While most teenagers would rather take a summer trip to the beach or an amusement park destination, others like Silva Health Magnet’s Emely Muñoz chose instead to hone their leadership skills in the nation’s capital.
Muñoz was the only EPISD student selected to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Bank of America Student Leaders Summit — a youth workforce development program that connects students with paid work opportunities in their communities and offers them leadership training for long-term sustainability.
“We recognize that building hard and soft job skills combined with access to jobs early in life creates positive outcomes for young peoples’ long-term success,” said El Paso Market President at Bank of America Kristi Marcum.
She added: “Investing in youth is part of Bank of America’s broader commitment to connect individuals to the training and jobs needed for success, ultimately strengthening our community by creating more widespread, sustainable economic mobility.”
Muñoz worked at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless throughout the summer and spent her time in Washington meeting peers and connecting with Congressional leaders.
A total of 171 seniors from every high school in the El Paso Independent School District accepted their diplomas on Wednesday during the 2019 Summer Graduation Ceremonies at the Bowie High School auditorium.
The graduates completed all state graduation requirements during the summer and now join the 4,200 seniors who received their high-school diplomas during ceremonies in May.
“The fact that you are here today is a testament of the hard work and dedication you have demonstrated over the years,” said Dr. Carla Gonzales, EPISD’s Assistant Superintendent of High Schools.
“You have the skills you need to be successful in life. Go out and work toward reaching your goals. You can do whatever you want to make an impact in this world.”
Wednesday’s ceremonies were split in two to accommodate parents and graduates.
The morning ceremonies featured students from Andress, Austin, Burges, Chapin, Franklin, Irvin, Jefferson and Silva Health Magnet high schools, as well as the College, Career & Technology Academy.
The afternoon session featured students from Bowie, Coronado and El Paso high schools.
Computer-controlled robots mazed through the hallways while students learned CPR on manikins just across campus. Meanwhile, students crime-scene investigations were happening at a different corner of the school, near the area where students were engaging in nutrition classes and CrossFit-like workouts.
This is all part of the innovative EPISD Summer Medical Prep Academy — an intense three-week camp where more than 550 middle-school students are learning the basics of health using STEM education.
The new camp replaced the former Developing Research and Early Aspirations Medical Scholars (DREAMS) and offers similar opportunities to students for all EPISD middle schools.
The program, previously housed at Silva Health Magnet, had been limited to incoming sixth graders at Title 1 campuses. The Academy has now been moved to Henderson and is open to any incoming middle-school student in the District.
“This is a great way to keep your brain active during the summer,” said Hornedo sixth grader Merrik Brewer. “It’s important to keep the brain active because it’s good for your learning.”
Merrik joined the program because of its promise of robotics and crime-solving activities and looks forward to the exercise component to beef up his soccer game. His fellow Hornedo classmate Jose Escobedo sees the academy as an opportunity for career exploration.
“I’ve learned how to take DNA out of a strawberry and learn how to solve a crime based on people’s stomach content,” Jose said. “I like learning, and this is fun learning.”
Academy coordinator Ashley Sheldon explained that the hands-on projects and activities build students’ experiences and knowledge without appearing to be like regular school.
“We work really hard to make sure that there are no handouts, no lectures,” Sheldon said. “They’re sharing things and they don’t even realize that they’ve learned things at this point because they didn’t take any notes or listen to a teacher lecture. They just worked hands-on with projects.”
All aspects of the medical prep program are student-driven, teacher-facilitated – especially the robotics section.
“The teacher’s there to help them, but they come up with our own robot design with their own claw and their own programming,” Sheldon said. “By the end, and they get a robot through the obstacle course where before they had no knowledge of how to do that.”
Every three days, the students rotate through the forensics, medical applications and robotics. Students solve a crime through DNA, fingerprinting and fiber analysis during the forensics piece. In the medical applications segment, students learn to take each other’s blood pressure and use a practice doll to apply chest compressions for a lesson in basic CPR. A Cross-Fit-like activity – known as Raise Up the Bar – gets their heart rates up and complements a nutritional component.
“The kids are loving it,” said Bobby Macias, who created Raise Up the Bar at Ross Middle. “They’ve been very receptive to trying new things.”
The component introduces students to a variety of exercises associated with Cross-Fit-like classes including push-ups, squats, lunges and 400-meter runs.
