

“There’s nothing like a student or students working so hard, months of rehearsals, practice, and then for them to feel the gratitude and rewards of their accomplishments,” Kohanek said, adding that the experience gives the kids confidence and raises their self-esteem.

Kohanek’s alumni come back all the time. We watched professional singer and actress Carolina Pozo sing with the kids. Pozo told us the lessons she learned here 18 years ago, in fifth grade, still resonate every day.

“If I work hard, I can do this, and that idea has never left me, it’s always kept that drive going and it always reminded me that passion can get you very far in whatever work you do,” Pozo said.

Kohanek’s former students at Pinecrest Elementary include Ashley Levin, who was a contestant on The Voice, and pop star Camila Carbello, who was a member of the group Fifth Harmony and has had a couple of hit solo songs.

So what’s the takeaway for her former students, who learned teamwork and discipline at an early age?

“This has led to many alumni pursuing professional performing careers, but more importantly is my hope that all of my students leave my program with a sense of understanding the value of the arts,” Kohanek said.

Consider that mission accomplished.

]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Your School: Coral Way K-8]]>Mon, 11 Dec 2017 18:18:08 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121117+Coral+Brag.png

It was considered experimental in 1963 when the school, which is now Coral Way K-8 Center, became the nation’s first dual-language immersion public school. Fifty-four years later, it’s a confirmed success, with generations of kids having graduated, fluent in Spanish and English.

“Well, we know that language acquisition is best at an early age. That’s why we start them actually in Pre-K. In our Pre-K, we have Spanish instruction,” said the principal, Barbara Martin.

The school’s chorus performs songs in both languages, and that’s the just the start.

“All of our classes include bilingual education, whether they go to art, whether they’re in music, whether they’re in band,” said lead teacher Susana Cordova Martin.

We saw a 6th-grade math class being taught in Spanish, and every student understood the lesson. Likewise, a third-grade science class was being taught in English. The students here think nothing of switching from one language to the other.

“Our students leave our school fully bilingual and bi-literate, meaning they can read, write, and communicate in Spanish,” Cordova Martin said.

The value of having that skill in this increasingly global, increasingly connected society is incalculable.

The school also offers the international studies program, which entails staying after school for an hour, four days a week, as part of a curriculum approved by the Spanish government.

“So it’s not only an academic opportunity, it’s also an enrichment opportunity because students are exposed to Spanish culture,” principal Martin said.

Eighth-graders can even take AP Spanish, for which they receive college credit, in middle school. So from science to math to social studies to the arts, we can say: “elogia a tu escuela” – that’s "brag about your school" in Spanish.



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG On 6: South Broward High's Stephanie Posadas]]>Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:19:35 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/120817+stephanie+posadas.jpg

Hour of Code week just ended in Broward County Public Schools. It’s a nationwide effort to emphasize the importance of teaching computer programming to kids of all ages, at all levels. Some students don’t need to be persuaded, they’re already cyber warriors.

Stephanie Posadas, a junior at South Broward High School, would be a general in the student coding army.

Stephanie tutors her friends as well as classmates she barely knows, bringing her passion for coding to everyone around her.

“I’m trying to help people because I know computers are the future,” Stephanie said.

Sometimes, she acts as a second teacher in Justin Feller’s AP Computer Science class.

“Quite frankly, I wish all my students were like Stephanie with one exception: possibly a little louder,” Feller said.

Stephanie is soft-spoken, but her words pack a punch of knowledge. She’s already designed and produced several apps, and she’s just getting started.

“By the end of this year she will have exhausted all of the computer science classes that we offer here, she will have led a number of Hour of Code events, she will have started a computer science club at a school that’s quite honestly been thirsting for one for about five years now and all the while she will tell you she’s not the best and everyone around her is,” Feller said, emphasizing his star pupil’s humble nature.

Stephanie’s next project, already in the works and set to debut in January, is to create the computer coding club her teacher spoke of. It has a name, Project DEV, which stands for Developing Electronic Visions, and it will allow her to take what she does individually, tutoring classmates, and transfer it to a bigger scale.

“Next year, I will be the president of the club, so I plan on leaving this onto someone, onto someone that I know will do a good job with it,” Stephanie said.

So Project DEV will be Stephanie’s legacy at South Broward High. She also is creating personal legacies with her friends.

“I think she's just a very nice person and she likes helping people,” said Miftahul Jannat, one of Stephanie’s closest friends.

Senior Miles Pophal has worked with Stephanie on Hour of Code productions and workshops, and could not be more impressed.

“She's gonna do great things, she's going places,” Miles said.

“I think it takes a strong person to do all that stuff, to create a club, then help a bunch of people, and then still do school, and still take their tests and still be on top of it,” said Rayan Aliche, a classmate who benefits from Stephanie’s tutoring help.

She’s right, it’s a heavy load, but Stephanie has figured out a way to do all of it while still earning impressive grades. You could say she’s cracked the code.



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[FIU Welcomes Over 200 Students from Hurricane-Ravaged PR]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 16:24:42 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/216*120/12617+fiu.jpg

It’s been months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. It destroyed homes and forced people to leave everything they know.

But on Wednesday, college students from the island are now one step closer to normalcy, as they prepare to start school in South Florida.

Grecia Cruz and over 200 other students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are getting a chance to continue their college education through FIU.

“It’s really big and it’s really clean. It’s like a happy environment,” said Cruz.

“We invited them here for a semester to take classes while their universities are recovering from Hurricane Maria,” said Jody Glassman, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions for FIU.

Wednesday’s orientation is a part of FIU’s ongoing effort to support students affected by the devastating hurricane season. The university is able to fund the program for the students through grant money. They were also able to provide housing for some students.

“We want to make sure that they have their opportunity to continue their education,” said Glassman. “We are not going to leave them behind.”

For Cruz and her mother, the opportunity to continue her education means a lot and will play a major role in her future.

“I hope that she could make it here at FIU. We are grateful for the university to receive visitors from Puerto Rico,” said Dr. Daisy Goytia, Cruz’s mother.

“There are so many opportunities, so many experiences that I really want to take advantage of,” said Cruz.

]]>
<![CDATA[Broward School Board Approves Earlier Start Date in 2018]]>Tue, 05 Dec 2017 18:55:27 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/030717+broward+school+board.jpg

A proposal to move up the start date for the 2018-19 school year in Broward County was approved by the school board on Tuesday afternoon. 

School board members voted 7-2 on the calendar for next school year, which would include starting the school year on Wednesday, August 15th. The current school year started on Monday, August 21st to continue the long standing tradition of starting on that day of the week.

The new schedule would allow for semester exams to be completed before winter break, while Thanksgiving break would take place from November 21st – 23rd and Spring Break would be from March 25-29, 2019. The last day of school would be scheduled for June 4th.

Students also would not have class scheduled during Election Day, on November 6th.

Teachers will also be getting a raise as part of a tentative contract agreement announced by superintendent Robert Runcie.

"These are bittersweet moments, we do the absolute best we can, to show our respect and appreciation for our employees but we also recognize that we continue to face funding challenges from the state of Florida," Runcie said.

Raises will range from 2.6 percent to 3.51 percent. The raise for teachers with about 30 years of service will be a one time $1,000 bonus.

Teacher salaries in Broward range from about $41,000 to $75,000.



Photo Credit: Arly Alfaro/Telemundo 51]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School]]>Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:22:44 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/120417+Brag+School.png

Volumes could be written about the superlatives associated with Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Let's start with the marching band, the reigning state champions. The kids have earned the right to toot their own horns, and they've learned even more in the process.

"A good work ethic and what it takes to achieve the highest level of excellence in everything that they do, that's one of the biggest things they take away," said band director Alex Kaminsky.

