8th Graders Go East!

For the past ten years, each June, 8th grade history teacher, Kevin Fales, boards a charter bus with Jenison 8th graders to venture to the east coast to bring history to life, but to teach students so much more!

During his second year of teaching, Mr Fales was invited to join East Kentwood Middle School on their own East Coast Trip to get a feel for the experience and consider running a similar trip for Jenison. Now the trip averages 125 students each year and, along with twelve to fifteen school employees serving as chaperones, the trip is a mainstay for the 8th grade class.

This year, the 130 students will board the bus on Thursday, June 15 and head for their first stop: Niagara Falls. For most of the students, this will be their first experience outside of Michigan, let alone, outside of the country! The stop in Niagara Falls not only breaks up a long day of driving, but it allows students to begin to have their eyes opened to the wide world outside of West Michigan.

Day two finds the group in Boston visiting Fenway Park, Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, and take a ride on the infamous Duck Tour where they will ride the “duck truck” into the Charles River. Of course, the group will also visit historic sites throughout the city, along the Freedom Trail.

From Boston, the students will travel to New York City and play the role of tourists and visit Central Park, Times Square, and Rockefeller Plaza. The next day they will visit the 9/11 Memorial, ride a double-decker bus around the city to learn history and fun facts and wrap up their time in the city with a boat ride on “The Beast” which will take them past the Statue of Liberty.

After their two-day whirlwind of NYC, the group will journey to Philadelphia to visit Constitution CenterIndependence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both signed. “We’re standing in the room where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were all in.” They will also visit Thomas Jefferson’s apartment where he wrote the Declaration of Independence. To end their time in Philly, they will channel their inner-Rocky by running the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

On the way home, the group will stop at Gettysburg and receive a guided tour of the field and experience the Cyclorama, a painting created in the late 1880s which measures 377 feet in circumstance and 42 feet high** and immerses the viewer in the battle itself.

The final stop on the way home is Hershey Park to enjoy the amusement park and celebrate the end of their trip.

Mr Fales says that there are multiple goals for the students: it’s an opportunity to leave home, to build relationships with fellow students, and to connect what they’ve learned in class to real-life history. “As they are getting ready to go to the high school, it’s time to learn for themselves, the trip provides a chance for self-discovery, learning to advocate for themselves and grow up a little bit.”

Thank you, Mr Fales and chaperones, for planning this trip each year and giving your time and energy for ensure our students have the best possible learning experience! Students, soak up every aspect of this experience and feel the wind beneath your newly spread wings!

*Photo courtesy of RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation
**Courtesy of the Gettysburg Foundation

There’s Nothing Quite Like 6th Grade Camp!

If you grew up as a JPS student, chances are good that you attended 6th grade camp! For at least the past eighteen years, each school in the district has set aside 4 days each year for the 6th grade class to spend at a camp in the area.

The students take part in various activities such as ropes courses, horseback riding, biking, archery, team-building exercises, campfires, and group games like capture the flag and glow dodge ball. They also spend time with the students in their cabins to continue to build and develop peer relationships.

6th grade teacher, Heather Chatfield, is the Camp Director for Bauerwood and says the Tuesday to Friday camp experience at Grace Adventures is an important experience for the students to learn new skills, unplug, and enjoy being together. Of course, the students can’t go alone so each school depends on volunteers. Bauerwood typically takes 9 – 10 teachers from the building plus 6 – 12 junior counselors who are willing and enthusiastic high school students eager to make camp amazing for every student, just like it was for them.

In order to make camp a meaningful experience for these rising junior high students they are encouraged to expand their comfort zones and be brave. “We focus on this time being a team building experience. We also look at it as a way to get students to challenge themselves to do something new.” When students are encouraged by their peers and feel safe to try new things, they feel changed and teachers see an improvement in their demeanor and self-image. “We have so many kids that come back from camp feeling more confident and successful.”

Other wonderful benefits of camp is the opportunity for students to put down their devices, engage with their friends, and be challenged in new ways. “6th grade camp is a time for kids to “unplug” from today’s technology that is readily available. They are able to be physically active for four days. They have to communicate and push themselves more than ever before. The teachers love the experience because we get to know our students even better during this week at camp!”

