Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Class on the weekend? Not a problem.

H.A.S.S. scholars hard at work... on the weekend

To paint an accurate picture of the situation at H.A.S.S., we must say that these students have never worked so hard in their life. Due to our trip to the McWane Science Center, we were obligated to make up the lost work the next day. Please find below a schedule of our workday on this particular Sunday.

10:30-10:45 : Last chance to finalize your five sources (must have a sheet of notes for each source)
10:45-11:00 : Presentation on the outline by Ms. Brown
11:00-11:10 : Break / Dance Party
11:10-11:30 : Make outline with Mr. Younker's thesis on textbooks being replaced
11:30-12:30: Lunch
12:30-1:15 : Students make own outline
1:15-1:25 : Break / Dance Party
1:30-2:30 : Math Enrichment with Ms. Brown & Ms. Jin
2:30-2:45 : Break
2:45-3:00 : How to make an Introduction w/ Mr. Younker
3:00 - 3:30 : Students write their introduction
3:30-4:00: How to cite sources properly
4:00-5:30 : Work time
5:30-6:30 : Dinner
6:30-7:15 : games
7:15-8:15 : Work time
8:15-8:45 : Practice reciting poems with Ms. Narnor
8:45-9:15 : Break / Dance Party

We are pushing the students at H.A.S.S. to limits that they did not know existed before this summer. The scholars are constantly surprising themselves with how much they can achieve when they sit down and focus their minds on a goal. Even though we have gone on many trips and extra-curricular activities, the students enrolled within this summer school have not lost sight of their academic goals. They are here to learn. Did we mention these kids are only 14 years old?

McWane Science Center 6/25

Krisshandra makes the biggest bubble of her life!

I am not sure about the students, but the staff had an excellent time at the McWane Science Center this past Saturday! Through the complementary tickets provided by the McWane Science Center, the H.A.S.S. students were able to learn in a different way other than the standard textbook and chalkboard combination. The three floors of excitement were a beautiful blend of learning and education; the students did not even realize that they were learning about sharks, gravity, leverage, computer science, sound waves, brain activity, fossils, wildlife, meteorology, and much more.

Does this look like Curtisha?

In addition to having the opportunity of visiting the interactive portion of the center, the McWane Science Center invited H.A.S.S. to view a film in the IMAX theatre! This opportunity was a first time experience for many within both the student body and staff. We were blown away by both the acoustics and sheer size of the theatre. The education film we saw was Tornado Alley, which hit home for our students after the horrific tornadoes that came close to our communities this past spring.

Krisshandra vs. Shon: They are facing off to see who can keep their brain the most relaxed

When we returned to campus at Indian Springs our students realized that they needed to get right to work. We took a short break to relax in our dorms; however, the H.A.S.S. students filed into the computer lab by 4:00 p.m. to get to work on their research papers. The kids are putting some real work into these papers; I am humbled by their level of commitment to this summer experience.

Pound Cake and Mr. Younker left their mark at the McWane Science Center

Friday 6/24 - UAB and Custom Pizza

Students relaxing in the movie theater in Blazer Hall at UAB

Friday was a very packed day. It is necessary to mention that the majority of our afternoon trips are preceded by an entire morning of classes. H.A.S.S. students attend class from 8:00-11:30 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Accordingly, by the time we arrived on UAB’s campus, we already had a full morning of classes.

Despite the students’ commitment to working hard during the morning, the H.A.S.S. scholars asked numerous questions to our tour guide at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. For many of our students who want to enter the field of medicine, UAB appears to be their current top choice for both undergraduate and graduate school. While on campus, the students had the opportunity to tour the entire undergraduate portion of UAB’s campus and even relax in the movie theatre located within one of the freshman dorms!