Within the past 18 months, the Eagles have also won state titles in tennis and baseball. Douglas has been a baseball power since the days when the Chicago Cubs' World Series hero, Anthony Rizzo, was a standout player at the Parkland school. It is Broward's second largest, with 3,300 students.

I asked the principal if it's hard for a student to stand out in such a large crowd.

"Really not," said Ty Thompson, who has been the principal here for nine years. "We have so many different things going on here at Stoneman Douglas, over 90 clubs and organizations. Everyone can kinda get their niche and get involved in something."

One of those niches coveted by many students is Mr. Jeter's astronomy class. It's an elective open only to seniors, a class in which they go on sky gazing field trips to the Everglades at night, with high-power telescopes.

Another offering, among many, is the DECA program, the nation's fifth-largest. The teacher is also a CPA, who emphasizes all the soft skills needed to succeed.

"Our students walk out of our program and they have a LinkedIn account, they know how to interview, they know how to present themselves, and they're all sills, no matter where they go, they can take those skills elsewhere," said Sharon Cutler, the leader of the DECA program.

At a school named for an environmental activist, you'd expect to find some kind of environmental project and there is one. Teachers and students worked together to set up a solar panel which powers a hydroponic garden. It's part of what they call Marjorie's Garden. The students will be growing veggies, herbs, and spices, and they can deliver them across campus to the culinary program.

At Douglas, they're proud of the growth of vocational programs like the culinary arts, which has a revamped kitchen and keen interest among students.

"Preparing them for life after high school – could be the Yales and Harvards, could be the BC's, could be going off to work, my job is to get them ready for that and I think we're doing a great job here," Thompson said.

Judging by the results, it's hard to argue otherwise.

]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Your School: Stranahan High School]]>Tue, 21 Nov 2017 10:02:44 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/112017+Stranahan+High.png

After more than five decades serving kids in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, Stranahan High School has earned icon status. The home of the Dragons, however, isn't looking back, the focus is firmly on the needs of students and preparing them for 21st-century careers.

"The old adage is 'tell me, I'll forget; teach me, I may remember; but engage me and I will learn,' so we are definitely proponents of engaging students in a rigorous curriculum," said principal Michelle Padura.

The school has three magnet programs, extensive dual-enrollment opportunities, and all the traditional AP and honors classes.

The medical magnet program attracts students interested in careers in healthcare, and graduates have become doctors, nurses, and other health-related professionals.

The engineering magnet features drones, robots, 3D printers, and more.

"Of course, we want them to have fun, but we want them to have a technical foundation so we emphasize the core components, core concepts in our engineering and STEM disciplines as well," said Gabriel Andrews, the engineering teacher.

Students are ready to study engineering in college or they can earn several industry certifications while they're in high school.

Extensive dual-enrollment options allow students to graduate with an AA degree along with their diplomas.

The school also has the Urban Teacher Academy Preparation magnet program. The goal is to prepare future teachers for the real world.

"We actually have them go out into one of our feeder elementary schools and they go there to work with the elementary school students on literacy, reading, what they do is take the labs they're working on here, it's like taking the show out on the road," Padura said.

Stranahan also emphasizes extra-curricular activities. They have an award-winning marching band, state champion cheerleaders, and the full array of varsity sports.

Thomas Harrison wears two hats, as the athletic director and the activities director, and says he's proud to offer clubs for every interest. Everything from gardening to poetry to guitar to the Latinos in Action club.

"A school is a service industry and I tell our students we're here to serve you so whatever ideas that they have, share with us and we'll make it happen because once they take ownership of their school, that's when the morale and the pride go up," Harrison said.

The Dragons of Stranahan High have options. Lots of options and opportunities to succeed.

]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Your School: Norland Senior High]]>Tue, 14 Nov 2017 05:01:38 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/111317+Brag+School.png

They've been molding futures at Norland Senior High School in Northeast Miami-Dade since 1958. The alumni pool is deep, with a slew of professional athletes, educators, at least one judge and University of Florida football coach, Randy Shannon.

Now that the school has an entirely new building, Norland is stronger than ever. Graduation rates and enrollment are up, they keep adding new programs and options for students, but the feel here is still old school, with an emphasis on family.

"That's my mission – to make sure they have a safe learning environment and we provide everything they need, and once you do that, they start buying into that family philosophy," said principal Reginald Lee.

Lee says the first order of business for every teacher is to get to know the needs of each child. This is crucial, he says, because so many of the students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, they need extra attention to succeed, and they find it at Norland.

"Kids and students have proven to learn from educators who invest in them, so that's our motto here, get to know the kids first and everything else seems to take care of itself," Lee said.

There's a commitment to building character at Norland. For example, one teacher, Stephanie Pierre, saw a need and founded a mentoring club for girls to fill it. It's called Divas and Ladies of Distinction.

"And its sole purpose is to motivate and inspire and empower these young women to reach up to their fullest potential," Pierre explained.

Norland has seven academies or magnets, including the rigorous Cambridge program, an iPrep academy, a hospital and tourism academy, an award-winning JROTC program, and performing arts and music academy.

The principal told us he encourages teachers to facilitate discussions, to go beyond just lecturing to kids. We saw that philosophy in practice in a Cambridge literature class and in a dual-enrollment, college credit African-American studies class.

"Let them explore, open their minds, discussion like you said, they have – we emphasize that here at Norland," Lee said.

"Why does the devil knock me down when I'm trying to get up? I'm not a dog but my life seems to be a bit rougher," the student-poet recited in front of her peers, mid-way into her opus.

It might be the ultimate discussion-based class: spoken-word poetry. Norland's team is the reigning state champion in the spoken-word poetry competition called Louder Than a Bomb.

The teacher who sponsors the club and teaches the class, Precious Symonette, says poetry improves writing and communication skills, and can raise the self-esteem of teenagers.

"A lot of kids now feel that a lot of adults are not listening to them. I think this gives them the opportunity to be a part of those conversations, to have a seat at the table, if you will," said Symonette.

So while Norland has made strides in academics, the arts, and in vocational programs, the athletic side of the school is a dominant force and always has been.

The boys and girls basketball teams are regulars at the state final four, with both teams having won multiple state championships in recent years.

The football team has also won state titles recently while funneling numerous players into the college and pro football ranks.

Viking Nation is strong, and getting stronger.

]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Undocumented Student Is an Example for Others]]>Fri, 10 Nov 2017 19:26:16 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/111017+Swag+6.png

Katherine Almendarez stands out at a school full of standout students.

"Because there's a lot of kids here that are just naturally gifted and smart, whereas her, she's smart but she puts in such an effort and she's positive and she's always happy. It's a joy to teach her every day,” said social studies teacher Stepen Pereira.

Katherine is a straight-A kid at the School for Advanced Studies, a public school in which all the students are juniors and seniors who graduate with high school diplomas and AA degrees from Miami-Dade College. It’s an intense academic environment which regularly feeds its top performers to the Ivy League and the nation’s best colleges.

In this mix of brilliance, Katherine is a Questbridge Scholar with designs on attending Princeton University. She volunteers with several organizations, including Americans for Immigrant Justice, a non-profit immigrant advocacy law firm, and here’s why: Katherine is an undocumented immigrant from Honduras. Her parents left her behind when they came to the United States in 2001.

So Katherine grew up without parents. To reunite the family, she endured a harrowing journey through Central America and smuggled herself across the border just three years ago, at age 15.

"I remember the climax of my journey was being right in front of the Rio Grande and thinking, like, the other side is where my opportunities are gonna be," she said, in near-perfect English.

Katherine turned herself in to Border Patrol agents immediately, and because her parents were already here, under an Obama-era rule, she was allowed to stay. Now, the threat of deportation looms over her.

"My status is just hanging in the hands of the government now," Katherine said. "It's one of my biggest fears."