Thank you to all of the teachers and high school students who attend camp and make it amazing for our 6th graders! We know that these experiences are helping to shape them into strong, confident, junior high students!

Star Student Spotlight: Izzy Krzewski!

When asked who Junior High Vice Principal, Heather Breen, would recommend as a Star Student, she did not hesitate! “8th grader, Isabelle (Izzy) Krzewski is a sweetheart of a student who is very involved in theater, dance, orchestra and choir.  She works incredibly hard and has great grades.”

Izzy comes from a musical family where her four older siblings are happy to indulge her habit of singing around the house. She has participated in Jenison theatre the last two years and performed as Princess Winifred in Once Upon a Mattress and this year, she wowed the crowd with her especially mean portrayal of Aunt Spiker in James and Giant Peach. Izzy insists that her role has Aunt Spiker caused her to have to “dig deep” because she usually plays the fun, silly roles and Aunt Spiker was the exact opposite. Izzy herself is sweet, kind and humble so finding her “inner Aunt Spiker” was a fun challenge.

As other theatre students have affirmed, the program at Jenison is a place all kinds of kids call “home” and Izzy is no different. She loves theatre because “the kids, the environment, and all the people — theatre people are the best people to be around because you can just laugh and joke with them. If you’re stressed from homework, theatre and dance just help you forget about it and be part of the art.”

Izzy also participates in the Junior High Dance Team which performs at the boys basketball games as well as various local competitions. If her dedication to theatre wasn’t enough to exhaust you, Izzy’s dance schedule directly corresponds  to the preparation for the musical each year and she insists it’s not a “stressful kind of hard work”.

In class she describes herself as “quiet and shy” but these are not the qualities she possesses on stage. “I just like becoming a different person on stage and making the audience smile and laugh”. Izzy says that her math teacher, Mr. Ohman is the teacher that inspires her to learn and the class she enjoys the most. “Mr Ohman teaches us math, but also teaches us about life. His stories are really inspirational. Usually in first hour I’m tired but he keeps me engaged with all of his stories.”

Because two kinds of art performances aren’t enough for Izzy, she also participates in the junior high choir and orchestra where she has played the viola for three years. “In orchestra I’m playing the notes and in choir, I’m singing the notes which is really cool and it helps me learn more.”

Her favorite music to sing is show tunes and she loves Newsies and Hamilton. She has seen movies of Broadway shows but has yet to see one in person but very much looks forward to it.

Izzy is looking forward to auditioning for theatre and being part of the High School choir and orchestra and says, “It is difficult balancing it all during the theatre and dance season. You’re up late, but it’s totally worth it.”

She encourages everyone to find what they love and lean in to it. “You have to find a passion in yourself, something that makes your heart beat faster and then that’s really where you make your mark.”

Thank you, Izzy! Your hard work, bravery on stage, dedication to your passion is an inspiration to all of us! We’re proud to call you a Wildcat!

#JPSReads Update!

Guest Reader, Janet Schultz, at Sandy Hill!

We first told you about #JPSReads earlier this year and phase one is now complete! To kick things off in mid-January, District Media Specialist, Jan Staley, and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz, presented the plan at each elementary school with a slideshow, magic tricks, and Q & A. Students were provided with a participation sheet to set a personal goal that correlated with their grade level. Once their goal was met, they received a cling-on paw print to display in a window of their home. Every family member could participate and once a goal was met, you could set a new goal!

This could be your house if everyone is reading!

Teachers and principals across the district encouraged students to meet their goals and share what they were learning as they read and explored new genres and topics. Ms Staley was encouraged by one elementary school, in particular saying, “The principal did a fabulous job keeping the excitement going.  He interviewed students every day who had met their goals, asking favorite books, places they read, etc.  This school also had participation contests within the grades.  This excitement from the principal and teachers spread and the number of student goal forms were the highest in the district.” Numbers are still coming in from the Junior High and High School but so far, there is record of over 1300 participants!

