<![CDATA[NECN - Making the Grade]]>Copyright 2018https://www.necn.com/feature/making-the-gradehttp://media.necn.com/designimages/clear.gifNECNhttps://www.necn.comen-usMon, 10 Dec 2018 11:29:52 -0500Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:29:52 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations<![CDATA[Making The Grade: Minds Matter Boston]]>Wed, 13 Sep 2017 18:44:47 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Making_The_Grade_Minds_Matter_Boston.jpg

A non-profit in Boston is helping kids achieve their academic dreams by closing the opportunity gap for low income students who are dedicated to going to college.

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<![CDATA[Fast Track to College]]>Wed, 12 Jul 2017 17:21:52 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/WEB_Fast_Track_to_College.jpg

A partnership between Boston Public Schools and an area college is helping students save money and earn credits at the same time. The program at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology helps students get halfway to earning their associates degree - just one year after graduating from high school.

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<![CDATA[Worcester Latino Dollars for Scholars]]>Fri, 12 May 2017 21:37:23 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000006207773.JPG

The cost of a college education just keeps going up. A Worcester-based charity is making a big difference for students by offering small scholarships to help them pay for books.



Photo Credit: NBC Boston]]>
<![CDATA[Mass. Students Competing in National Tech Competition]]>Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:36:23 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Hank%27s+Tanks.JPG

A national STEM showdown begins Wednesday and a group of students from Natick, Massachusetts, are hoping to win with a robot they built.

The team called “Hank’s Tanks” is made up of students from Natick High School.

This is their first time competing in the First Tech Challenge in St. Louis, Missouri.

“The whole process designing, building, testing, seeing things fail and finally seeing things work, that’s really the satisfying fun part,” said senior Sam Cohen.

“Hank’s Tanks” is one of three teams in Massachusetts to qualify for FTC. Every year students are given a robotics kit and a game they design their robot to play.

“This year it’s called Velocity Vortex and the main objectives of the game are that there are particles on the ground and robots are supposed to go around collecting the particles and shooting them into a main vortex,” said senior Peter Ziko.

The particles are plastic balls and the vortex is a raised basket. At the end the robot also has to lift a yoga ball into that basket.

The competition is expected to be fierce, but the team says they are still there to have fun.

“We’re just very excited to go there and show them what we have got!” Ziko said. 



Photo Credit: NBC Boston]]>
<![CDATA[Valedictorian Has High Hopes]]>Wed, 29 Mar 2017 18:46:39 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000005205125.JPG

Deni Hoxa, valedictorian at South High in Worcester, Massachusetts, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of John Kerry and become secretary of state.

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<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Education on Stage]]>Thu, 16 Mar 2017 19:53:43 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000004891730.JPG

The magic of "The Wiz" is being told and reimagined by students at Boston Arts Academy.



Photo Credit: NBC Boston]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Resilient Coders]]>Wed, 08 Mar 2017 10:55:56 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Kid+at+laptop.JPG

As the economy continues to go high-tech, websites are in high demand. A Boston based non-profit is now teaching millennials and minorities how to start their careers in coding.

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<![CDATA[Special Program Teaches Boston Students Lego Robotics]]>Wed, 01 Mar 2017 17:33:04 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000004543630.JPG

Fourth graders at a special program in Dorchester are learning how to make robots with LEGO.

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<![CDATA['The Future of Aviation': U. of Maine Offers Class on Drones]]>Thu, 22 Dec 2016 09:37:47 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/University+of+Maine+Drone+School.JPG

From package delivery, to photography, to search and rescue operations, drones are the future of flight. One New England university is preparing students to be the next generation of pilots.

Students at the University of Maine at Augusta taking a non-credit drone course learn how to fly small stunt drones to get familiar with the remote controller.

"It's the wild, wild west of aviation," said Dan Leclair, the course's professor, an aviation instruction and a colonel in the Civil Air Patrol.

The flying is the fun part, but the course work is what's most important. Professor Leclair teaches the students about weather patterns, airport maps and all the rules they need to know to pass the FAA’s test for commercial pilots.

"The course teaches you to be safe, and how to fly the air craft in the national air space system," said Leclair, who teaches the class with retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Jolda.

UMA is among the few colleges in the nation to offer a course of this kind.

"The opportunity is wide open," said Tom Abbott, the UMA's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Project Manager.

Abbott came up with the idea for the drone course, realizing that companies are on the brink of incorporating drones into everyday business practices. Amazon, for example, is exploring drone delivery for packages.

"This is the future of aviation," said Abbott. "I said, 'Hey. Why can't we do this?'"

Abbott wants to add more drone classes, so UMA can offer a minor in drone piloting in its aviation degree program.

The class is only in its first semester, but has quickly taken off: 38 students are enrolled, between the ages of 16 to 70.

"I've always been into aviation and photography," said Gabriel Roig, a high school student who decided to take the drone course so he can someday open a small business. "I think it would be cool career path [to fly drones] to survey land for real estate companies."

An older student in the course, Jacob Gerritsen, has a similar plan.

"My son and I are starting a company called Pegasus Visuals," said Gerritsen. "We are open for business to do inspections of dams, wind turbines or real estate."

Gerritsen has been flying for years, and wanted his FAA certification to turn his hobby into a business venture. He said the UMA class helped him pass the FAA test with flying colors.

"I understand aviation a lot more," he said. "I understand the rules. I understand why they have the rules."



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Students With Disabilities and College Mentors Connect]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 22:17:49 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000002798614_1200x675_832472131969.jpgYoung people with disabilities can often be left out of groups because of their disabilities. But a local organization called "You’re With Us" connects them with college aged mentors so they can gain the skills needed as adults.]]><![CDATA[Sparking Enthusiasm For Science]]>Tue, 06 Dec 2016 22:39:03 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Making+the+Grade.JPGA local science club is giving young girls an extra spark of confidence when it comes to math and science. Director Lonsdale Kuester says Science Club for Girls is all about engaging girls of color from low income families.]]><![CDATA[Boston LGBTQ Youth Theater Program Wins National Award]]>Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:03:48 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000002580347_1200x675_820868163661.jpgTrue Colors is gaining national attention for its efforts in the LGBTQ community.]]><![CDATA[Summer Search Shaping Boston Students' Futures]]>Wed, 23 Nov 2016 12:51:12 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Summer+Search.JPG

For many low-income students, college is a dream that's too far out of reach. But a nationwide organization is working to close the opportunity gap and give kids the support they need to succeed.

Stessie Jermaine, a senior at the O'Bryant School in Boston, spent a life-changing three weeks in Peru this summer.

"I got to work on a corn farm, I got to work with other students, I got to help with doll making," Stessie said. "I always knew that I did like traveling. Summer Search allowed me to really really travel."

Summer Search is a youth development organization that's been in Boston for 20 years. Its goal is to help students from low-income backgrounds grow the skills and character to succeed in college.

"When students enter Summer Search, they already aspire to be college educated leaders but they have obstacles facing them that could get in their way," said Liz Marino, Executive Director of Summer Search Boston.

Marino says the organization partners with high schools to find students who'd be a good fit. The program begins in sophomore year, with a full scholarship to a summer wilderness expedition. The following year, students work with their mentors to choose a summer experience in line with their interests and needs.