Jarvis prepping his pizza for the sauce

As soon as we returned to Indian Springs, Wendy and the other staff within the cafeteria had a surprise waiting for our students: THEY GOT TO MAKE THEIR DINNER! The H.A.S.S. students partnered up and designed their own pizzas, often splitting the pie right down the middle. There was so much pizza that Wendy gave the students "to go" boxes, and the kids took their work back to the dorms for an evening snack. Thank you so much, Indian Springs!

Va'Shondria decided to put a little bit of cheese on her pizza

Friday, June 24, 2011

Organic Garden + Research Paper + Birmingham Southern College + Birmingham Barons = A Thursday with H.A.S.S.

Ashley sneaks up on Mantricia with a tickling tool

Exposure. If we could summarize our mission by using only a few select words, exposure would undoubtedly be on the list. H.A.S.S. strives to expose its students to the wide array of opportunities they have during both their secondary and post-secondary education. Yesterday Indian Springs School (ISS) exposed our students to the world of sustainable agriculture by means of its organic garden. Mr. Pollard, a Biology teacher at ISS, led the H.A.S.S. students through the organic garden teaching them along the way. Students could not keep themselves from posing lots of questions about the garden and Mr. Pollard’s work at ISS. In fact, we now have a new activity for next week: a visit to the ISS lab to see the snakes, spiders, fish, and other critters Mr. Pollard might have crawling around the building.

H.A.S.S. students discussing the various beetles in the garden with Mr. Pollard

After our morning in the garden, the students headed to the computer lab to work on their research papers for the next hour and thirty minutes. In order to ensure the students remain interested in the paper, the scholars are independently picking their topics. For example, Va’Shondria Ward is researching the relationship between being sexual abused as a child and developing into a rapist in adulthood. The students will present their research next week at the closing of the summer school.

H.A.S.S. on a tour at Birmingham Southern College

The BSC tour had a great Q&A session for the students

In the afternoon, H.A.S.S. made a trip to Birmingham Southern College (BSC) where the students fulfilled the tour guide’s “must ask a minimum of 3 questions per tour” requirement before we even left the Admissions’ back yard. The tour was absolutely splendid, and the students were already comparing BSC to their previous tour at Samford. They are already thinking over the various factors that will determine their choice of college. Our students are without a doubt college bound!

Curtisha, Krisshandra, and Va'Shondria enjoy the Barons game

If you thought the day was over after the BSC tour, you were wrong. With the help of Julie Ellis at Christian & Small and Jonathan Nelson and Shawn Pharo of the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team, all 15 H.A.S.S. students were able to enjoy a SURPRISE evening at Regions Park to watch the Birmingham Barons defeat the Tennessee Smokies. For many of our students this was their first time attending a professional sporting event! Thank you so much to the individuals that made this outing happen. This summer school is a group effort; thank you to everyone who has provided us with support thus far.

Meet the H.A.S.S. students!

I was just looking through some of our photos on my computer, and I decided that we simply do not have enough pictures of our students on the blog.

Ms. Fluker is making her elephant mask at the Birmingham Museum of Art

Adrianna Jones proudly displays her finished elephant mask

All 15 of the H.A.S.S. scholars at the University of West Alabama before they loaded the bus to head to Birmingham - June 12th, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

H.A.S.S. visits Samford!

After visiting four different places in the past two days (JCC, the Galleria mall, Christian&Small and Innovation Depot), we got back to our normal routine yesterday – classes! It seemed like we haven’t sat in the classrooms for a long time, since we’ve been so busy going from one place to another. For Ms. Brown’s math class, we played jeopardy solving various integer problems. Kudos to Adrianna J, Diamond and Davontae for winning first place! Ms. Buckelew and her reading class continued their discussion on The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 and started learning how to write persuasive essays.