Her teachers and friends say you’d never know Katherine had any hardship issues going on.

“Because she just looks for no excuses,” Pereira said.

Among her classmates who know her background, Katherine is an inspiration.

"I mean, surely if she had those challenges and kind of just came to school every day, but no, it's more than that. She comes with a smile and she's always ready," said Lynsey Rumbaut, also a senior at S.A.S.

"She's able to outperform the rest of the classmates while she has struggled way more than the rest and, to me, that's like, mind-blowing," said another classmate, Dianelis Lopez.

Katherine realizes that because she came to the U.S. illegally, some people won’t have any sympathy for her situation, and that’s fine with her.

"I understand I wanna be a lawyer. I understand what it is to respect the law and want to uphold the law, so it's like an ethical dilemma that I've had to face – wanting to study law and enforce it, but at the same time having come here illegally," Katherine acknowledges.

A judge will eventually decide whether Katherine gets to live out her dreams in the U.S. In the meantime, she’ll do what she does best, which is excel in school, help others, and set an example.

"For just everyone who looks up to me, I can tell them: 'Yes, with hard word everything is attainable,'" Katherine said.

]]>
<![CDATA[Three Sets of Twins Nominated for Silver Knight Award]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 18:34:02 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/217*120/11817+dr+michael+kropp.jpg

Sociologists might want to look into a unique situation at Dr. Michael Krop High School by asking this question: does being a twin help a student reach the heights of achievement?

The school's nominees for the Silver Knight Awards are 15 top-notch kids, with one fascinating detail.

"Three sets of twins, never seen it, and they're all brilliant," said the school's principal, Dr. Allison Harley.

Coincidence or what? Two sets are identical, the other two sets are brother-sister combinations. All six feel like a sense of gratitude over being nominated together.

"It's crazy, growing up we did everything together and this is just another one of those steps," said Spencer Steinfeld, expressing a common reality among twins, that they're often inseparable during childhood. 

The Silver Knight Awards reward high school seniors for outstanding scholarship and community service, so the nominees are always outstanding students, leaders at their schools.

"When I was announcing the Silver Knights to the whole school, I was like, wait, these are those twins, and I've known these twins for three years, I knew they were amazing, but to think they all made it to this level, it's really special and we're very proud of them" Harley said. 

Of course, the twins are brilliant students, but don't assume that because they're twins, they're all alike. Their interests vary greatly, which is reflected in their Silver Knight nominations.

"For years now, I've been working with The Friendship Circle, which is a non-profit that pairs teen volunteers with special needs children," said Brittany Steinfeld.

She's nominated for vocational technology, while her brother is nominated for science. Zlata Itkin's category is English.

"I've always loved reading and writing, my whole element, essentially," Zlata said.

Her twin brother Mark is the polar opposite, nominated for mathematics.

"It works out, I need help with Language Arts, she proofreads my stuff, she needs help with math, I help her out with any of the homework she needs," Mark Itkin said.

Stephanie and Eliza Morton are the identical twins in the group. One is nominated for business, the other for general scholarship, but both could be nominated for diplomacy.

"We collab and build off of each other's ideas so it's definitely a benefit," Eliza said.

"My sister is very organized, she always knows what to do," said Stephanie.

Here's what all 15 know how to do: succeed in school and beyond. 

]]>
<![CDATA[Educator Creates Program Inspiring Children to Succeed]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 07:30:40 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/110817+inspire+one+success+south+florida+program.JPG

Sheneka Brown's smile says it all - an educator that loves her job, while playing a role in shaping the young minds of students, she noticed a need.

“It’s a lot of testing and so forth, so what I wanted to do was give them real life and real world applications along with reading and mathematics,” Brown said. “So that started the birth of Inspire One.”

Brown started Inspire One Success, an organization geared toward helping students in grades K-12 with reading and math. But it's not just about bettering students in subjects - it's also something much deeper than that.

“We also build in our curriculum mentorship and character building,” said Brown. “We try to get the kids to discover who they are, who they want to be and discover their purpose within our curriculum.”

Brown currently has 10-12 students in her program. Inspire One Success is still in its infant stages, only a year in existence. But even with the short amount of time, parents say they've seen a change in their children's academics.

“The results I've seen so far have been major, especially when it comes to testing,” said Latara Delancy, the mother of one program participant. “He's more confident now, he's more prepared and I'm just so grateful that he's able to do so.”

For brown, she believes the program is her mission and her calling to make a change.

“My goal was to be able to change one life, and I want that one life to change many, so every time I hear parents and I see kids make a change, it brings such a joy in my heart to know that I was able to be a part of that,” Brown said.

]]>
<![CDATA[Broward Schools Superintendent Gets New Contract]]>Tue, 07 Nov 2017 18:31:46 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Broward_Schools_Superintendent_Gets_New_Contract.jpg

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie gets a new contract.

]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Piper High School]]>Mon, 06 Nov 2017 18:35:21 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/110617+brag+about+piper+high.jpg

When a school’s been educating students for 45 years, it becomes a pillar of the community, the kind of place generations of family members attend. That’s what Piper High School in Sunrise is to central Broward County.

“We're a school that services the community around us, we’re not a magnet school, but we have many programs to offer the kids,” said Angel Gomez, Piper’s principal.

For example, Piper’s JROTC unit, the Bengal Battalion, provides a top-flight leadership training experience. Last year, this group finished in the nation’s top 25 for academic achievement.

“They learn academic rigor, they learn how to be successful in academic and life challenges that adults must face, they learn how to take leadership roles,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Kimmey, the JROTC commander.

Piper High has evolved to the point where it’s going to an all-academy system. Kids who are shooting for the highest level of academic rigor might opt for the AP Capstone academy. Those who want to pursue careers in business or perhaps major in business in college might enroll in the Finance Academy. There are also academies in journalism, dual enrollment with Broward College, and more.

It’s part of the school’s evolution.

"Every student that comes in, right now every 9th grader is part of an academic academy based on their interest, that actually narrows down the path, it makes this world that’s so large in a high school, it brings it down to manageable size,” Gomez said.

The academies give students college prep, career prep, or both.

"The idea is that when they leave here, they’ve got something that makes them more marketable,” said Mark Ophaug, the school’s academies director. "Like those kids back here (in the finance academy class) are getting certified in Quickbooks, so when they graduate high school they’ll have a Quickbook certification they can use on the job in a career.”

They pay attention to the changing demands of the work force, the requirements colleges are looking for, and then try to prepare their students to meet those challenges.

That may as well be Piper High’s mantra.



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[SWAG on 6: Homar Ali is Putting His Peers on Path to Success]]>Fri, 03 Nov 2017 18:08:49 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/110317+Homar+Ali.png

At Pompano Beach High School, everyone seems to know Homar Ali.

"Yeah. He's sort of Beyoncé here. He's very influential," said one of his classmates, Debbie Sineus.

Homar runs the National Honor Society at his school, and his adviser says that’s just one way that he contributes to his school and the community at large. Sandy Melillo has been teaching for 45 years and says Homar is one of the absolute best students she’s ever had.

"He is in the top 1 percent. He is just so organized, so humble, so outstanding, so wonderful and he makes my job easier every day," Melillo said.

It wasn’t enough for Homar to be involved himself in all kinds of high school activities, from organizing a Halloween party fundraiser to leading his peers to be involved in Relay for Life. He thought of a unique way to bring freshmen and sophomores along for the ride, too.

"It is hard to join extracurricular activities freshman year. You don't know where to start. You don't know how to start,” Homar said to a meeting of freshmen and sophomores.

What he said is especially true at an all-magnet school like Pompano High, where most freshmen don’t know each other. So Homar created the National Honor Society Novice Club, designed to give 9th and 10th graders leadership roles and community service opportunities.