"All of the trips take students dramatically out of their comfort zone and push them to develop their leadership skills, understand the world in different ways, and ultimately see themselves as agents of change," said Marino.

For Stessie, those trips -- combined with weekly mentoring sessions -- have put her on the right path.

"We speak a lot about giving herself space to appreciate the success she's had," said Stessie's mentor, Nate Campbell.

Summer Search doesn't stop after high school. Students receive college support and career counseling. Ninety-five percent of Summer Search students are the first generation in their family to go to college.

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<![CDATA[One Lesson, Two Languages]]>Tue, 15 Nov 2016 22:50:23 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000002383036.JPGA school in Boston, Massachusetts is giving its youngest students a huge advantage when it comes to being bilingual, by teaching them in both English and Spanish. Children learn both languages from pre-K through second grade at the Umana School in East Boston.]]><![CDATA[School Program Helps Students Prevent Violence Against Women]]>Tue, 01 Nov 2016 21:45:11 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000002265637.JPGA unique school program in South Portland, Maine, is helping students understand sexual assault and how to prevent violence against women.]]><![CDATA[Education Program Uses Pro Athletes to Stop Bullying]]>Tue, 25 Oct 2016 21:41:28 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Boston+vs+Bullies.JPG

An educational program is going into schools and using the power of professional athletes to stop bullying.

Boston vs. Bullies is run through The Sports Museum at TD Garden. The program uses professional athletes like Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betters and Patriots safety Patrick Chung to teach kids how to identify and react to bullying.

"Bullying is not a fun subject. But we're a very upbeat program in terms of getting kids involved and engaged," said Rusty Sullivan, Executive Director of Boston vs. Bullies.

Sullivan has seen first-hand the power of the uniform.

"Like it or not, athletes are role models," Sullivan said. "We know kids listen to athletes."

"When you get an anti-bullying message from a role model such as a Boston athlete, it hits home a little bit more with the students," said Mary Bonsignore, a 5th grade teacher at Malcolm White Elementary School in Woburn, MA.

The program sends facilitators into classrooms and uses videos and role playing so kids can experience real-life scenarios.

"You've seen a little skit about it, so you probably know how it's going to look like when it actually happens," said 5th grader Michel El-Ashkar.

"I think he [facilitator Ed Donnelly] is teaching us about how we can stop bullying and how to help the bullies and to know if somebody is being bullied," said Olivia McCluskey, a Malcolm White 5th grader.

Teachers say just a couple classroom visits have a deep impact.

"We haven't had as many problems at recess. So I think students are starting to grasp the idea of sticking up for one another," Bonsignore said.

"It's great to see our program is really helping change culture for the better in schools. Because kids should want to go to school," said Sullivan.

About 40,000 students have experienced Boston vs. Bullies since 2012. The program is free and available to any school that's interested.

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<![CDATA[Sneakers for Grades]]>Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:41:52 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Generic+Sneakers+Generic+Laced.JPG

A Boston business has come up with a new way to reward kids for good grades, offering expensive athletic shoes for academic excellence.

Laced is a high-end sneaker store in Boston's South End. Owners Joamil Rodriguez and Sean Thimas sell rare and often pricey athletic shoes, including the Adidas Yeezy line.

"We're the Louis Vuitton of the sneaker stores. You aren't going to see stores like this everywhere," Rodriguez said.

But making money on Jordans, Yeezys and Reebok pumps isn't their sole focus.

"We challenge students to come in and pledge that they are going to get good grades throughout the school year," said Rodriguez.

At the end of the year, if the students make honor roll, they get the sneaker of their choice.

Hartman Russell was the first student to enroll in Laced's academic incentive program.

"It definitely motivated me a lot to have the incentive of sneakers for good grades," said Russell.

Russell is now a freshman at an Ivy League university.

"I don't know if my grades would have been as good if I hadn't been incentivized with sneakers," Russell said.

Rodriguez and Thimas also use sneakers as a teaching tool, going into schools like McKinley Academy in the South End and using their business to teach math, economics and entrepreneurship.

Those interested in participating in the incentive program Boston Public Schools fill out an application. Ten are accepted and must stay on the honor roll for the full school year to receive the sneakers of their choice.

"We're giving them a motivational tool to say, you know what? I'm going to do good in school for myself but I'm also going to get something out of it," said Rodriguez.



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Learning Entrepreneurship in High School]]>Wed, 12 Oct 2016 14:29:00 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/233*120/10-19-2015-classroom-thumbnail-generic.jpg

High school students in Boston are getting the chance to learn about the business world while gaining valuable life skills.

"I never knew I was an entrepreneur until I made that first sale," said Luis Santos Ortiz, a senior at Another Course to College in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood.

Students like Santos Ortiz are getting the chance to launch real businesses, make products and compete through BUILD, a four-year college success program that uses entrepreneurship to get kids excited about learning.

"The business I run, currently, is called 'Color Bars,'" said Santos Ortiz.

He makes colored chocolate bars that correspond with their flavors. Through the BUILD program, Santos Ortiz has learned the first step in launching a business is getting the funds to do so.

"First, you have to find an investor," said Santos Ortiz. "If you don't find that investor, BUILD will help you out."

Brady Marshall, a sophomore, said BUILD also connects students with mentors.

"They have us order our resources. They even teach us how to get special connections with certain suppliers," said Marshall. "I just feel like BUILD is an experience like no other."

It's a program for underserved high school students.

"Typically, we're in schools where the graduation rate is below 50 percent and where college matriculation rates are also low," said Ayele Shakur, the regional executive director for BUILD.

Another Course to College is one of six schools in Boston selected to offer BUILD as an elective for all students.

The high school's headmaster Michele Pellam, said the program is making a huge difference. She said 50 percent of freshman are enrolled in BUILD and 100 percent of the debate team and student council are BUILD students.

"They're building the skills that they need to be successful in college as well as in careers," said Pellam.

A major component of the BUILD program is experiential learning, used to learn the benefits of skills like collaboration.

"Collaboration, problem solving, innovation,” said Shakur. "These are skills for life."

The graduation rate at Another Course to College has improved. Last year, Pellam and Shakur said the graduation rate was above 95 percent.

"In build we say entrepreneurship is the hook but college is the goal," said Shakur.



Photo Credit: FILE-KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Should Schools Rethink Start Times?]]>Tue, 04 Oct 2016 21:39:16 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/blurry+students.png

A Boston city councilor is pushing to adjust high school start times.

Most teens don't get enough sleep with hours of homework, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs on their plate.

"I'm getting six hours of sleep a night if I'm lucky, and I've fallen asleep in school several times already this year," Diego Rao, a junior at Boston Latin School, told necn.

It can be hard for high schoolers to get the recommended eight hours of sleep when the school bell rings at 7:20 a.m. Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George has a possible solution for the city's 30 public high schools.

"I'd love to see school start times for our high schools pushed to 8 a.m.," said George.

George is taking a page out of Eastham, Massachusetts, where high school students were given an extra hour of sleep. Tardiness there fell by 35 percent, and the number of F and D grades dropped by half.