Guest Reader, Deputy Eric Smith at Pinewood!

March is Reading Month across the country and #JPSReads is hitching up to it for phase two! Please check out the March Reading Month Calendar here. Students can be challenged with a new reading task each day and be entered to win the grand prize at the end of the month!

Finally, phase three of #JPSReads will take place at the end of the school year and, while there are still some details to arrange, it will involve a secret “Paw Patrol”! Staff members from the district will be driving around the neighborhoods looking for homes with multiple #JPSReads paw prints displayed and they will receive prizes!

Ms Staley says she loves hearing the stories from students about how their entire family has been involved with #JPSReads, even turning in goal sheets for their grandparents! “The students often have reading incentive programs that they are working on throughout the year, but the exciting thing about #JPSReads is seeing them get excited about their parents reading!! It really has touched many families in our community!  Over and over again, our volunteers, and parents that have come into our buildings have mentioned that their whole family is having fun with this, they love reading and working toward this goal together.”

Guest Reader, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink

“Reading is not just a “school subject”, that it takes a community’s commitment to raise our readers. We want to continue our district’s vision to build rich literacy skills at home as well as at school. Research proves that Readers are Leaders! Reading helps relax us and keep our minds active and growing. Reading also improves our thinking abilities, people skills, and helps us master communication in order to effectively collaborate and lead others. Grab your favorite books and start reading today!”

If you have questions about any of the phases of #JPSReads please ask your child’s teacher! Thank you to all of the families that are participating and we can’t wait to see more paw prints!

Guest Reader, Deputy Steigenga, at Bursley

#JPSReads Comes Alive on Stage!

miii2248As a partnership to #JPSReads, the Junior High theatre department presents, James and the Giant Peach starting today and running through Sunday afternoon. We hope that families all over the district participated in the Read Aloud, JPSReads, earlier this school year and read the classic Roald Dahl story but if it’s new to you, don’t worry, it’s a heartwarming tale of an underdog you’ll love.

James is orphaned early in life and goes to live with his aunt who treats him as a servant, rather than a young boy. He soon meets a mysterious old man who offers him a magic bag of crocodile tongues that will make his life better. When James accidentally spills the tongues all over the ground, he is surprised to see an enormous peach grow on the sidewalk! The giant peach becomes a magical place of fantasy and friendship for James and, of course, you’ll need to read the book or buy a ticket this weekend to hear the rest!

miii2237When Director, Holly Florian, was anticipating this years musical, she considered the amazing batch of talent her students bring to the table. While the audience is aware that the actors on stage are junior high students, what they may not realize is that by the end of the weekend, the entire show is student-run. They are in charge of the lights, sound, stage management, direction, and set changes. They are assisted by a couple of high school students in their tasks but they act mainly in the role of mentor to these ambitious junior highers!

The cast auditioned back in mid-October and at the end of that month they began their rehearsals. Near showtime, they are rehearsing from 5-9pm every weeknight! Prior to the holiday break they have memorized all of their lines but Ms Florian encourages them from this point on to really let the characters become their own; to have fun with the lines and the story. She sees their potential and wants them to have the opportunitiy to shine as a result of their hard work and dedication.

miii2102Just like our high school students say year after year, Ms Florian believes that her students love being in the theatre program because it provides a sense of belonging and community. Students are able to meet new people and make friends with other students they may have never met otherwise. Because of this, she is especially pleased with the journey that James makes in this story. As the director, she is able to see the journey of students, their progress and self-confidence throughout the rehearsal season. By the end “it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come and that’s what this story is all about: self-confidence.”

If you’d like to see these talented students live, in action, you can purchase your tickets here. It’s a great opportunity to bring the book to life and remind your kids of the importance of and meaning found in reading and stories!

Break a leg, Junior High students! We know you will be incredible, not only this weekend, but always!

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History Comes Alive for 8th Graders!

img_4675If you’ve ever tuned out your parents or an older adult when they started to say, “When I was your age…” you’re not alone and you’re probably in the good company of many of our eighth grade students.