It's just something I wish I had when I was a freshman or sophomore," Homar said. "It is hard here at Pompano to hang out with people because they do live in all parts of Broward County, so there is a way for them to actually come in and join together."

The Novice Club fills the two-year gap between middle school, when kids can first join the National Honor Society, to 10th grade, when they can join the high school version.

His friends say Homar is the kid they turn to for inspiration.

He's very involved in academics – the top of the class. He sets the standard for all the rest of us," said Marlen Spence, a senior and one of Homar’s friends.

“He inspired me to join the National Honor Society. He’s the one who pushed me and I really thank him for that,” said Debbie Sineus, the classmate who said Homar is Beyoncé-like.

Homar’s a star in the classroom, too. He’s applying to top colleges, such as the University of Chicago and Brown University, hoping to one day be a pediatrician.

This kid who volunteers every Friday (because Pompano Beach High has a four-day week) at his old elementary school, who tutors peers at his high school, says he’s most proud of creating a pathway to service for younger students through the Novice Club.

"I definitely hope this continues on and I hope that does become my legacy," Homar said.

Maybe other schools will jump on board, too.

]]>
<![CDATA[South Florida Students Paint Personal Gift for Refugees]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 17:23:54 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/110117+refugee+artwork.jpg

The photographs are striking because every one of them shows a child smiling. If every picture tells a story, these pictures would all tell happy tales of childhood, except that the kids in the photos are Syrians who have been displaced by that country’s brutal civil war. The children live in a refugee camp, and most are destitute.

None of the students in Lauren Rosa’s art class could possibly know the daily terror and deprivation the faces in the pictures have endured.

"It makes me sad that they don’t really have anything so to do this project, it’s an honor, really, because I can give them something they really don’t have,” said Angelina Lazo, a senior art student at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

The project she’s referring to is called the Memory Project. That charitable organization provides the photographs, and the art students create portraits from the pictures. Every child depicted in the photos knows the sounds, the smells, and the traumatic sights of war.

"We want them to be light-hearted and happy and sent a positive message about, somebody cared enough to make this portrait for them,” said the teacher, Lauren Rosa.

The Memory Project takes the pictures and sends them to schools, and then delivers the finished portraits to kids in the refugee camp.

"They might not even have their own parents anymore, no family members, they have no personal belongings," said Rosa. "Now they have something personal, personal that was created just for them, so it’s really moving for my kids."

Making the portraits, gazing into the same face for weeks, has an effect on attitudes.

"It's a combination of being kind of sad that they’re in that situation but then happy because I’m able to give them something," said Gwyneth Morris, a senior.

The impact of their work isn’t just a theoretical concept for these students, they actually get to see how their portraits are received by the kids on the other side of the planet.

The Memory Project shoots video as they hand out the portraits, and the class will get to see the video featuring the Syrian refugee kids in April.

The older kids in the class have already had the experience of seeing their work given to the child for whom it was intended. Last year, the class work went to an orphanage in Colombia. The year before, they created portraits for children in Ethiopia.

"It really makes you think about how you can impact people that you don’t even know who are halfway across the world, just by doing an art piece, it’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” said senior Maddy Dittman.

As you watch the students work with their colored pencils, line by line, faces appear on the paper, all of them smiling. They are moments worth capturing.

"And if that one bright spot can stay with them for a lifetime, or help them through this difficult time they’re going through, it’s really meaningful," Rosa said.

It’s also a testament to the power of art.



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Brag About Your School: Poinciana Park Elementary]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 17:22:58 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/103017+brag+about+your+school+poinciana+park+elementary.jpg

The stigma of being labeled a “failing school” can be hard to shed, but it’s not an impossible task. Just ask the students and teachers at Poinciana Park Elementary School in Liberty City.

We watched fifth graders learning basic laws of physics when we visited, but you could say the school already defied the laws of gravity by catapulting from an “F” to an “A” grade in one academic year.

“The feeling is wonderful, it’s outstanding, we have to keep up this momentum and we’re doing all the things plus adding additional things to insure we continue to maintain that “A”,” said principal Tania Jones.

How did they make that leap? One part of the strategy was to implement as many hands-on learning projects as possible. The turnaround also relied on professionals on the staff, the success coach, reading coach, and math coach. They are teachers who concentrate on intense interventional work with students who need the help.

“Oh my goodness, it was very tough, just coming into a situation where the scores were very low, some of the morale was not there, some of the students felt as though they could not be successful,” said Sakinah Lewis, the school’s match coach.

They raised morale with incentives, positive reinforcement, and with programs such as the 5,000 Role Models for Excellence organization. The biggest key to the school’s renaissance, the remarkable gains in achievement, was simply the hard work put in by students and teachers.

“Hard work, early mornings, late evenings, passion, making certain that we built that relationship, that we were able to communicate with the kids, with the parents, that they understood we had a goal, we had shared mission,” said Melissa Miller, the reading coach.

The faculty team used data to concentrate on the kids who were in the bottom 25 percent in grades and test scores. With one-on-one attention, the strategy worked.

“Before school, after school tutoring, Saturday academy, whatever it took to get the school to move,” Lewis said.

The teachers say now, there’s a palpable difference in attitudes among the students. They feel like they’re expected to succeed.

“Oh my gosh, it was so rewarding to see that we’re able to turn the impossible into the inevitable,” Miller said.

With the turnaround complete, Poinciana Park has a different focus: staying on top.



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Hosts Anti-Bullying Seminar at SW Senior High]]>Fri, 27 Oct 2017 17:43:58 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/201*120/102717+bullying.jpg

It seems like every week, there’s a new, horrible case of cyber bullying in the news. Facebook says it’s fighting back in several ways, from technical fixes and changes on its platform, to partnering with agencies around the world to fight bullying in all of its forms.

The social media giant sponsored an all-day seminar Friday at Southwest Senior High School in Miami, a training session designed to turn students into anti-bullying ambassadors.

The students, teachers, and activities directors represented most of the public high schools in Miami-Dade County, and they did it on their day off, there was no school Friday.

The program was created by The Diana Award, the late Princess Diana’s legacy project. The charity’s representatives flew in from London.

"We're here because she believed young people could change the world, so this program that we're introducing is all about young people given the power and the responsibility to not only protect themselves from bullying but also to protect their peers," said Alex Holmes of The Diana Award.

The kids created bullying scenarios, made posters, watched videos,  and discussed strategies with each other. Cyber bullying was, of course, a major topic of concern, and speaking of flying long distances, Facebook’s global safety manager, Karuna Nain, came to the event from the company’s headquarters in California.

“This is just the start of the journey for them, they’ll become anti-bullying ambassadors,“ Nain said. “They’ll learn how they can make a difference in their communities.”

Nain said students should report cyber bullying to Facebook and even to law enforcement if they feel someone is danger from someone else or, perhaps, a suicide risk.

The Diana Award says studies show 85% of all bullying incidents are witnessed by someone else, which means there is ample opportunity for intervention.

"Like the bully calling a kid ugly, you want to go over and help, you want to support that guy," Jeremy Vargas from North Miami Beach High School said to another young man, Jamal Pinckney of Hialeah High.

"I agree with him because some people will just stand there and like, don't say anything," Pinckney responded.

Some of the kids taking part in the training session felt especially suited for the task because they were bullied themselves, like Kevin Diaz, who went from victim to being voted Homecoming King.

"I want to be part of this program because I want to be that positive influence," said Diaz, a senior at South Miami High.

That’s the essence of what this effort is all about, spreading the word that it’s not hard to get involved, and an army of positive force can overcome all kinds of bullying. 

