Learning to shape the world

Posted by Mason West - 11 March, 2013

Senior Taylor Alexander believes that the greatest lesson she has learned from Randolph’s community learning initiative is her capacity to impact the world.

As a member of Randolph’s presentation team, Taylor has had the opportunity to inform community stakeholders about this new program in Huntsville’s public and private sectors.

On Thursday, February 28, Taylor was one of five Randolph students who stood with students from Butler High School to engage Huntsville’s City Council. With confidence and passion, these talented students proposed a plan to strengthen Huntsville’s labor force with a groundbreaking career exploration program. The audience was inspired to see high school students from two different schools apply what they learned in the classroom to the solution of a problem in their community.

Kenny Anderson was one of those audience members. Mr. Anderson has been recently appointed to serve as Huntsville’s Director of Multiculturalism. One week after seeing these students present to the City Council Mr. Anderson interviewed the students on his radio show. Mr. Anderson was curious about what motivated the students. Mustafa Hassoun, a sophomore at Randolph, expressed his desire to be involved in a program that gave him the opportunity to create and implement programs that could change the lives of people in his community, even beyond his years at Randolph.

Even more interesting to those who witnessed the presentation at City Council was the fact that the young people who engaged their city’s leaders were from two different schools—one public, the other independent—yet these young people stood together to bring change to their community as one group representing one organization. At this event, they were simply citizens seeking to make a struggling community better.

Jazlynn Fead, a senior at Butler High School, told Mr. Anderson, “At first I saw Butler and Randolph as two totally different schools, but when we began to work and practice together I realized we are all teenagers and we all want the same things for our lives and our communities.”

As these students study the effects of poverty on education and employment, they are  actively working to devise solutions and put theory into practice. They met and planned together at each others’ schools. They did not demonstrate their knowledge on a quiz or a test, but before an authentic audience, their city council.

The team, which is comprised of 16 Randolph and five Butler students in all, is continuing to meet with community stakeholders in the business, education and governmental sectors to seek support for their career exploration program, one branch of their solution.

The team made an initial presentation to the community at TEDxYouth this fall. In addition to the city council presentation, members of the team have met with ADTRAN, Logicore and the Madison County Delegation of Legislators. They are also scheduled to meet with Aegis and Qinetiq. In April, a presentation team will travel to speak before state legislators in Montgomery and to Washington, D.C., where they are scheduled to make presentations to the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the World Bank. (You can see videos of both the TEDxYouth presentation and the city council meeting below.)

Since the beginning of the community learning initiative, freshman Saahil Katyal has sought ways to become involved. A member of the presentation team, he also participates in the tutoring program. Saahil expressed his excitement to Mr. Anderson about the opportunity to learn and grow in this program throughout his entire Upper School career. Mr. Anderson and others who heard Saahil present at City Council were inspired by the thought of what Saahil will be able to do four years from now based on the strong communication skills he has now.

These students are helping to build Randolph's new community learning initiative, which is part of the School's strategic plan. Community learning is a framework for facilitating students’ application of what they learn in the classroom to solving problems in their community. The program is designed to connect students to the wider community in a way that allows them to see the value and potential impact of their education through the School's educational partnership with the Village of Promise.

One of the reasons Mustafa became excited about participating in community learning was the fact that he had heard of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children's Zone, which serves as the model for Village of Promise. He appreciates that he is being challenged to see the problems that exist in the Village of Promise area and that he must use what he learns in the classroom to determine the causes of those problems and create solutions.

Community learning gives Randolph students the opportunity to engage their city’s business and government leadership regularly. When they engage them, they do so as vested community members and problem solvers. Randolph students are receiving an education that empowers them to develop mastery through experience. They are learning in an environment that is connected to situations relevant to their lives. Through these experiences, Randolph students not only learn content, they learn about themselves and their potential impact on the world. This is most evident in a statement made to the City Council by Malia West, a senior at Randolph. She stated boldly, “Ladies and gentlemen, ultimately, we are making this proposal: if you use your collective influence to shape our education, we will use our collective potential to shape the world.”

Huntsville City Council meeting. Randolph's cross-country team is recognized for an 8th state victory at 2:53; the community learning presentation begins at 40:08.

TEDxYouth@Huntsville presentation, fall 2013:

Photos by David Brown.

Topics: Academics, community, community learning, Community Learning, curriculum, Off-campus, strategic plan, the world, Upper School

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