"Let's work on those minutes for kids that need that extra sleep in order for them to have a successful academic experience," George said.

Doctors say the science supports her push.

"With puberal onset, kids have their circadian rhythms moved later, and so they become defacto night owls," said Dr. Judith Owens, a pediatrician. "Their natural fall asleep time and wake time shifts."

That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends high schools start at 8:30 a.m. to avoid major health risks like chronic sleep loss. But only 11.5 percent of all public middle and high schools in Massachusetts follow that guideline.

"We're simply changing the time. We're not changing bus routes, we're not adding bus routes, we're simple shifting the times," George said.

Some teens and parents say it's not that simple.

"I don't believe that it needs to be pushed back to 8 a.m. because a lot of people need to work," said Ravi Rao, a senior at the O'Bryant School.

"Of course for teenagers, the priority is to sleep. But then for parents, the priority may be having dinner together, so you have to juggle those," said mother Maria Rodrigues.

On October 17 at 3 p.m., high school students, parents, teachers and doctors will testify at Boston City Hall about those start times. The hearing will officially put the issue on the table and get the conversation going.

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<![CDATA[Teacher Provides Life-Saving Lesson For Former Student]]>Thu, 29 Sep 2016 10:21:38 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/218*120/vlcsnap-2016-09-29-11h20m40s159.pngThe relationship between a teacher and student can transcend the classroom. In Boston, one educator is giving a former student with end-stage kidney disease a chance at a normal life. More information on kidney donations and organ donations can be found via the links.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Transforming Recess in Schools]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 21:42:08 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/NECN_092016_MakingTheGrade_1200x675_769846339951.jpgA non-profit organization in Boston is having a big impact on students' emotional and social health by making recess a positive point in the school day.]]><![CDATA[Exhibit Explores Native American Life]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2016 21:32:27 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/NECN_091316_MakingTheGrade_1200x675_764446275821.jpgAn interactive museum exhibit is teaching the next generation about indigenous communities and cultural heritage.]]><![CDATA[Getting Into the Back-to-School Homework Routine]]>Tue, 06 Sep 2016 21:25:51 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/Studying.png

After the summer break, it can be hard getting kids into a homework routine, but starting off the school year on the right foot will help put them on a path to success.

Neil Chyten, founder of Chyten Educational Services, says where you study is a good place to start.

"We feel it's best for students to have a conducive place that's specific to studying," Chyten said. "In particular, we recommend a desk that is well-stocked with everything that a student needs to be successful."

Once you've got the right work environment, focus on how your child is learning.

"The most important thing a student can have is good study habits," Chyten told necn. "For example, know how to read a textbook efficiently and effectively. Know how to read a novel and know the difference between the two. Know how to take good notes in class because it's so important."

Chyten next suggests putting it in writing. He says parents and students should sign a contract.

"There should be an understanding that, this is your job. My job is to give you the tools you need to be successful, and your job is to take advantage of those things that I give you to be successful," said Chyten.

If your child is struggling, be proactive. Look for signs they may be struggling.

"At the first sign of trouble, you should call and try to get some help," Chyten said. "A good tutor, even just a few hours, can really make a big difference in a kid's life by reevaluating or re-positioning themselves or pointing them in the right direction."

Chyten also says it's important to determine if there are certain times of the day you study better. For example, getting up in the morning to complete a math assignment may be more productive than staying up late.

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<![CDATA[Transitioning to Kindergarten]]>Tue, 30 Aug 2016 21:23:02 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/Making+the+Grade.png

With a new school year beginning, many families are preparing their young children for kindergarten, which can be a source of anxiety for students and their parents.

Denise Barcelo, Director of Pine Village Preschool in Brighton, knows how crucial that step from pre-k to kindergarten is. Kids can fear the unknown, she says, and so can mom and dad.

"A lot of parents do get concerned that their children won't be ready for kindergarten," Barcelo said.

The first step toward easing those anxieties is making sure your child can process their feelings, communicate well, and absorb information. For Erika Cedrone, the mother of a 4- and 2-year-old at Pine Village, that meant finding the right preschool.

"We understood that the social, emotional and academic growth of our child was important for them to go into kindergarten," said Cedrone.

When the time comes to change schools, familiarize your child with the new learning environment.

"Visit the school beforehand, communicate with the teacher," said Barcelo. "Sometimes, the teacher will send e-mails and cards to the kids so they're prepared for that."

Teacher Britni Raymond also suggests introducing your child to some new classmates.

"We try to encourage them to get in contact with some of the other children they will be in school with, to set up play dates with them," Raymond said.

In the weeks leading up to the big first day of school, parents should talk about it. Barcelo says reassuring kids that this will be a smooth transition can go a long way.

"If they're showing them calmness and that they're okay, then their kids will feel that sort of sense of security," Barcelo told NECN.

The team at Pine Village also encourages parents to talk to other parents who've gone through the kindergarten transition, to see what helped them get through that period of uneasiness.

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<![CDATA['Achieve' Program Opens Doors for Middle School Students]]>Wed, 24 Aug 2016 09:57:08 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2016-08-24-10h44m12s116.png

Many students in New England are heading back to school this week, but some never took a break from learning over the summer. 

Students from Boston Public Schools are spending their summer in the “Achieve” program at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham. 

The program helps under-resourced middle-schoolers get top-notch education. 

The three-year program takes places over three summers, beginning in 6th grade. 

Students also spend every other Saturday during the school year in an academic setting and have the support of “Achieve” all throughout high school.



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Kids Learning Farming Skills at Massachusetts Summer Camp]]>Tue, 16 Aug 2016 21:37:39 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/Appleton+Farms.jpgA Massachusetts summer camp is giving young learners farm-based education.]]><![CDATA[Massachusetts Summer Camp Teaches Youth Farming Skills]]>Tue, 16 Aug 2016 21:39:37 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/Appleton+Farms2.jpg

A Massachusetts summer camp is giving young learners farm-based education.

Appleton Farms in Ipswich is owned and operated by the Trustees of Reservations, the world's first land preservation organization. This year, the farm property is welcoming campers.

"Appleton is an amazing setting for all of our programming throughout the year, and it was a natural fit to bring a camp here," said Chris Ward, General Manager of Appleton Farms.

The hands-on camp gives kids a chance to understand their food system.

"They're kind of like being young farmers," said camp director Pilar Redmond.

Redmond says children — ranging from ages 5 to 13 — are encouraged to put aside phones and video games to make connections with the natural world.

"Being able to spend time in this kind of environment where they can just have fun and learn and be in the garden and be with animals and just be kids is really, really important," Redmond said.

Campers learn how to plant, harvest vegetables, and use those ingredients in the kitchen.

"We're having fun on the farm, cooking and playing with the animals," said 11-year-old Thomas Politano.

Interacting with those farm animals is a big highlight for the kids.

"I love animals and I love doing stuff with them," said Isabella Petrizzi, age 9.

It's an opportunity to unwind and take advantage of those months outside the traditional school classroom.

"That time in nature is really helpful for us," Redmond said. "It's helpful for our stress level, it's helpful for us physically, and socially and emotionally."