]]>
<![CDATA[Students Learn How to Trade in the Stock Market]]>Wed, 25 Oct 2017 19:34:31 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/102517+stocks.jpg

From sports to band to drama to debate to robotics and more, there is no shortage of ways for high schools to compete with one another. You can now add another one to the list: stock trading.

The second annual Stock Market Challenge, put together by Junior Achievement of Miami, pitted 270 students from eleven high schools against each other. The kids were buying and selling, keeping their eyes on the ticker, listening for financial news updates, just like they were in the trading pits of the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ.

"Every time one of our stocks goes down, I get a heart attack," one student from Southwest Senior High said, as the frantic trading was going on around her. 

Each team had a fictional pot of money, one million dollars, to start the competition, and all the students were tutored in advance by expert volunteers. Educators call this a perfect example of project-based learning.

"Taking students actually to realistic scenarios and let them interact as the professionals they will be very soon, is the best way to learn," said Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "If we teach them the principles of financial literacy, they will avoid the pitfalls that many adults currently today are facing."

The Challenge was obviously fun, with a dose of pressure. There's an intense amount of teamwork involved in deciding which companies to invest in at the right time. Every group was gunning for victory, but the most important takeaway for the kids is the experience itself.

"We hope they'll go back to their schools  with a fabulous understanding of the market, recognizing how news impacts the values of the companies and that they will recognize the importance of becoming financially literate and how decisions and consequences can either make a portfolio or break a portfolio," said Cathy Haga, president of Junior Achievement of Miami.

At the closing bell, the team from Southwest Senior High School won the championship and the trophy and prestige that goes along with it.

The teachers who were involved in the Stock Market Challenge say the investment in time will pay dividends for all the students. 

]]>
<![CDATA[BarryU Tech Students Learning to Master 3D Printing]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 17:22:28 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/BarryU_Tech_Students_Learning_to_Master_3D_Printing.jpg

Students in Barry University's exclusive computer tech program are learning to master 3D printing. NBC 6's Ari Odzer reports.

]]>
<![CDATA['Puppy Raising' Part of Lesson Plan at Davie School]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:28:01 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/100417+gunther+Nova+Eisenhower+Elementary+School.jpg

Gunther is just like every other fourth-grader at Nova Eisenhower Elementary School in Davie, with some slight differences. They write with pens, he stays in one. They have hair, he has fur. Their shirts have collars, he wears one.

Yes, Gunther is a dog, and the students in Suzanne Shaw’s class are collectively "puppy raising" him, preparing him for service dog training.

"He’s learning basic commands and he’s learning to get along with everyone," Shaw said.

Gunther doesn’t just hang out in the classroom. He’s an integral part of Shaw’s lesson plans.

"Over 20 years of teaching, it has just brought new life into it, the students love him, they want to be here every day, they love being with Gunther, he is just part of their class,” Shaw said.

The kids socialize Gunther while he unleashes learning opportunities for the kids.

"It’s very unique and when you come into this class it’s contagious, all the lessons that she does are centered around Gunther,” said Broward County School Board member Laurie Rich Levinson, who was instrumental in paving the way for Gunther’s classroom experience.

"Everything we can tie him to, we do; math, we have morning math with Gunther called Gunther Math, whatever the skill in our math series, we’re tying it to Gunther,” said Shaw.

She also has the students reading dog-centric children’s literature, and canine-inspired vocabulary words decorate the walls.

To say this golden retriever is beloved would be an understatement. His picture is in the yearbook like every other student. Gunther is all calm and no bite with his classmates.

"There are students who’ve gone through difficulties at home, there’s students who have difficulties in class learning, it has motivated them and helped them kind of relax and feel better about being here,” Shaw explained.

For Gunther, this whole experience is sort of like kindergarten through 12th grade, but he still has to go to college. That means graduating and leaving this class.

"February 16th is the day he matriculates to advanced training and there’ll be a couple of tears,” Shaw said, knowing half the class will probably be weeping as Gunther leaves.

He will be trained as a service dog by Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit agency which supplies service dogs free of charge to people who need them.

Rich Levinson says what has worked in Shaw’s class could also work in other classrooms in South Florida.

"Yes, we hope that there will be others who want to do this, this has worked out incredibly well in this school,” she said.

For the time being, Gunther is the leader of his pack of fourth-graders. Soon he’ll be one person’s faithful companion.



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Students Design Peace Sleeves for Starbucks Cups]]>Wed, 27 Sep 2017 18:30:53 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/305*120/092717+peace+sleeves.jpg

If you’re like most people, you pay scant attention to the insulating cardboard sleeve on your coffee cup. It’s an innocuous part of sipping your morning brew. But what if it was actually a work of original art, with a message promoting peace, tolerance, and understanding?

Starbucks customers, you will start to see sleeves like that very soon at Broward County stores.

The concept of the Peace Sleeves, as they’re called, started at Sunrise Middle School in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago. We watched eighth-grade students at work, with paintbrushes and markers and creativity, turning the cardboard thingies into little paintings. The kids want all of us to wake up and smell the message.

"The message is to choose peace, stop violence," said Cosie Proctor, one of the students working on the project. 

It’s part of Broward Public Schools’ Peace Week. The theme is Choose Peace, Stop Violence. It’s sponsored by United Way of Broward and the Children’s Services Council. This year 90 schools are involved, 38,000 Peace Sleeves will be distributed to local Starbucks stores, but it all started in Karen Alfieri’s classroom.

"We decided we wanted to do an activity where my students would be able to take the knowledge they learned in class to the community," said Alfieri, who teaches peer counseling. 

She talked it over with art teacher and coffeeholic Stacy Shugerman, who came up with the idea of turning the sleeves into statements.

"I throw away a lot of sleeves so I said there had to be a project my kids could do with it and what better way of spreading peace?" Shugerman said.

So the teachers approached Starbucks, the coffee giant jumped on board, and now the kids are brewing batches of artworks.

"I think they get a real life experience of being an artist, of being able to express themselves through art," said Shugerman.

Every sleeve is original, and each one is stamped with the school of origin so you can see where your sleeve was made. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself smiling at your coffee cup. Which is part of the idea.

"Just makes me happy, like, picturing someone getting the sleeve and picking it up and being like 'Oh, that's cute," said 8th grader Dina Stein.

Her classmate had a similar thought.

"It's cute, it helps you understand what peace is about," said Ludnie Toussaint, as she was painting a handful of sleeves. 

So the kids are creating warm messages on a product designed to keep coffee warm, and maybe giving you a peaceful start to your day. 

]]>
<![CDATA[South Florida Principals Working at Their Alma Maters]]>Wed, 30 Aug 2017 18:23:39 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/083017+principals+return+alma+maters.jpg

It could be said that the new principal of John F. Kennedy Middle School knows his way around the building. Back in 1979, when it was J.F.K. Junior High School, Bernie Osborn was a 9th grader, about to graduate to high school.

“It was a time warp, like I’d never left, the hallways still looked the same, it smelled the same,” Osborn said, describing his first day on the job as principal.

Across town at Miami Jackson High School, the new commanding General has that same déjà vu feeling.

“It is definitely surreal,” said the school’s new principal, Rennina Turner.

Their histories give these principals built-in credibility with their students.

“I told them I went to school here, which I think kind of endears me more to them, that I have credibility, I’m here and I’m glad to be here,” Osborn said.

That line works for Turner, too.

“As I tell the students, this is home for me, and being home makes it personal, so the work that I’m doing is personal work, it’s not, I’m just the principal of a high school,” Turner explained.

Watching Turner high-five with students, seeing her walk into classrooms with a grin on her face, it’s clear that she can’t hide her excitement about working at her alma mater. Part of that exuberance comes from knowing that she’s perhaps the ultimate role model at Jackson High.

“For them to know that I grew up in a community very much like them, I grew up in Liberty City, that if I can do it, certainly they can, too.” Turner said.