This year, Jenison Junior High Language Arts teachers wanted to not only allow students the opportunity to embrace their curriculum unit on historical fiction but to do it by getting to know some older adults in our community who have their own history to tell.

img_4646English teacher, Jane Brown, wanted students to learn new ways to value history and personal experiences. “We are always looking for ways to make our curriculum real to our students. In eighth grade, we study historical fiction and – unfortunately – sometimes just that genre alone turns people off even though it can be fascinating. We wanted to help our students to see that the things that happened before their lifetimes matter.”

As part of the event held earlier this month, senior citizens were invited to participate by being interviewed in person by our junior high students. The students are also charged with writing historical fiction of their own and the real-life experiences they heard about will add depth to their writing.

img_4685“Students asked a variety of questions. The goal was for them was to find out what life was like in the past and also to hear the interesting stories that people had to share. The students were very excited to share what they had learned from the people they interviewed. They are looking forward to writing historical fiction short stories set in the time periods that they learned about.
Kids loved learning what people wore to the beach in the 1930s [suits and ties], how they talked on the telephone in the 1960s [party lines], and about the beginnings of Jenison Public Schools.”

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55 older adults between the ages of 50 – 90 participated in the event and were eager to share their experiences with the students. They also reported being impressed by their questions!

“We really liked that this event allowed students to learn about history in a non-traditional way from a first-hand perspective, while at the same time, practicing communication skills. The students came away from their hour disappointed that they didn’t have more time with the people they interviewed. Bridging the generations is such a wonderful experience for everyone involved!

Thank you to our community partners for being willing to participate in our students’ education! Your voices are invaluable to us!

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Say “Hi” to New Teachers!

This year we welcomed 23 new staff members to the Jenison family! Here you can meet some of them and feel free to say “hi” in person when you cross paths!

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Anna Flood  |  Burlsey, 6th Grade

“I grew up in the area and have always heard amazing things about Jenison. As a new teacher to the district, I have noticed the strong community and support that surrounds education. I am excited to grow with my group of 6th grade students, and watch them use their abilities to be successful.”

 

mcelweeAlexa McElwee  |  Bursley Interventionist
“I have grown up in this community.  Living in Hudsonville, attending GVSU and now working in Jenison, I have seen this community from so many sides.  From being a child, to a student, and now as a educator.  This community stands behind you and support you in every way.  When I graduated the one thing I knew I wanted in the school I worked for was a huge community involvement.  When I accepted my position in Jenison, I knew I was going more than a community, I was joining a family.  Jenison is such an amazing school district who wants the best for the students and their families.

On the first day of school I was feeling like most students do when they walk in the door, nervous, anxious and excited.  I definitely had first day jitters.  I was nervous for joining a new team and for meeting new students who have never seen me before.  By the end of they day I was getting high fives and lots of hugs from all the Kindergartners as they walked by my room to head to the bus.  To see their faces light up each morning when they see me in the hall or working with them makes me so excited to see the relationships that are being formed.  This is going to be a great year.”

vandebergJosh VandeBerg  |  Sandy Hill, 4th Grade

“My family and I are very excited to return to the area!  My wife Amanda and I are from the area, but moved to Florida 9 years ago. We have 4 children Ben (10), Abigail (9), Hannah (6), and Levi (3).  All of our extended family lives in the area and my children are thrilled to live by their cousins.

I am a big believer of living in the community that I teach in.  Jenison is an amazing place to live and raise a family.  The schools are top-notch and we can’t imagine a better place to be. I am so excited for this school year because everyone that I work with truly cares about each other.  The district leaders, the team at Sandy Hill, and everyone I meet throughout the district is amazing. Jenison has a lot to offer its students.  I am currently involved in the robotic’s program and we have a blast using what we’ve learned in the classroom to solve a problem.

willieMaura Willie  |  Elementary Music

“I was drawn to JPS because of their excellence in music. I love how the district and community supports the arts in their schools. So far, I’m most excited for the year because of all of the collaboration I’ve seen. Everyone I’ve come into contact with has been eager to help each other and work together. ”

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Jenny Huizenga  |  High School Math
“I was drawn to JPS because my children attend JPS and I love the schools and the community.  I am excited to be teaching in the community where I live.  The staff and students are amazing at Jenison and I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and get involved. “

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Bridget Ehlich  |  Bursley Elementary, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“I was drawn to JPS by the reputation it has in the Greater Grand Rapids area as forward educators. I am excited about the year because I have already felt welcomed by the community and can tell that this is a good place to be as an educator.”