The Trustees offer thousands of programs a year, helping connect Massachusetts residents to conservation land and its importance to future generations. Programs range from guided tours of historic homes to yoga classes and hikes. To check out a calendar of things to do, click here.

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<![CDATA[Boston Teens to Return to Class With New Leadership Skills]]>Tue, 09 Aug 2016 21:48:58 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/City+Spotlights+Leadship+Program.png

This fall, Boston-area high schoolers with a passion for the arts will be returning to the classroom with some new job and leadership skills under their belts.

City Spotlights Leadership Program is a youth employment program run by Citi Performing Arts Center. Each summer, teenagers with a love for music, dance, and theater are hired to work 25 hours a week and trained to be leaders in their neighborhood.

"We are really looking for teens based on passion and their commitment to cultivating their leadership skills and their commitment to changing their neighborhoods and communities to make them a better place," said Corey Evans, Senior Director of Education for Citi Performing Arts Center.

One powerful component to the program is social justice. Students get a chance to use their voices and fight for what they believe in.

"We feel like as teens, because we are young, we have no voice. And arts always catches people's attention," said Betsaida Marcel, a 16-year-old who goes to Match High School.

Teenagers catch that attention in many ways, including fighting for arts funding at the Massachusetts State House with song and performing flash mobs in the heart of Boston.

"Ever since I got here it's been amazing. Every day is just, I'm so energized," said Jahkai Davis, age 19.

"I've become more confident in myself and who I am in like my own skin and as just me," Marcel said.

"This program changes their lives. And you can see it and you can feel it," said Joe Spaulding, President and CEO of Citi Performing Arts Center.

The talented students with City Spotlights are gearing up for their final showcase. It is set for Thursday, August 11, at 5:30pm at Boston's Shubert Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

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<![CDATA[Dorchester YMCA Provides Second Home for Teens]]>Wed, 03 Aug 2016 07:27:10 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2016-08-03-08h19m34s207.png

In the summertime, the Dorchester YMCA turns into a second home for teenagers. 

"Get Summer" allows any teen to get a free membership to any of the 13 branches of the YMCA of Greater Boston. Last year, the Dorchester branch gave out 754 memberships and is targeting 1,000 for 2016. 

"Some of the kids are here before I get here, which is about 8:30 in the morning. So they are in this building from 7am until 11pm," said Andrea Baez, Executive Director of the Dorchester Y. "It is constant controlled chaos in this building all day long, and all evening long." 

The reason for the program is clear: Keep kids off the streets. 

"In those 10 weeks of summer that there is little to no adult supervision for them, we are it," Baez said. 

One component of the program is the food offered to kids. The Greater Boston YMCA branches will serve some 200,000 meals this summer alone. 

"Everyone comes here to do their homework, play games, watch movies. And they also provide us with food, too, so it's like another home for us," said Rasheed Belus, a 16-year-old. 

That second home allows kids to play, hang out, study, and even cook. 

"At first, they're not always excited about it, like seeing raw meat for the first time," said Reggie Jean, the YMCA's Teen Director. "Cooking is really like building that relationship. What you put in is what you get out, and it's the same thing as the work that we do with the kids." 

Jean is also a success story for the YMCA's summer program. 

"I was in gangs, I was getting in a lot of trouble," Jean said. "But someone gave me an opportunity, someone was a mentor, and that's what I'm trying to provide back to these kids." 

Rasheed Belus is one of those kids. He wasn't going to school very much, so Jean and his team addressed it with dramatic results. Rasheed is now focused on getting into college and got hired this summer as a swim teacher at the YMCA. 

"It's the ones that you're able to help that really give you that energy to keep going," said Jean. 

Providing employment opportunities is a key component of the program. Every summer, about 60 teenagers draw a paycheck from the YMCA. For most, it is their first job ever. 



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center Helps Asian Immigrants]]>Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:44:11 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/NECN_071216_MakingTheGradeJoy_9PM_1200x675_723955779612.jpgThe Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC) is lending life-changing support to Asian-Americans.]]><![CDATA[Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center Helps Asian Immigrants]]>Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:40:28 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Making+the+Grade+Chinatown.jpg

The Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC) is lending life-changing support to Asian-Americans.

Yuzi Li is just 19-years-old, but in the four years since she arrived in America, she has overcome the struggle of a lifetime. She spoke broken English, fell back in class and found few friends.

"I felt like, why am I doing this? Why did I come here," said Yuzi. "I kinda felt like I was alone.

Things began to change when her mom, a Chinatown waitress, and dad, a delivery driver, brought her to BCNC.

"I don't feel embarrassed when I tell them my mom is a waitress," she said.

At the BCNC, Yuzi learned English and all about American culture, even understanding slang. The center helps some 2,000 immigrants from China and Vietnam navigate new words and ways in a new world.

"We can relate, and at some point in our lives, we also felt alone," said Sandra Lee, Youth Program Director at the BCNC. "Because we looked different or we spoke different languages."

Now, Yuzi is a student at Boston University on full scholarship after graduating at the top of her class.

"One of the reasons I work really hard is when I see how hard my parents work. Compared to their work, mine is like nothing," Yuzi said.

She knows it takes a team to achieve the American dream.

"We can get through it together," she said.

The Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center offers programs for all ages, including adult education, family child care, and after-school activities. You can find more information here: http://www.bcnc.net/



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[New Museum of Science Exhibit Explores Natural and Engineered Worlds]]>Tue, 28 Jun 2016 22:02:55 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/MuseumofScienceExhibit.png

Summer vacation is upon us, and if you're looking for ways to keep the kids busy for the next couple months, the Museum of Science Boston has a new exhibit that explores the relationship between the environment and engineered world.

The Yawkey Gallery on the Charles River begins in the museum's former back lobby with an impressive view of the Charles along with a living wall, waterfall, large LED screens and an interactive computer simulation.

"We really wanted to introduce visitors to the idea of the natural and the engineered worlds and looking at where those two intersect," said Katie Gilligan, Exhibit Content Developer at the Museum of Science.

Downstairs, beneath a water-inspired sculpture, visitors can learn about how scientists and engineers problem solve. Hands-on exhibits are designed for children and adults to enjoy.

"Our youngest visitors can reach at the lower station, and you might have an adult that can be doing the same challenge on the other side of the exhibit space at the same time," said Emily O'Hara, Senior Exhibit Content Developer.

Live animals are meant to teach a vital lesson about the effects of human life.

"It's really important for visitors to understand that each day we're making decisions and it impacts the world around us," O'Hara said.

If you're interested in checking out the new gallery, the Museum of Science will be open for extended hours over the summer beginning July 4.



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[New Museum of Science Exhibit Explores Natural and Engineered Worlds]]>Tue, 28 Jun 2016 21:57:07 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/NECN_062816_MakingTheGrade_9PM_1200x675_714875971945.jpgThe Museum of Science Boston has a new exhibit that explores the relationship between the environment and engineered world.]]><![CDATA[Automotive Program for Teens With Learning Challenges]]>Tue, 14 Jun 2016 22:34:07 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2016-06-14-23h27m14s204.jpg

A school in Middleboro, Massachusetts, is giving teenagers with learning challenges a chance to hone their interests and career goals.