After lunch, we had our first college tour at Samford University! Despite the thunderstorm that partially flooded our van and caused traffic as intense as that of rush hour, we safely made it to Samford an hour after our original appointment. The sky stopped pouring by the time we started our tour and we visited the science lab, the library, the cafeteria and other various buildings. We listened to Dr. Steve Donaldson’s (a brother of Mrs. Sharon Stuart from Christian&Small) presentation on computer science after the tour. The weather was just not working with us, because the moment we walked out of the science building to head back to our bus, it started raining again. A couple drops quickly became a heavy downpour that made us sprint back to where we parked. A few of us fell on our way running but luckily no one got hurt. Jarvis told a few of us how he fell; it was unfortunate that he fell but the way he told the story was hilarious. Ms. Buckelew literally laughed until she started tearing up! Anyway, we made it back to Indian Springs safely despite the thunder and lightning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Scoteesha uses conjunctive adverbs in text messages!

Throughout H.A.S.S. we make sure that our students consistently speak in complete sentences. Another thing that we ensure is that when they email us or text us they are using complete sentences. Now, "text talk" is hard to break...I slip myself sometimes but these kids are taking these rules seriously!

Today we visited Samford University and the kids had a WONDERFUL time touring the campus. The end of our tour ended with some serious downpour! Some brave souls ran to the bus, the rest of us stayed behind and waited for it to lighten up. Since I did not get to talk to Scoteesha (also known as Smack) I sent her a text message,
"Did you have a good time visiting the university?"

I did not think about the response I would get. But I was very impressed! She used a conjunctive adverb to describe her experience. This is especially cool because Mr. Younker spent time explaining to them why it is important to not only learn things but make sure that they apply it in their daily life. Her exact reply? "I did have a good time; however, I fell and broke my shoe."

She could have easily have replied "it wuz aiight" or "yup" but she took the time to apply what she had learned in Summer School.

These kids are amazing! They make every day worth it. If you're reading this Smackady Smack, we are all so proud of you!

Pound Cake Goes for a Drive!!

Dejuanay's Big Break

The View...Fox 6 News...Mrs. Stuart Explains...

Drinks and Bagels

Drayton and Mr. Simon


Law and Innovation

So today we got back to business!!

This morning the kids were dressed bright and early in their finest professional wear. We had a hearty breakfast, like we do everyday, and then we hopped on the bus, and we hit the road for downtown Birmingham.

Why downtown??

We were visiting Christian & Small Law Firm! At the firm the kids settled in with drinks and bagels as they listened to Ken Simon and Sharon Stuart give EXCELLENT presentations.

From Mr. Simon we learned how to set concrete goals and how important it is to take initiative! They learned to stay inspired and to follow their passion, and he told a wonderfully inspiring story about his mother's pursuit of education.

From Mrs. Stuart we learned to THINK BIG!!!

T- Talent

T- Time

H- Hope

H- Honesty

I- Insight




I-In-Depth Learning

G- God

(Mantricia kindly pointed out that there are two t’s and two h’s in this plan.)

Mrs. Stuart then gave us a tour of the firm and even let us into her office. The kids ate that part of the day up! We were all so amazed by the amount of work that goes into being a lawyer! And we were awed by her breathtaking skyline view in her office window. (Brianna stayed a little far from the window; she isn’t so fond of heights, but Ms. Brown was kind enough to describe the beautiful scenery to her so that no one missed out.)

Christian & Small was a fantastic way to begin the morning.

Next we went to Innovation Depot and learned all about making iPhone apps. Fox 6 News accompanied us and interviewed Krisshandra and Dejuanay. When we got back to Indian Springs we got to go on a free-book-shopping spree. We were all in heaven. The kids grabbed armfuls of books. They grabbed Spanish-English Textbooks and novels by Ayn Rand and Shakespeare. They were like scholars in a candy shop!

We ended the evening by watching some more slam poets and discussing the subject matter. Then each student chose a poem to learn and recite themselves. They chose one of three poems; their choices were Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, or Langston Hughes.

I can’t wait to see these performances!! We’ll be sure to tape them. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

H.A.S.S. celebrates halfway point!