Both of these principals claim to have been excellent students who were never called to their current offices when they were kids.

“I was an angel,” Turner said, giggling as she said it.

She met her husband of 20 years at Jackson. Turner married her high school sweetheart and her oldest son graduated from Jackson High in 2015.

So what about Osborn, any interesting tales from his junior high years?

“I got my first kiss out there by the tree after school one day so that was interesting,” Osborn said with a grin.

Does he tell his students that story?

“Uh, no, but I guess they'll know now!” said the principal.

Osborn says his mission at his old/new school is to improve community perceptions about J.F.K. Middle. The school’s Biomedical Engineering program is one of only 55 certified magnet programs in the nation. They’re reinstating the PTA after a three-year absence, and after narrowly missing a “B” grade last year, J.F.K. is shooting for an “A” this year.

“I want the kids to feel good about coming here,” Osborn said.

Turner is raising spirits and expectations among the Jackson High student body.

“When I say to them, this is your school, but apart from it being your school it’s also my school, they feel that,” Turner said.



Photo Credit: Ari Odzer/NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Father Makes Push For Standing Desk in Classrooms]]>Thu, 24 Aug 2017 15:09:22 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Father_Leads_Effort_For_Stand_Up_Desks_in_Classrooms.jpg

One father is hoping schools will take a different approach to the typical classroom assigned-seating – using standing desk normally seen in workplaces in a school setting to help kids stay healthy.

After his five year old son broke his leg from a ski accident, Derek Lopez did some research and got an idea.

“I looked into the whole situation deeper and I really realize that even thought he was sitting in a wheelchair all day for months, his activity levels were really not any different than the rest of students in the class except for recess time,” Lopez said.

That's when the father of three realized all students need options and created stand up our kids

“Most kids are sitting down for five to ten hours per day,” Lopez said. “We're having a problem with over diagnosis of ADD or ADHD, childhood obesity is actually growing across the country and just in general giving the kids the opportunity a chance to think for themselves.”

Two classrooms in Broward have desks fundraised and built by Derek, including Nova High and Oakland Park Elementary.

“It was a real eye opener to see certain kids that I had them on their knees or the desk or standing up and leaning over,” said Ricky Walker, a teacher at Oakland Park Elementary. “This is just a comfort level and to put them at ease knowing that ‘hey, that's my option.’”

The third grade teacher says his entire classroom is built on a flexible approach to assigned seating - because in his class you don't have to sit if you don’t want to.

Lopez is working on his social media campaign to continue raising awareness and funds. Even schools in his current hometown of Denver have added the standing desks

“My main goal is to give every kid in this country the opportunity to stand up in class,” Lopez said.

If you'd like you donate to the Stand Up Our Kids' Gofundme, click here.

]]>
<![CDATA[Broward County Public Schools Notice Higher Ratings]]>Wed, 23 Aug 2017 18:09:13 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/teacher101.jpg

The school year just started, so there’s still time to celebrate last year’s achievements and to use them as springboards for this year. 96% of Broward County Public Schools earned an A, B, or C grade, and 13 schools jumped up at least two letter grades.

Superintendent Robert Runcie is visiting those schools this week, on what he calls “a tour of excellence,” to shine a light on their accomplishments.

"To number one, recognize and celebrate excellence as we see it, number two, send a message out to all our schools in Broward County that these are schools we need to focus on, we learn from them, and share some of their best practices," Runcie said that morning at Watkins Elementary School in Pembroke Park, which jumped from a D to a B grade.

Best practices here include an intensive dual language, Spanish-English immersion program for little kids, when their brains are still fresh. It’s not just about getting kids up to speed in those languages, they’re also speeding up the cognitive development for the students in the class.

"You're kinda, like I said, stretching your brain to think outside of what's the norm for you, so it's having them look at things differently, perceive things differently and it's just building them all around as studnets," said Watkins Elementary principal Lori Mendez, describing the benefits of the program.

They have the same Spanish-English program at Boulevard Heights Elementary School in Hollywood. That school also made the leap from D to B.

"The success that we had? I attribute to a great part, to the dual language program, but again, that's just one piece of the puzzle," said Boulevard Heights principal Juan Alejo.

There are many other pieces, including tracking the progress of each student all year long with data, then providing individual attention to improve deficiencies. The school district has invested heavily in technology, using computers as tools, often personalized for individual kids.

"So the students have lessons that are assigned specifically to their needs," Mendez said.

Alejo said at the elementary age, the biggest key is making sure students are reading at or above grade level.

“They have to reading to learn, instead of learning to read, by the time they’re at the end of second grade,” Alejo said.

There’s no magic formula for raising school grades. If there were, Runcie says, everyone would use it. Instead, there’s a process that involves a ton of hard work, a process that seems to be working.

"Sticking with the program, we don't come in every year trying to change strategies, looking for the latest gimmick or program to throw in a school, we're building on what works," Runcie said.

That process never stops. The B schools are shooting for A’s, the A schools are trying to maintain their status, and the lower-rated schools are hoping this is their year to raise their status.


]]>
<![CDATA[South Fla. Public, Charter Schools Battle For Top Students]]>Tue, 22 Aug 2017 05:07:21 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/248*120/082217+public+charter+school+battle+south+florida.JPG

There are more than 200 public charter schools in South Florida. Many of them are high-performing, excellent alternatives to traditional public schools. In fact, driven by competition from charters, we’ve seen an explosion of innovation in the Miami-Dade and Broward public school district classrooms over the past few years. The superintendents from both counties say, bring it on, we’ve got the goods.

“This is a district driven by choice, driven by innovation, driven by parent demand,” said Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent. “I think choice competition is a good thing, let parents make a choice, I think we have a superior product for them to choose from.”

“I no longer refer to Broward County public schools as traditional, all of our schools are innovative schools,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of the Broward County School District. “There are opportunities for every kid.”

The local school districts are practically in a race to create more options available to students. They’ve added hundreds of magnet and choice programs over the past five or six years. In just one example of many, Broward went all-in on debate, expanding it to every high school, every middle schools, and now even into some elementary schools. The county now leads the nation in access to debate programs.

“Debate is one of those great skills that our students need to have in terms of looking at information, analyzing facts, being able to communicate effectively,” Runcie said, explaining the reasoning behind the emphasis on debate.

Both districts have International Baccalaureate, Cambridge, arts magnet programs and STEM magnets. With specialized schools such as Design and Architecture Senior High, iPrep Academy, the New World School of the Arts, and MAST Academy, Miami-Dade has a unique smorgasbord of possibilities.

“We’re the fourth largest school system in America but we have the strongest choice portfolio of any school system of any size in the United States, not just in numbers but in terms of quality, we have the highest rated magnet programs anywhere in the country,” boasted Carvalho.

Both districts strategically place choice options at schools which face the most competition from charter schools. Broward has reversed a trend which saw it losing thousands of students. Their enrollment numbers are going up now.

“We’re glad to see that trend and I think that trend is an example of the fact that we’re working very hard to meet the needs of our students in our communities,” Runcie said.

“We are extremely competitive and to a certain extent, the choice movement forced us to become better, but i think now we out-perform it,” said Carvalho.

Parents, if you’re not sure what to do, investigate your options on the web sites of the Miami-Dade and Broward school districts. You will find public school programs for every interest. In fact, a new state law allows students to cross county lines to go to school.

The days of having to live in a particular district to attend school there are over. So as the superintendents say, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you’re not looking hard enough.