Chamberlain International School is a therapeutic school with academic, social, and emotional programs that meet a variety of learning needs. The automotive elective offers a hands-on environment that has been life-changing for students like Curtis R., who discovered his passion for welding.

"Finally finding something I'm good at made me feel so good inside," Curtis said.

Between learning vehicle maintenance to building a Cobra from scratch, students are also building bonds.

"Everyone down here, we all got the same mindset and very similar goals. And that's what kind of makes this different than other classrooms," said 18-year-old Jake K.

Instructor Joe Kingsley makes sure his lessons go beyond the automotive industry.

"I kind of try to keep it real. Real world," said Kingsley. "What they're going to be subject to when they go out in the workforce. Team work, camaraderie, working with others, how not to get too irritated and be tolerant."

"Joe has just been such an inspiration to me," Curtis said. "He's gotten me on the right path of what I want to do for a career."

Students have been renovating a Jaguar XJS convertible, donated by a parent, for close to two years. It will be up for sale at Barrett-Jackson's Northeast Auction on June 23-25 at Mohegan Sun.



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: The Art of Learning]]>Tue, 07 Jun 2016 22:28:14 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/NECN_060716_MakingtheGrade9PM_1200x675_701095491566.jpgAn education program has inner city students in Boston learning how to appreciate art and changing the way they think. ]]><![CDATA[Making the Grade: The Art of Learning]]>Tue, 07 Jun 2016 22:29:21 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/NECN_060716_MakingtheGrade9PM_1200x675_701095491566.jpg

An education program has inner city students in Boston learning how to appreciate art and changing the way they think.

Students from Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers are using Visual Thinking Strategies to consider the context of different works of art.

"I'm always wondering what age, how old this has been. Why she [Isabella Stewart Gardner] has put things here," said Marco Suares, a 10th grader.

The teaching technique is fueling the imagination.

"Instead of telling students a ton of info about the artwork, we stand in front of the artwork and ask them what they think is happening," said Michelle Grohe, Assistant Curator of Education and School Programs at the Gardner Museum.

For the past 11 years, Grohe has led the partnership program that has high schoolers from Boston Public Schools connecting to the arts.

"We all have different experiences, different backgrounds. And by looking together and sharing those experiences, they can come up with different interpretations of the artworks," Grohe said.

Students talk, write, and sketch within the walls of Isabella Stewart Gardner's former home.

"You have so many thoughts going," said Yvelisse Rodriguez, a 10th grader at EMK Academy. "Why this, why that, how? And for me to ask, why did she [Gardner] put that there? What was the meaning really, the true meaning for it? Why did she do this? It makes me think of what type of person she really was."

For history teacher Mary-Alyce Whitham, specialized training from the Gardner Museum has allowed her to go beyond traditional classroom lessons.

"It's really become an extension of our school community," Whitham said. "There's a level of comfortability and connection to the museum."

"It just makes me think way deeper than what I used to," said Yvelisse.

Students in the program visit the Gardner Museum at least twice a year. Their teachers incorporate visual art lesson plans into the school curriculum using the method to analyze materials ranging from political cartoons to Harlem Renaissance art.

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<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Persevering With Grit]]>Thu, 02 Jun 2016 10:09:37 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2016-06-02-11h07m02s219.png

A school in Windham, New Hampshire, is teaching students to persevere through challenges at a young age.

Each Friday, students at Golden Brook School are recognized for showing grit. Two years ago, Principal Rory O'Connor and a team of teachers designed the GRIT awards program to encourage students to push through challenges.

"We really wanted to instill that work ethic for them at a young age so that as they get older and mature, they have that skill set needed to really rise to the top and continue to succeed in life," O'Connor said.

Second-grade teacher Katie Bamberg has already seen changes in her classroom.

"They know they can lean on each other when it's hard in here and hard out there," said Bamberg. "And they show empathy for each other and take care of each other."

The result is an environment that emphasizes it's OK to struggle.

"You try your best, work hard. If somebody says you can't do it, never let them bring you down," said Greyson Quaglietta, age 8.

"My teacher and I, we both agree that you have two choices. You can sit down and cry or you can get up and do something," said 8-year-old Kiley Candon. "With grit, you have to get up and do something."

The program is changing school culture, from the school bus to the classroom.

"The kids really love it, the parents, love it, the staff loves it," said Deanna Poulin, Assistant Principal.

Golden Brook School's GRIT program stems from the work of Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, who has spent years conducting studies on grit. School staff will be reading her new book this summer as part of professional development. 



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Cosmetologists Help Cancer Patients Feel Beautiful]]>Thu, 02 Jun 2016 14:32:53 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-464778768.jpg

Aspiring cosmetologists at Worcester Technical High School are using their skills to do some meaningful work.

Look Good Feel Better, a program through the American Cancer Society, teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients.

"It's very rewarding for both the students and for me and for the clients that come," said Arlene Thompson, head of Worcester Tech's cosmetology department.

Thompson has been instrumental in not only training the student volunteers but opening a wig bank inside the school for cancer patients in the Worcester area.

"They actually make these bonds and these connections," Thompson said. "We've had students out there crying with the clients. We've had them making the clients laugh."

Along the way, students learn professionalism and the importance of establishing relationships.

"Connecting with clients and being their friend is really fun," said Kailey Anne, a sophomore.

"I think she's going to be wonderful when she gets out there and does what she wants to do in this world," Ann Pugliese, a breast and ovarian cancer patient, said of Kailey.

Students also get an important lesson in using their talents to give back.

"If I can give them something they can carry on and make themselves feel so much better on the outside and inside, then it's amazing," said Natalie Rivas, a senior.

Worcester Tech students participate in Look Good Feel Better twice a year. For more information about volunteering and how to find American Cancer Society programs in your area, click here.



Photo Credit: FILE - LightRocket via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Electrical Project]]>Tue, 17 May 2016 21:11:44 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/classroom+generic1.jpg

The arts are getting a big boost at a Massachusetts middle school, thanks to the local IBEW and aspiring electricians.

Students from the electronics program at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School are working alongside the pro's. They're tackling the auditorium at Marshall Middle School in Billerica, a project that's taken years to reach this point with a lot of help along the way.

"We thought this was a great project for us, so we jumped right in," said Lou Antonellis, President of IBEW Local 103.

Members of the union have donated their time to renovate the space. That time is saving the school thousands of dollars.

"They make it all happen and we have beautiful sound, beautiful lighting, and a beautiful TV studio in a couple of weeks," said Michael Rossi, Principal of Marshall Middle School.

Many of the workers and students learning alongside them have a special connection to this particular job site.

"I went to the school, my kids went to this school, I have a son currently in this school. It means the world to me personally," said Antonellis.

"It's just giving back to the community you live in, and trying to make it a better place," field engineer Michael O'Brien said.

This is a community effort with a deep impact.

"It's going to mean a lot because I like doing theater and all the lights and the sound is going to be good for the plays," said Louis Antonellis Jr., a 7th grader at the school.

For the Shawsheen Tech students, it's an invaluable chance to get a true feel for the trade.

"It's kind of fun," said junior Griffin Blanch. "You get some real experience under your belt for when you work in the field."