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Dustin Morley  |  Junior High ELA
“I first heard about Jenison Public Schools while I attended Grand Valley State University ten years ago and heard nothing but good things about the district and community ever since. After moving from the Detroit area to West Michigan I was very excited when a long-term substitute position opened at Jenison Junior High. The building and district felt like home for me from the first interview for that position.  After being a long-term substitute for a year and a half, I couldn’t be happier to now be a full time teacher at Jenison Junior High School. I’m particularly looking forward to getting more involved with the school and community this year.”

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Rachel Nichols  |  ECC Special Education

“I was looking for a district that wanted to everything possible to benefit their students. I talked to some friends and they all were so pleased with Jenison and what they are doing.  So far it has been great everyone has been so friendly and welcoming it has been an amazing start to 2016/2017 school year and I am excited to continue!!!”
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Anna Siegel  |  Pinewood + Sandy Hill Special Education

“What drew me to JPS is the success of the district and the sense of community. I am in two different elementary buildings throughout the day this year, and so I am excited to interact with many different staff and students this year!”
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Kristen Dantonio  |  Pinewood, 5th Grade

“I was drawn to Jenison because I was told that it was a district that cared about people. It is a district that puts relationships first and I knew that I wanted to be part of that. I am most excited to get to know my students and coworkers at Pinewood. It has been a great year so far and I am excited to see how those relationships will grow.”

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Christina Salinas  |  Rosewood, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“The wonderful Jenison community and Spanish Immersion program drew me to JPS.  This year I am excited to see students continue to grow in their literacy skills in Spanish and English.  I am also excited to work with the supportive teachers and staff at Rosewood Elementary. I have learned so much from them already. Their dedication and passion for teaching is contagious!”

We’re so thankful for all of our teachers and all that they do for our students and families! Thank you to the new teachers for bringing your talents and passion to Jenison!

Teachers Begin Year by Celebrating Success!

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year at Jenison Public Schools!
We hope you enjoyed our summer series on student writing and if you’re new to the blog, we hope you’ll subscribe and check in with us every Thursday to celebrate the great things happening in our schools!

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To kick off the year, all JPS teachers participated in three days of professional development centered around the yearlong theme of “Celebrating our Successes”. As parents can appreciate, teachers are so busy during the school year that they often miss out on learning from and celebrating with each other.  According to Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, “With the busy school schedule, meeting kids needs at every level, preparing lessons and meeting the many requirements from the State, we do not always take [or have] the time to slow down and celebrate the amazing happenings and successes at JPS!” Professional development throughout the year will provide opportunities for celebration in an effort to be “more mindful [and] purposeful about celebrating individual and team successes in our buildings”.

img_4255During the year, professional development will continue with Classroom Learning Labs which aim to provide a more consistent and collaborative curriculum. During this first training, elementary teachers attended literacy sessions led by our own experienced, talented and amazing staff!  “All elementary teachers were asked to select three of eighteen sessions to attend to learn or solidify what they know about reading, writing, math workshop, student assessment, literacy instruction, how students learn, and differentiation of instruction.”

Twenty eight JPS staff members across the district from Transitional Kindergarten through Junior High, led the sessions teachers attended.  “The sessions were powerful and dynamic with staff from different buildings and different grade levels sharing and learning from each other!  We ended our day with grade level team time to reflect on the learning and set instructional goals for the year to best impact our students.”

img_4249Additionally, teachers took time to create Literacy Belief Statements which were based on research about the best practices in literacy education and the statements will be posted in a visible location in each elementary building. “Each month we will focus on one of these belief statements and how it fits with literacy instruction.  Teachers are participating in a self-select book study centered around these statements where conversations and collaboration will take place every month.  Leading the discussion and learning is Janet Schultz, our new district Literacy Coach.  Janet has been teaching for fourteen years at Jenison Public Schools and will be supporting the instructional collaboration and literacy learning!”