“We’ve been introducing them to functional movements, and we’ve noticed the friendships they are forging while doing the workouts,” Macias said. “A lot of them are saying ‘I wish we had this class at our school.’”
Meanwhile, in the nutrition classroom, students examined test tubes with different foods and taking note of their fat and calorie content. The kids got a visual perspective of the fat in foods common in their diets: brownies, buttered popcorn, cheese, ice cream sandwiches, an apple and pudding.
“Check out the fats,” said JaMya Lynn-Carswell, holding a tube labeled trail mix 350 calories and 22 grams of fat for a half-cup serving. “I was surprised by the trail mix. I see a lot of people eating trail mix in exercise commercials but they’re eating more fat.”
Story: Reneé de Santos | Photos: Leonel Monroy | Video: Raymond Jackson and Angel Dominguez / EPISD
Dozens of students traded in pencils and notebooks and instead took time learning to draw blood, suture patients and assist geriatric patients during a hands-on career exploration workshop.
Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso’s Desert Mountain Area Health Education Center gave the participating students — all of whom had expressed an interest in a health care career — an opportunity to interact with medical students during the Map Your Future workshop.
“We’re trying to get students interested in the medical field – not necessarily to become physicians or nurses, but just to open up their
eyes to all the different possibilities within the region and throughout the United States,” said Raul Gomez, a volunteer with the health education center.
“We believe that if we plant the seed at an early age, they’ll start to build on it and it’ll be so strong by the time they get to high school or to college it’ll just be something that they’re so passionate about that they don’t mind going through eight years of schooling or four years of schooling.”
The event featured a variety of hands-on activities at the different stations set up in the gym and a classroom.
At one station, students learned to draw blood with a Kool Aid-like substance oozing out of a fake arm.
A few feet away, other students used a suture kit to learn how to practice sewing up patients. Inside the gym, another group donned weighted vests, funky googles and other restricting equipment to simulate ailments associated with geriatric patients. Another booth gave a hard lesson on the dangers of drinking and driving.
At the DUI station, students wrote on eggs expressing their hopes and dreams, then slid on some vision-distorting glasses. Meanwhile,
they balanced their eggs on a spoon while maneuvering through an obstacle. Some students lost their balance dropping the raw egg to the ground – symbolizing how a DUI could shatter their dreams and aspirations.
“This really tells me the consequences it brings and how my career could not be successful if I’m drunk driving,” said Vanessa Valdez, an eighth grader who aspires to go to Silva Health Magnet.
“I mostly want to be a nurse but I’m still deciding. It’s been great coming here. They’re giving me experience.”
Eighth-grader Jashwa Villanueva is wavering between a career in architectural engineering and health care.
“I wanted to see options for my future and see if I’d like jobs in the medical field,” he said. “It’s been a really fun, eye-opening experience to see the cool jobs and having the medical show us the activities.”
Guillen is the first middle school campus to take part in the Map your Future event. Counselor Sonia Antuñez worked with Texas Tech’s Desert Mountain Area Health Education Center to offer the program to Guillen.
“Our children are not exposed to different careers in medical field,” Antuñez said. “This has been rewarding for them. They’re taking it in and actually thinking about the medical field because of what they have been exposed to today.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Martín A. López | Video by Raymond Jackson – EPISD
For Chick-fil-A, it’s not all about cooking chicken. The fast food franchise has teamed up with area high schools to serve up some nuggets of wisdom through its Leader Academy.
The nationwide Chick-fil-A Leader Academy engages students in monthly Leader Labs with a focus on important leadership skills that they will use to create student-led community impact projects.
Franchise owners throughout El Paso have adopted neighboring campuses to offer the Leader Academy. Burges, Silva Health Magnet, Coronado, Franklin, El Paso, Chapin and Andress are among the high schools sponsored by an area Chick-fil-A in EPISD.
“Our vision at Chick-fil-A is to make a positive impact on the lives of others and so we believe that our youth are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Joy Martinez, who owns the Airway location with her husband Anthony Martinez. “It is important to invest our time and energy so that we can give them the tools that they will need to be better equipped for the world tomorrow.”
The Martinez’s kicked off the 2018-19 Leader Academy at Burges High School on Friday with 30 students at an orientation for the year-long program. The day began with some ice breakers, an introduction to the curriculum, a boxed lunch with the famous Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a visit from Cow, the restaurant’s mascot.
The curriculum taught in the academy focuses on servant leadership – a style deeply rooted in the Chick-fil-A organization and modeled by its founder, the late S. Truett Cathy.