The renovations include a production intercom system that allows the control room at the back of the auditorium to communicate with the stage. When the project is finished, the facility will have the capability to broadcast live performances on community access television.



Photo Credit: Newsworks ]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Reading Dogs]]>Tue, 10 May 2016 21:08:05 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Book-Generic.jpg

Once a week, first and second graders at a New Hampshire school look forward to a visit from a four-legged reading companion that's helping them build confidence.

Macs, a seven-year-old Cockapoo that loves children's books, is a registered Education Assistance Dog (READ).

"He sits here and listens and I am like wow, I've never seen a dog that does that before," said Laura Balzano, a second grader at St. Joseph's School in Salem.

Macs spends one day a week inside St. Joseph's, encouraging students to practice reading. His owner, Blaire McCarthy, says as a registered therapy dog, Macs is a perfect reading buddy: He's not judgmental, he listens attentively, and helps the kids build confidence.

"I think I am really good at reading when I pet him and it makes me feel really good," Laura said.

McCarthy said she's seen a significant improvement in the kids' reading skills and self-esteem over the last two months.

"They're starting to get more interested in reading, which is one of the things I was hoping," said McCarthy.

Macs' next adventure starts May 16. He'll be at the Windham Public Library at least once a week for a summer reading program.

There are thousands of READ teams working in classrooms all around the world. If you're interested in the volunteer opportunity, click here:

http://www.therapyanimals.org/Read_Team_Steps.html



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Lessons in Tolerance ]]>Tue, 03 May 2016 21:09:58 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

A Massachusetts school is joining a national effort to teach a valuable lesson about tolerance.

Fourth and fifth graders at Cohen Hillel Academy in Marblehead are taking part in The Bandage Project, an initiative launched by a California class in 2008.

"They were trying to collect 1.5 million bandages to represent the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust," said Amy Gold, Head of School at Cohen Hillel.

Gold said The Bandage Project fit in seamlessly with the academy's mission.

"I think being a Jewish day school, we are always trying to teach the kids about opportunities to be upstanders, and to make a difference and be activists in their community," Gold said.

Students have been collecting bandage donations for months. Along the way, teacher Sarah Boland has tied in social studies, language arts, and technology lessons.

"There's a purpose to this and we can learn a lot from this and this should be a big part of our class," said Boland.

It's a chance for students to take on a leadership role, speaking to groups at local public schools and creating videos to spread the word about The Bandage Project.

"I think that we're honoring our ancestors because we're collecting bandages for them and remembering them and keeping them alive in our thoughts," said Belle Lurie, a fifth grader.

"We want them to be able to feel the confidence to stand up to others when they see bigotry or racism or hatred or antisemitism," Gold said.

The Bandage Project is about halfway to its goal of 1.5 million. Once reached, the bandages will become an art installation at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. If you'd like to help, Cohen Hillel is hoping to contribute 5,000 bandages to the cause. Donations can be sent to:

Cohen Hillel Academy

6 Community Rd.

Marblehead, MA 01945

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<![CDATA[Senate Immersion Module at Kennedy Institute]]>Tue, 26 Apr 2016 22:14:59 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2016-04-26-23h03m05s36.jpg

One year after opening to the public, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate continues to be a popular destination for teachers, especially those looking to immerse their students in the legislative process.

The EMK Institute in Boston has a full-scale reproduction of the U.S. Senate chamber that allows students to assume different roles.

"Students actually become senators for a day, get together, build legislation, and then debate and vote on it," said Caroline Angel Burke, the vice president for education, visitor experience and collections at the Institute.

Through the Senate Immersion Module (SIM), students are assigned a role as senator, sworn in, and given a bill to create, such as the renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act. Students go into nominee and subcommittee hearings and take on a lawmaker's identity, one whose views don't necessarily line up with their own.

"It's kind of like getting to know someone that you would generally disagree with and maybe understanding where they come from so you're able to work better together," said Hunter Araujo, a senior at Attleboro High School.

Amendments are debated and added to the bill before the group heads back inside the Senate chamber for floor speeches.

"We really feel like students learn best when they are put in a situation where they're experiencing real life," said Nicole Lane, a social studies teacher at Attleboro High School.

"It's kind of opening our eyes to what's actually going on since we're going to be grownups very soon," Attleboro senior Sydney Thomas said.

For the EMK Institute, a key focus is creating the next generation of American leaders.

"We're really hoping to build a more engaged, active citizenry," said Burke. "And until citizens understand how their government works, they don't quite know how they can contribute to that."

The SIM is available to Massachusetts middle and high school groups free of charge. It's proven so popular that the program is booked out for the year. If you'd like to learn more, click here.



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Combating Chronic Absenteeism]]>Wed, 20 Apr 2016 03:33:51 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/mtg+4-19.jpg

Jeremiah E. Burke High School, English High School, Higginson-Lewis K-8 school, and Perkins Elementary are participating in the launch of My Brother's Keeper, a new White House initiative to combat chronic absenteeism. 

"It leads to higher dropout rates, higher incidence of substance abuse or mental illness, higher incidence of incarceration," said Dr. Lindsa McIntyre, Headmaster of the Burke. 

Once underperforming, the Burke is now considered the state's most improved high school. It's a model for other schools across Boston and the nation, thanks in part to McIntyre's mission to get the community more involved. 

"We had firefighters, police officers, members of the community," said McIntyre. "It almost brought me to tears when all of these gentlemen came in with their sleeves rolled up." 

Mentoring sessions focus on developing good work habits, building relationships, and public speaking.

"I think now we're at a point where the young people are really engaged and have bought in and enjoy coming," said Shawn Brown, Executive Director of Diamond Educators Mentoring Program.

"One of the phrases that we use a lot when talking to young people and talking about young folks is that they need to know that you care before they care to know," said Cornell Mills, on the advisory committee for My Brother's Keeper in Boston. 

In its early stages, My Brother's Keeper" has increased attendance of chronically absent students at the Burke by five percent. 

"We see changes in students wanting to be in school. We see changes in their joy and excitement about being celebrated, being recognized as a student. It's amazing," McIntyre said. 

Students shared some of their own stories with NECN. 

"I wasn't coming to school at first. And then Mr. Hill pulled me aside and said hey, if you don't come to school, you're going to end up in jail or a coffin. So I started working with him a lot and then started to change," said Carlos Falcon, a freshman. "He opened my eyes." 

"I'm only doing for them what was done for me," said Greg Hill, Community Coordinator for the Burke. "And replicating the relationship I had with my mentors growing up when I was their age."

"We talked about school, outside of school, grades, drugs, sex, anything and she had an answer for everything," said junior Catiana Fernandes of her mentor, Morgan Frazier-Eley. "She made me independent."

"Don't be afraid," Jayden Green, a sophomore, wants other students to know. "It's people that actually care about you, who are actually looking to help you achieve your potential." 

Boston Public Schools' efforts in combating chronic absenteeism focuses not just on older students but kindergartners, using family mentoring programs. 

If you want to make a difference in Boston Public Schools, the team at the Burke says they're always looking for mentors.



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Partner High School Dual Enrollment Program ]]>Tue, 12 Apr 2016 21:12:12 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/generic+school+desk+books+student+pencil.jpg

Some local high school students are taking advantage of dual enrollment opportunities to get a leg up on the college experience.