]]>
<![CDATA[Supporting Our Schools: How To Help Students and Teachers]]>Wed, 26 Jul 2017 14:31:44 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Supporting+Our+Schools4.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami International Mall at Simon Guest Services

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

Coral Square Mall at the Mall Office

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

Backpacks

Spiral Notebooks

Composition Notebooks

Copy Paper

Hole Puncher

Pencils

Pens

Crayons

Markers

Color Pencils

Erasers

Staple Machine and Staples

Highlighters

Scissors

File Folders

Manila Folders

Pocket Folders

Tape

Correction Fluid (i.e. Wite-Out)

]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade, Broward Head Back to Class For First School Day]]>Mon, 21 Aug 2017 17:47:17 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/215*120/082117+miami+dade+first+day+of+school.JPG

The day thousands of students and parents across Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been waiting for arrived Monday with the first day of school.

Over 350,000 students were expected in classrooms across Miami-Dade for the first day – a day that will also be the start of a school year where no school in the county received an “F” grade from the state of Florida.

The school district is also opening three new schools and unveiling several new programs aimed at giving students a head start in their education.

Things started early for bus drivers, hitting the road shortly after 6 a.m. 

"I'm always excited on the first day. Going back, a new school year, you meet different students," said driver Sharon Lewis. "Sometime you meet the same, and it's a really good feeling."

District superintendent Alberto Carvalho went across the county to greet students and teachers for the first day, provding supplies and a healthy breakfast for all - while being met at Jesse McCrary Elementary School in Northwest Miami-Dade with members of the Miami Heat.

"They look at me as a role model so they're going follow their role model," said the team's first round pick, Bam Adebayo.  "If I give them a good impression, I feel like they'll live with that for the rest of their life."

In Broward County, school superintendent Robert Runcie also made his way across the county in an effort to get everyone excited and ready for the upcoming year.

“We see continued improvement and academic outcome in the district. The number of “F” schools in our district have fallen from 20 to 2,” Runcie said.

Runcie visited schools at all levels, including Piper High School in Sunrise.

“The kids are already excited because they know they are a part of an academy and it actually makes the school a little smaller for them,” said the school’s principal, Angel Gomez. “We have a school of 2600 and we're now making the school more manageable and giving the students a little more sense of belonging.”

At Broadview Elementary School in North Lauderdale, students were surprised on the first day of school with a treat from the Florida Panthers

Stanley is out here having a little fun, Sean Thornton is here as well as a former player just to reinforce that hard work and determination are really valued to us,” said Sean McCaffrey, the team’s Chief of Staff.

While plenty of students were ready for the day, some of the parents were quite ready to let go.

“We're looking forward to seeing how kindergarten goes - this is our first year, so we're a little nervous,” said mother Sophia Allen. “It's a new experience. He didn't cry, so we did good.”

]]>
<![CDATA[Education on 6: Impact of HB7069 on South Florida Schools]]>Mon, 21 Aug 2017 05:40:19 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/generic+school+desk+books+student+pencil.jpg

When Florida governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 7069 into law, he did so at a private school. The symbolism was notable to critics, who say the new law is an attack on public school education.

“It’s really a shift to create a parallel, shadow school system that is not accountable to the public,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of the Broward County Public School District.

HB-7069 will indeed shift millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools to charter schools, which are public but usually owned by private companies.

“There’s no accountability, so you effectively are moving public dollars into the private space,” Runcie said.

The law also restricts how school districts can use federal dollars earmarked for the most economically disadvantaged schools.

“It chokes the utilization of our own federal money, particularly title one dollars that we have used strategically, district-wide, to improve the performance of the most fragile, academically fragile, lowest socio-economic schools in Miami-Dade,” explained Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

That’s why Broward field a lawsuit against the state of Florida, a lawsuit which Miami-Dade and several other districts around the state have joined.

“We’re going to pursue legal means to see if we can challenge some of those provisions, in the meantime we’re going to continue to work with our school principals, our teachers, we’re going to stay focused on doing what we know works,” Runcie said.

That’s the thing, staying focused on maintaining and building on last year’s successes, which each superintendent says will be a challenge because of HB-7069’s restrictions.

Broward went from 10 “F” rated schools to just two, dramatically raised its graduation rate and its number of “A” and “B” rated schools. Miami-Dade now has zero “F” schools, a crowning achievement.

“Knowing where we were 10 years ago, knowing where we are today, the rate of evolution, the rate of improvement, being considered today the highest performing urban district in the country, then having to fight and beg for fair funding or policies that empower our teachers, empower our kids, and empower our community, I think that’s shameful,” Carvalho said.

“This is a time when the revenues in the state are at a record high, we should be investing more in public education,” Runcie added.

The superintendents are vowing to keep funding cuts out of the classroom.

“I think we’re entering dangerous territory,” Carvalho said, pointing out that his district received a huge amount of grant money from private sources and corporate contributions. “So we believe corporate investment has to a certain extent mitigated the impact of HB-7069, but that’s a short-term solution that cannot be relied upon for the long haul.”

As it stands now, per-pupil spending in Florida is about $7,300. Compare that to the national average, which is over $11,000. It puts Florida in the bottom five or six states in the nation.

“I’m amazed that we’re able to accomplish the things that we have done here in Broward and districts throughout Florida, but it’s not a sustainable situation, we’ve got to get serious about investing in human capital and the future of our children,” Runcie said.

In the near future, the task is staying on task, no matter what Tallahassee throws at South Florida.

]]>
<![CDATA[South Florida Students Head Back to School on Monday]]>Mon, 21 Aug 2017 05:12:16 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Generic+School+Hallway+022217.jpg

For thousands of students across South Florida, the day is finally here as they pick up their book bags and make the return to school for the 2017-18 year.

Three new Miami-Dade County Public Schools will open for students this school year. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took a tour of one of the facilities in Doral, Dr. Toni Bilbao Preparatory Academy.

“It’s opening as a Pre-K 2, expanding to fifth grade,” said Carvalho. “Then the second phase will actually be to expand it to eighth grade.”

The $15 million school welcomes 200 students and 30 faculty members when it opens its doors on Monday.

Breakfast and lunch are free for every student for the first 20 days of school throughout the entire county.

“No questions asked. And then fill out the form. Guarantee your child great nutrition every single day,” said Carvalho.

Also on the menu this school year, a whole lot of technology. New features include interactive boards in every classroom. Ninth graders will have smart phones, telemedicine clinics and an app for parents.

“Technology meeting kids and parents where they are and making the life of a teacher actually easier and more productive,” said Carvalho.

Broward County Public Schools is also unveiling more digital classrooms. Parents say they are excited and optimistic about what this new school year will bring.

“I’m sure all those expectations are going to be met,” said Roman Gomez.

The first day of school also coincides with the solar eclipse. Superintendents in both counties says this will be a great educational opportunity for students as some classes will take part in viewing the eclipse as part of the curriculum.

]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Votes to Join Suit Against Charter School Funding]]>Thu, 10 Aug 2017 06:57:14 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-154611458.jpg

More and more Florida school districts are joining a looming legal fight over a new law that steers money to privately run charter schools.

The Miami Herald reports the Miami-Dade School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to join a proposed lawsuit to block the sweeping legislation pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Miami-Dade is now one of seven districts that have voted to sue over the law, including all three districts located in heavily populated South Florida.

School officials have criticized the law because of the measure forcing school districts to share property taxes with charter schools. Charter schools are in line to get more than $96 million from this provision.

Legislators have defended the new law, saying charter schools are public schools that deserve their share of local tax dollars.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Local Teachers Have a Chance to Win Free Cash for Supplies]]>Thu, 10 Aug 2017 04:42:12 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*160/1497213000-School-supplies-2-%28iStock%29.JPG

Teachers in South Florida have a chance to win a lot of cash for classroom supplies just in time for the new school year.

McDonald's is hosting its first annual "Cash for the Classroom" contest for teachers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. Three teachers will win a $1,000 prize to buy supplies for the classroom.