Yesterday (Monday the 20th) was a special day for both the students and the teachers of H.A.S.S. It was the first day of our third week of the summer school, which meant that we were half way through! In order to celebrate all the accomplishments that our students have shown so far, the teachers decided to throw them a surprise. The students had absolutely no idea about their special trip to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and the Galleria mall (a second visit for them). The special announcement was made at breakfast, and the students cheered and sprinted back to the dorm to get out of their professional wear and to put on their bathing suits. They enjoyed their morning and afternoon swimming and shopping. Even if it was a day off for them, the students decided to spend their free time after dinner reading and getting on top of their work. The day was capped off with a game of yah and mafia.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ABC Story

Check out the article and video on ABC news about H.A.S.S. students by clicking here.

ABC news comes to visit!

As I type an ABC News affiliate stands at the front of the classroom filming our kids. The kids are quiet; pencils scratching their college ruled paper. They have a lot to say right now. You can almost see the wheels turning as they interpret the poetic display of passion that they have just witnessed. Ms. Brown just introduced them to slam poetry.

“Will they ever call your death beautiful?” –The two Chicagoan slam poets ask. They chew on these words.The young poets were presenting the issue of gang violence and teen mortality.

They share their thoughts:

Krisshandra stands to share what she has written. She says a lot and closes with--“I can relate to this because a little boy at John Essex died the day before his birthday. His name was Nathaniel.”

Curtisha tells us how she is feeling after watching the video-“I am feeling sad because people are killing people who are young and innocent,” she says solemnly.

As Pound Cake (Ja’Terica) stands, we smile-“I am feeling sad because the young people who died didn’t get a chance to see their futures or go to college.” Pound Cake wants to attend Harvard one day. She elaborates on how young lives are lost-“hanging around the wrong crowd can get you killed.”

Mantricia, who was interviewed privately by the news team, shares her thoughts on the matter-“I don’t think it is going to change. People are going to do what they want to do regardless of what people tell them”

After the news team left the kids hit the books again. At 3 O’clock they broke into groups; some went to play soccer in the gym, some stayed in the computer lab and studied, while others headed back to the dorms to relax. And at 6 o’clock we crowded around the TV in our common area to watch ABC news present our story. Just as promised, we heard the words, Higher Achievement Summer School!! We cheered so loudly we nearly missed the rest of the story. We saw clips of interview footage of Davontae and Mantricia.The kids were so excited! Davontae ran around squealing with glee!!! I think he is still in shock.

We are so proud of the students. They are working extremely hard, and we are so glad that other people are taking the time to notice just how GREAT these kids truly are.

- Jacqueline

Mixing Work & Play - Botanical Gardens

H.A.S.S. students learning the term "endemic"

Our students experienced their second field trip in Birmingham yesterday when H.A.S.S. traveled to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Birmingham Botanical Gardens, a non-profit organization, invited the students to its facilities for the purpose of volunteering in the maintenance of the gardens. The students had a fabulous time working in the gardens, truly living and demonstrating our core principle of “community.” The field trip was concluded by an enjoyable packed lunch in the shade of the gardens.

Diamond getting her hands dirty during our trip to the Botanical Gardens

Upon returning to Indian Springs, the students relaxed on their day without classes by swimming and canoeing on the campus’ lake. For many of our students, this outing was their first time canoeing; needless to say, the students were ecstatic about their afternoon.

H.A.S.S. students enjoying the afternoon out on the lake at Indian Springs

As for H.A.S.S. staff, our proudest moment came at 6:30 p.m. when everyone returned to the dorms. Despite the students not having class in the morning, every individual was still completely focused on our purpose: getting our students to the next level. As soon as the students returned from dinner they hit the books – reading either The Watson Go to Birmingham or The Giver, working on their Algebra I homework, or writing their three page paper for Grammar Boot Camp. The students worked from 6:30-10:00 p.m. without distraction or pause. Some of the students capped the night off by dancing while playing Michael Jackson: The Experience on the Wii. These students proved that they are capable of balancing academics and extracurricular activities with ease. This summer is turning into an unforgettable experience for both the students and staff.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Putting in Work!!!