Teachers are looking forward to seeing more of this type of professional development at Jenison and are excited to start the year: “It was noted by one staff member that “it was one of the most encouraging and motivating three days”!”

Emma Scott is 2016 Future Leader in the Making!

IMG_5113Earlier this month Jenison 8th grader, Emma Scott, was honored at GlenEagle Golf Club as the winner of the 2016 Future Leader in the Making Award! This is the first year for the award which was offered and presented by the Grandville-Jenison Chamber of Commerce.

Junior High Principal, Brett Cataldo [pictured below], attended the event but was also Emma’s nominator. “Emma is a positive, smart, compassionate young lady.  Emma is a leader by example in all of her classes.  She is a positive peer for students in her classes.  Emma sets an example of being a team player, respectful and exhibits the Cat Character Traits from JJHS – Caring, Integrity, Citizenship, and Self Discipline.”

Emma has taken full advantage of the opportunities at Jenison Junior High by participating in Choir, Orchestra, and advanced classes such as Challenge American History, and Advanced Math.  “She works extremely hard academically and brings the thinking in her classes to a higher level.  In addition is a talented singer and had a lead role last winter in our Junior High musical Once Upon A Mattress.  Emma also participated in softball.”IMG_4435

The idea for the award was prompted a few years ago after the community experienced the flooding and the eight year old son of a Chamber member took a leadership role with a weekend of cleanup. When the Chamber decided to move forward with the idea the age range of 13 – 17 year olds was established and the criteria for nomination were “for activities or significant contributions that resulted in the improvement and quality of life for the residents and or businesses of the Grandville/Jenison/GTWP Communities.”

Sandy LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Grandville-Jenison Chamber of Commerce had the difficult task of deciding between the eight candidates but says that Emma stood out because she “is a very well rounded student who excels not only academically but also in the arts, sports, and shares her talents singing to the elderly.  She sets the bar high for fellow students and is definitely a “Future Leader in the Making”.”

Emma, ‘congratulations’ from the entire JPS family! We are so proud of your hard work, talents and spirit of giving back. You exemplify what it means to be a Jenison Wildcat!

Junior High Students Get Future Career Help

MIII0187Earlier this month, 100 of our Jenison eighth graders were randomly selected to attend the MI Career Quest event held at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. Organized and hosted by West Michigan Works! and the Construction Workforce Development Alliance it was developed in response to employers’ need for future talent. Students were the targeted audience before opening the doors to perspective employees for more of a job fair atmosphere.

MIII0044With the goal of experiencing many careers in one day and having the opportunity to ask questions students loved the event. Junior High Principal, Brett Cataldo, accompanied the students and said, “Students asked many great questions of the professionals working at the event.  Some questions were about the training/schooling, hours worked each day/week, if they like their job, and where the business was located. Students were very responsive and really did a nice job exploring the jobs and asking quality questions.”

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With almost 100 employers on site it was an excellent chance for students to consider a wider worldview to the ubiquitous question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The event was organized into four areas: construction, manufacturing, instructional technology and medical. “Interest was really high in the medical area with our students.”  Participants were able to take part inMIII0028 various activities with the businesses present including hands-on demonstrations, team competitions and engaging in one-on-one conversations with professionals, which incuded engineers, registered nurses, architects, electricians and HVAC technicians.

“Students are never too young to explore and gain exposure on the possible future careers.  An event like this is very motivating to students and makes all the work they are doing at school relevant.”

Whether it was seeing the inner-workings of a robotic arm or racing with a fire hose, this is a fantastic way for our students to begin exploring their interests, passions, talents and interests.

We can’t wait to see where your education and experiences take you in life!MIII0156

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