The fast-food chain will choose three teachers who demonstrate exceptional efforts in furthering students' education.

“We understand sometimes educators might invest their own dollars for school supplies for the programs they believe in," said Melissa Montes, local McDonald's owner. "This contest is a way to help support classrooms with the funds they need, as well as recognize the significant work these exceptional teachers do every day in our schools.”

The contest is open August 9 through September 25 to licensed teachers with kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The winners will be selected based on their creativity and how the teacher is making a difference in the classroom.

Submissions can be emailed to CashForClassroom@ThinkBSG.com. For more information, click here.

]]>
<![CDATA[Financial Aid Expansion to Benefit 235K FL College Students]]>Fri, 04 Aug 2017 17:31:07 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/216*120/GettyImages-532448714.jpg

As Florida university and college students return to campus this month, many will benefit from a major expansion of need-based financial aid.

Florida's main program aimed at those with financial need, known as “student assistance grants,” will expand to cover almost 235 thousand people this year, nearly doubling from last year. The students will receive an average grant of more than 11 hundred dollars, which does not have to be repaid.

The Legislature also expanded the “Florida Resident Access Grant” program, which will provide 33 hundred dollars per year to 37 thousand students attending private colleges and universities in Florida.

The additional money means students will finish school more quickly, according to Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges and University of Florida.

“Every extra dollar that we can put in that student’s bank account, if you will, enables them to continue pursuing their degree and get done on time. If they get done on time, they are in the workforce faster,” said Moore.

Projections also show more than 46 thousand university and college students who qualify as “academic scholars” under Florida's Bright Futures program will have all of their tuition and fees covered this year. Last year’s top Bright Futures scholarship only covered about half of tuition and fees, which average about 215 dollars per credit hour at the 12 state universities.

“Students leave school for a very small amount of money, and because they run out of money. They can’t pay their electric bill, can’t pay their car payment, can’t pay their rent. So, they leave school and go back to work,” said Moore.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Chuck Savage]]>
<![CDATA[Medley Warehouse Offers Teachers Free Classroom Supplies]]>Thu, 03 Aug 2017 15:49:07 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/080217ariwarehouse.png

It's a nondescript warehouse in Medley on the outside. On the inside, it sort of looks like a Home Depot store, except everything is free and all the merchandise is destined for public school classrooms. So what do they have?

"Everything, really, you never know what you're gonna get here, i always say it's a thrift store for teachers and you gotta come in, everything's in a box, and great teachers think outside the box," said Stacey de la Grana of the education fund.

This magical land where teachers shop for free study is called The Education Fund's Ocean Bank Center for Educational Materials.

All 22,000 Miami-Dade public school teachers are eligible to peruse the aisles here, looking for everything from basic supplies to more esoteric items they can use for art projects and for student rewards.

"There are clipboards, pencils, incentives for teachers' treasure box to motivate the students because it's so important to keep them focused, so it's a lot, it's a true blessing," said Sabine Pointe du Jour, who teaches at Oak Grove Elementary School.

de la Grana points out that the Eduction Fund does many things for teachers and schools.

"This is just one of the many programs that we do that's a resource for teachers so that they can save money and not use money out of their own pocket or send notes home to the kids to bring in supplies," de la Grana said.

It's no secret that the vast majority of public school teachers everywhere spend their own money on classroom supplies. That's been going on forever. The warehouse just reduces that burden.

"I spend 300 dollars every summer... just buying arts and crafts activities that will supplement their learning, so this ocean bank center is a great deal,"said Jocy Nery, a teacher at Coral Park Elementary.

Of course, the warehouse setup helps teachers set up their own classrooms, which in turn helps the students. You know who else benefits from this effort? The companies and people who donate all the supplies.

"We have seen amazing tings they have shown us, that they have done with the products we have donated, so actually it's very rewarding, it's a great feeling," said Marisel Caceres of All Florida Paper, which regularly donates surplus to the education supplies warehouse.

A great feeling, no doubt, for teachers to know someone out there in the private sector is supporting them. From pencils to paper, it all adds up.

The warehouse is located at 6890 NW 76 St., Medley, FL 33166, near the Palmetto Expressway (SR 826).

]]>
<![CDATA[More Than 100 Boxes Of School Supplies Donated Friday]]>Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:08:36 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/072817arischools100.png

Volunteers loaded about a hundred boxes of donated school supplies onto a bus this afternoon outside the NBC 6 studio. That was the take from just one drop-off location from our Supporting Our Schools initiative.

South Floridians gave back to their community in impressive fashion.

“My fiancee, she’s a counselor at a school, so that’s what we do, try to help the kids, the unfortunate kids that have nothing,” explained Craig Buckner as he dropped off bags of notebooks this morning outside the Miramar Fire-Rescue station 84.

Among those donating supplies, many seem to have connections to the education world.

“I’m a former teacher so I know how important it is to have kids bring school supplies and how important it is to make sure they come to class prepared so they can get the best education possible,” said Deanna Rivero, after dropping boxes of paper into the collection box.

One of the agencies leading this supply drive, Communities in Schools, said the psychological impact here on kids should not be underestimated.

“When they’re not prepared, they don’t come to school, they don’t come to class, there’s a lot of absenteeism, and eventually they just may want to drop out so something as simple as a school supply campaign really helps to make sure our kids are in school,” said Isabel Fernandez, the board chair of Communities in Schools, which is a national organization dedicated to providing services to inner city schools. 

Fernandez says the community definitely came through, with more than 400 backpacks being donated along with tons of other supplies.

There’s also another way to help, without leaving your desk. Go to the crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Teachers post their proposals there, and you can choose which ones you’d like to support.

We’ve already isolated proposals from South Florida teachers at NBC 6.com.

Third-grade teacher Tracy Lovell, from Challenger Elementary School in Tamarac, uses DonorsChoose as a way to give her kids an academic boost.

“It’s what we do as teachers, we always have to go above and beyond for our students so DonorsChoose is just a way for us to reach everything we can quickly and hopefully donors will be able to fund us,” Lovell said.

Most of us take this stuff for granted, but the average American high school student needs about a thousand dollars in supplies per year.

That’s a heavy lift for some in our community, so any donation goes a long way.

You can still drop off supplies through next weekend, to take advantage of the sales tax holiday, at the Coral Square Mall, Dadeland, The Falls, and the International Mall.  

]]>
<![CDATA[Hialeah Teacher Buys School Supplies For Students In Need]]>Wed, 26 Jul 2017 18:03:54 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/072617+Teacher+Helps+Students.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Photo Credit: NBC 6 ]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Teacher Spends Own Money on School Supplies]]>Tue, 25 Jul 2017 21:41:36 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/072517+Dontricia+Jones.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Liberty City Teacher Uses Grants To Keep Classroom Current]]>Thu, 27 Jul 2017 17:58:57 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/072717ariteachlibertypack.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does Sale go the extra mile?

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

]]>
<![CDATA[Back to School Shopping Already in Full Force For Some]]>Mon, 17 Jul 2017 05:34:02 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/backtoschoolsmile.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Broward Students Awarded Thousands in Scholarship Money]]>Fri, 14 Jul 2017 12:47:01 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/071417+broward+education+foundation+schoalrship+awards.jpg

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Broward Education Foundation ]]>
<![CDATA[Students Gain Experience, Cash in Internship Programs]]>Wed, 12 Jul 2017 21:03:45 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/071217ariinterns.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Achieves No 'F' Schools in Latest State Grades]]>Wed, 28 Jun 2017 18:58:03 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/miami+dade+schools+logo.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
<![CDATA[Gov. Scott in Miami Wednesday to Sign College Loans Bill]]>Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:36:16 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/022117+florida+state+university+westcott+fountain.jpg

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>