Some of our students woke up early and ready for class, some of our students woke up groggy after watching the NBA championships, and some of our students woke up when a teacher knocked on their door (this was right about the time they were supposed to be getting ready to walk over to breakfast).

Today our students began their new reading classes: 8 students are reading, The Watson’s go to Birmingham and 7 students are reading, The Giver. We are working to create an atmosphere that will set them up for college, so we had the students register for the reading class they wanted based on the description. This was a novel idea for them and it was fun to explain how and why this happens.

In Math, the students were in groups of 3 playing a, “Multiplying Binomials by Binomials” dominoes game (wow that was a mouthful). It was a lot of fun and became really intense, the kids worked hard to get ahead, but just like life there had to be a winner. As the game was coming to a close the students became even more competitive. Kudos to Adrianna T, Adrianna J and Tricia for getting the win!

As I write this blog I am sitting in a common area, and there are kids all around working on their homework, reading assignments or make-up work. EVERYONE is working…I am currently typing to the sound of computer keys and the faint chant of “Racks on Racks on Racks” playing through Jarvis’ headphones. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s a beautiful sight. Some make remark that they have seen the most beautiful mountains, most beautiful ocean, or most beautiful beach but I believe that true beauty is found in seeing the future of America grow.

We have group reading so we have to jet. Check out the vid of all our kids working early in the afternoon after classes.

H.A.S.S. students make the Birmingham News

We are honored that the Birmingham News came to check out what our students are doing. Check out our smart and sharp students!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Check out our kids!

Our students worked extremely hard to get to Indian Springs. Check them out working at local grocery stores in Livingston in order to help raise the required resources for the summer school.

H.A.S.S. - First Week!

We are drawing close…very close to ending the first week of Higher Achievement Summer School. We are very grateful for everyone who supported us as we planned the Summer School and those that are rooting for us from wherever in the world you are!
                To make sure that we meet our 15 students’ needs we are constantly on the move and rarely have access to our phones. This has left us with the inability to answer our phones, reply quickly to emails, and sleep until we choose to wake up.
                Alas, this morning an idea came to mind, almost like an epiphany! Why not blog? Give day to day updates on how amazing our kids truly are! We almost feel selfish keeping the things they say and do to ourselves. We want all of the people that supported us to share in the experience that was half a year in the making.
                Since the idea came a little late we still want you to get a glimpse of how much they have grown in just 5 days:
First Week of Summer School
                The first week of H.A.S.S. was spent at the University of West Alabama. Our college-prep school would not be possible without the partnership with UWA. When the summer school was still in its preliminary stages, they were the first partner and we are extremely grateful for all their help. We would like to give a special shout out to Mr. Walker and Mrs. Triplett for being willing to help wherever they possibly could.   
                During the first week students read the Novel The Red Badge of Courage. Anyone that has read this book knows that it is not the easiest book to understand but our students worked hard to finish it and write an analysis in four days. Our students often split in groups to discuss the book and even cut into some of their dinner time to read.
Beyond just academics our students started to learn about how to manage their time. They had three separate homework assignments a night during the week and plenty of activities. Initially our students did not appropriate their time as best as they could but after meeting with each of them one-on-one we helped them come up with solutions that worked for them. For the rest of the week we had statements like, “can I head up to my room so I can start with my homework” and “I’m going to spend part of dinner doing my homework so I can have free time tonight”.
On Friday we had a Potluck with the parents of our students. It was a HUGE success! The parents got to meet and talk extensively with the staff, play some games, and see how much their students had learned in the short amount of time. It was good to see the parents have fun and share with us.
Higher Achievement Summer School has been a long time in the making and we could not have asked for a better first week! Subscribe to our Blog to get updates, video’s, quotes, and pictures!