Eighty students from Framingham and Natick, MA, are taking classes through a new program called Partner High School Dual Enrollment. Twice a week, they head to MassBay Community College to take the college-level class Introduction to Communication.

"It's a great opportunity for high school students to actually see what it's like in a college course, in a college classroom, and they're earning credit," said Lisa Slavin, Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management at MassBay.

Thanks to a state grant, it's all free of cost, from tuition to books and even transportation.

"We want to make sure we're giving opportunities to students who may not actually see themselves going to college, and once they get into the classroom, they really think that this is the next step for them," Slavin said.

Dual enrollment classes at MassBay include students of all ages, some taking on mentoring roles for their younger peers.

"The best thing about this course, the entire program really, is that it creates a diverse environment in which students of different backgrounds, personal responsibilities, and educational paths can exchange ideas," said adjunct professor Denise Barsky.

The experience has given students a taste of higher education before graduating from high school.

"I think that being a dual enrollment student is going to make me mature in a way, more responsible," said Gabe Dasilva, a junior at Framingham High School.

"It's teaching me the techniques that colleges use to prepare you," said Abigail Addopleh, Framingham High junior. "I want to be a doctor. And I pray that happens."

The Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership is managed and supported by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Last year, the program had more than 1,600 students enrolled.

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<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Field Trip Highlights History]]>Tue, 05 Apr 2016 21:21:31 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2016-04-05-22h20m02s14.jpg

Traveling is a luxury not every student has a chance to experience, and a program is giving some inner-city students from New England the opportunity to learn about their history - with a little star power as well.

Sixth grader Jayda Dupree of Connecticut is one of a large group of middle-schoolers participating in a six-day fully funded trip through the Sparks Program. The entire trip is backed by Tauck, the high end tour and cruise company. This Tauck program is designed to take inner city children on a 6 day exploration tour through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. to see U.S. National Parks and learn about history first hand.

"I hope to learn new things and come back to my family and tell them what I learned because I feel like it's a great program to be in especially since I'm young," Dupree said.

Christian Mestre, an eighth grader from Connecticut, said about the Sparks Program, "in a book it's described to you, it's not really shown to you and I am more of somebody who learns easily when it’s shown to you rather than told."

Before the six-day tour begins, the Sparks Program kids stopped in Boston for quite the treat. During their visit to the African Meeting House in downtown Boston, they got to meet Ken Burns, the renowned American filmmaker best known for his documentary series "Baseball" and series "The Civil War."

On Monday, the kids saw a 15 minute clip of Burns’ newest film premiering next week on PBS on Jackie Robinson.


"To come to a place like this, which is so steeped in history and to meet with a group of kids who may not know history yet, who haven’t been set on fire yet by history. I don't know, maybe they already know or don’t know anything about Jackie Robinson, and if they do they only know the superficial that our film is trying to get beyond. This is a wonderful teachable moment," he said about his meeting with the middle schoolers.

Burns is a big fan of the program and thinks everyone should see the U.S. National Parks more often.

"The National Parks are quite simply the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape. For the first time in human history land was set aside not for kings, or noblemen, or the very rich but for everybody and for all time. That’s an amazing inheritance that each of us have," he said.

Combined with an inspiration such as Jackie Robinson a day like Monday could be something these students never forget.

"We think the story of Jackie Robinson, and for these kids to get out of their routine and come to a place like this has the possibility of being inspiring," Burns said. 



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[ Making the Grade: After School Aquarium]]>Tue, 29 Mar 2016 21:17:45 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/160*160/122990322044069798966381653399046n.jpg

An after-school program in Boston is igniting children's imaginations with ocean science.

C2O, Communities Connecting to the Ocean, is a partnership between six Boston-based groups -- including the Franklin Park Tenants Association in Dorchester -- and the New England Aquarium.

"I definitely love seeing the excited faces, just seeing them really get engaged," said Erik Michel, Program Educator with the aquarium.

Once a week, Michel works with students on their vocabulary while familiarizing them with the natural environment at their fingertips.

"Boston is a big city, and unfortunately, a lot of the kids don't get to get right to the ocean, even though they're right next to it," said Cara Mahoney, New England Aquarium Student Program Supervisor.

C2O incorporates reading, writing, and science lessons to get kids enthusiastic about learning at a young age.

"I want to see cool animals, how they eat, discovering new body parts of them, and discovering new animals I haven't seen before," said 10-year-old Wilkens Georges.

Those animals range from jellyfish to horseshoe crabs.

"They have a very high energy when they come here," said Juanita Pitts, Vice President and Programming Director of the Franklin Park Tenants Association. "It's a special part of the day for them that they know this happens every week at the same time each week."

The program offers a chance to hook kids on science and reading in a fun, interactive setting.

"I'm from the City of Boston, I grew up here, graduated whole public school system. So being able to see kids who come from the same walks of life that I have and then have the same type of interest in that and excitement is pretty cool," Michel said.

C2O lasts for six weeks and is made possible thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This spring and summer, the students will have a chance to leave the classroom and head to the ocean for field trips that include the beach, Boston Harbor Islands and the aquarium. 



Photo Credit: vaniapencil/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA["Project Sweet Talk" Puts Maple Syrup on the Curriculum]]>Tue, 22 Mar 2016 21:23:49 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/160*120/Deerfield+tapping+maples+Harry+Sharbaugh.JPG

"Project Sweet Talk" at Vermont's Fairfield Center School sees middle schoolers producing maple syrup through their own sugaring operation at school.

"We're really, really lucky to have such a nice sugaring community and those opportunities to sugar," said Fairfield eighth grader Alyssa Lambert.

For a decade now, the school has been using donated equipment and supplies to guide classes through the ins and outs of maple syrup production: from gathering sap the old-fashioned way with buckets on trees around town, to boiling it way down to syrup using a wood-fired evaporator.

"It was just a fun opportunity for me to learn about it," said Desiree LeClair, another eighth grader.

"It's really fun to be with other people while you're doing it, too," added LeClair's classmate, Zander Herbert.

Fun is a given, but there is serious learning to Project Sweet Talk, as well.

Principal Jen Wood explained long before the students craft Vermont's signature flavor, they're researching tree functions, using math and science processes to determine density of syrup and other technical aspects of syrup production, and putting their writing to the test for a unit on maple marketing. They also study agricultural practices and cultural history, and interview local sugar makers about their contributions to the iconic Vermont industry.

"We value the traditions that make us who are, and sugaring is a big part of who we are in Fairfield," Wood said, noting that the community is well-known for its long history of maple syrup production.

John Baxter, the school's maintenance director, is also an experienced sugar maker. He guides the eighth graders through the process of sap collection and boiling, and oversees safety and proper techniques in the sugarhouse.

Younger children come through the sugarhouse with their teachers to observe the boiling, and to sample the fresh crop. Some of what's produced ends up being served in the school cafeteria, as well.

"Most of it we sell to staff and parents," said eighth grader Colby Dukas.

Baxter explained earnings from those sales help fund this project, as well as other outdoor classroom work on the region's agricultural heritage. The students also have a greenhouse and gardens at school, and harvest the healthy food they grow.

"We're creating a sugaring family, and just want to keep the generations alive that can make such a great product," eighth grader Leah Branon told necn. "And just keep it going, because it's a really great thing to have, and we're really fortunate to have it."

The sugarhouse the kids use was itself a learning opportunity for older students. It was built by high schoolers in the building trades program at the nearby Northwest Technical Center in St. Albans.

For more information on Project Sweet Talk, you can visit the students’ website



Photo Credit: Harry Sharbaugh]]>
<![CDATA[Backpack Program Provides Nutritious Food for Students]]>Wed, 16 Mar 2016 10:18:06 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2016-03-16-11h10m30s112.png

Culinary arts students from Cambridge Rindge and Latin's Rindge School of Technical Arts (RSTA) in Massachusetts are playing a vital role in helping provide nutritious meals for young students in their community.

Food for Free's Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program is the brain child of Alanna Mallon, who decided to take action after hearing a radio story about backpack programs for kids whose primary source of nutrition comes from school cafeterias. Mallon launched her own version in Cambridge in 2012, serving 12 kids in the beginning.

"Cambridge seems like a very wealthy city, and the truth is it's a tale of two cities," Mallon said. "We have very wealthy people and we have families who are really struggling."

Today, nearly 400 elementary school children receive food through the backpack program. Students get two breakfasts, two lunches, milk, fresh fruit, and healthy snacks discreetly packed into their backpacks for the weekend.

As the program expanded, RSTA decided to work it into the culinary arts food justice curriculum.

"These young men and women have committed themselves, their energy, their ability to plan, solve problems, and they rolled up their sleeves with Alanna and other community members and agencies," said Mike Ananis, Executive Director of RSTA.

Organizing these meals is a mission that's helping steer career aspirations and one that's personally gratifying.

"It makes me feel like a great person," said Mauro Teixeira, a senior.

"My little brother actually gets backpacks from the backpack program from his school," said senior Angelica Owirka. "So it's nice. He loves getting them and he loves the food in them and the snacks."

Teachers and administrators are seeing positive results, Mallon told necn.

"They say kids are coming to school more regularly, they are more highly engaged, they are able to do more homework on their weekends," Mallon said.

The Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program has inspired these high-schoolers to do even more for the community. They are in the process of opening a food pantry at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School for fellow students in need.



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: Scholarship Travelers]]>Tue, 08 Mar 2016 22:33:04 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/high_school_student_generic.jpg

A study abroad scholarship program, offered through one of America's oldest non-profits, is expanding in New England.

Toluwalope Moses and Jack Connolly, students at Boston Latin School, spent a month in Spain last summer, living with a host family and getting an off-the-beaten-path experience.

"I wasn't a tourist," said Jack, a senior. "I got to see what it was really like to be a Spaniard and what daily life is really like."

The students' time in Madrid was funded by CIEE, the Council on International Education Exchange, a non-profit study abroad organization. Last year, Boston Latin participated as a pilot school in CIEE's Global Navigator Scholarship program, which gives high schoolers financial aid to study in 23 places across the globe, including Bonaire, Costa Rica, and China.

NECN covered that pilot program last spring.

"The root of the program is to help students navigate languages, connect with cultures, engage in global issues," said Matt Redman, Vice President of the Global Navigator Program.

Redman says the heart of the mission is helping students and schools understand how life-changing an academically focused travel experience can be.

"We're really looking to make sure that this becomes a part of the culture of the schools where we're working," Redman said.

Its early success has the Global Navigator Scholarship program expanding to four more Massachusetts high schools this year: Brookline, Framingham, Milton, and Sharon.

"Going for, you know, a vacation for 10 days or two weeks is good. It's a good flavor. But to go and become a little more immersed, for three weeks or four weeks, is very very beneficial," said Zach Smith, Director of the Clough Center for Global Understanding at Boston Latin.

"The feedback is phenomenal. Language teachers have given us testimonials that their students have skipped entire levels after just a month abroad in the summertime," said Redman.

For students like Jack and Tolu, it has opened their eyes to a whole world beyond America's borders.

"Traveling abroad, it's scary, but you definitely grow in ways maybe you didn't expect yourself to grow in," Tolu, a sophomore, said.

"It was a life-changing experience that I hope I'll carry with me my entire life," said Jack. "And I know that coming back from Spain, I didn't come home whole. I left a part of me over in Spain, I feel like."

In addition to the five Massachusetts high schools, Deering High School in Portland, Maine, also participates in the Global Navigator Scholarship program. Scholarships range from 10 to 100 percent of the tuition cost and are awarded based on financial need and merit. For more information visit www.ciee.org/



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Making the Grade: School Balances Academics & Ski Racing]]>Wed, 24 Feb 2016 08:32:52 -0500https://media.necn.com/images/180*120/topSports-GettyImages-511847250.jpg

At Green Mountain Valley School in Fayston, Vermont, students balance traditional classroom academics with high-level race training.

"I just love skiing," beamed sophomore Abi Jewett of Ripton, Vermont. "Just being able to go out there and work toward something-- it's really fulfilling."

About 125 eighth through twelfth graders attend GMVS from the fall through the spring, both residential and day students. A program for seventh graders specifically in the winter months gives those student athletes a taste of what life at the ski academy is like.

Young competitive skiers come to the school to work with top level coaches, with facilities at Sugarbush Resort, to sharpen their racing skills. That training occurs in the morning, with traditional classroom work generally scheduled for the afternoons.

When necn visited, a physics class for juniors and seniors was conducting experiments to determine the heat capacity of copper.

"I think it was Thomas Edison who said the purpose of the body is to carry the brain around, and we believe in that very complementary relationship," said Alice Rodgers, the school's director of academics.

Rodgers said teachers often adjust lesson plans to accommodate busy periods of travel in the winter to attend races around the country and internationally. Students who are traveling also can often participate in online learning options to keep up with their school work, Rodgers noted.

Current student Ali Nullmeyer of Canada recently won silver in the ladies slalom at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Norway, the school said.

Carter Kendig, a senior from Carlisle, Massachusetts, said the main trait defining GMVS students is dedication. They train about four hours a day on the mountain and at the performance center, he estimated, then do four hours in the classroom, before homework.

"I definitely think GMVS has set me up for success in the future, academics-wise as well as ski-wise," Kendig said.

Annual tuition to the state-approved independent school is comparable to a year at a private college, with boarding students paying $52,200, and day students paying $40,360, according to the school's website. Need-based financial aid is available, with about a quarter of students receiving aid, the website says.

Many students aspire to compete at the college level, or even in World Cup or Olympic races. That, admittedly, can be a lofty goal, said Steve Utter, the alpine program director.

"Almost every child, when they leave here, isn't on the U.S. Ski Team, does not make the world championships or Olympics, but they have fought the fight and they leave here with fantastic skills to fight the next fight, whatever that may be-- in college, or in business after college," Utter told necn.

According to GMVS, about 10 percent of the student body competes in cross-country races as opposed to downhill ones. The school said it wants to expand that, recently bringing on new experts in nordic conditioning and training in hopes of growing the number of young nordic race competitors.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>