“Our servant-leader spirit, in which we put others first, really comes from a sense of mission to serve others with compassion dignity and respect,” Joy Martinez said. “The same compassion dignity and respect that we would want others to offer us. We want to encourage all Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students and help them in any way that we can because Anthony and I had many mentors, family members, friends who encouraged us and believed in us and helped us in our journey.”
Last year, Burges’ project created a more inclusive environment for special education students in the Community Readiness Classroom (CRC), nicknaming them “the cool kids.”
“I think this year we will just make a larger impact and keep growing the relationships we already have,” said senior Lailani Chehedeh. “I’m really excited to see the way the new students start and the way they end. Last year, even for myself, just being able to see the way I grew and began understanding different types of people and just growing relationships was really a unique experience.”
Student Activities Manager Ruth Bohlin saw the leader academy as a great opportunity for Burges students to develop virtue and civic responsibility.
“While we have our leader academy kids go through the curriculum, they also have an opportunity to build relationships with our CRC kids,” Bohlin said. “And that in itself was a wonderful opportunity for each of them – both enriching for the CRC kids and the leader academy kids.”
Joy Martinez saw first-hand how successful the program was at Burges last year.
“What I noticed was that the energy, the spirit and enthusiasm was just remarkable – truly remarkable,” she said. “Seeing the cool kids just have so much fun and feel the love was just so heartwarming. You saw all these students come together and bring a ray of sunshine to the lives of kids.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD
“Our focus on Active Learning has helped us reach unprecedented goals in student outcomes,” said Superintendent Juan Cabrera. “EPISD is one of the best school districts in the state, and our students and teachers are showing that innovation in the classroom works.”
With 11 total campuses on the list, EPISD has the most high-performing schools in the region and is third in the state for districts with schools earning all available distinctions given by the Texas Education Agency this year. Only two school districts – Houston and Dallas ISDs — have more schools with all distinctions in the state.
The distinctions show students in those campuses are performing at elevated levels in all tested areas, and show academic growth that puts them on track to be college and career ready by the time they graduate high school.
The schools that earned all academic distinctions are: El Paso, Silva Health Magnet and Chapin high schools; Wiggs Middle School; and Hughey, Lamar, Milam, Collins, Cielo Vista, Polk and Green elementary schools.
“Earning one or several campus-level distinctions is notable and should be applauded by a community as an outstanding achievement,” Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said. “For a school to earn every potential distinction applicable to their campus is difficult, but a reflection of some truly amazing work by our educators.”
The distinctions include measurements of proficiency and growth based on student performance on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (STAAR) and End of Course exams.
The distinctions measure academic achievement in English, math, science and social studies, as well as growth in categories like college readiness and closing learning gaps.
A new virtual reality tool will allow CCTE, Franklin and Silva Health Magnet students to look deep into every aspect of the human body, dissect animals, explore paleontology and even study automotive applications without leaving the classroom.
Trainers introduced the new zSpace technology to Career and Technology Education teachers from CCTE, Franklin and Silva Health Magnet last week.
The teachers donned special tracking glasses and wielded a stylus to get a close up, authentic look at internal organs, blood vessels and other parts of the human body. The skull virtually popped into the space between teachers and their screens – giving them a chance to maneuver the stylus and go in for a closer look.
Anatomy is only one of many virtual, 3-D learning applications available through the zSpace technology.
“One of the things that makes this so important and so critical is the high level of engagement that it evokes from students immediately,” said Kevin Dougherty, zSpace sales director. “You don’t have to rely on the teacher to evoke that from kids. It actually comes from the child themselves from elementary through high school when they have this experience with virtual reality.”
During the all-day training, the teachers spent time exploring the human body and discussing how to incorporate their lessons with the new technology.
The initial movements of the stylus brought lots of oohs and ahhs – something the teachers expect to hear when their students begin using zSpace. The technology offers engaging, real-world training that offers students a deeper understanding of their curriculum.
“The training has been very interactive,” said Dr. Dominque Nehring, who teaches vet tech at CCTE. “The kids are going to be really excited to use this.”
Nehring finds the possibility endless for the new technology – giving students virtual hands-on lessons in areas they might not otherwise experience. Students could perform anything from a virtual EKGs to examining the inner workings of a car, learn how to take it apart and put it back together.
“We could even do a virtual spay or neuter,” she said. “This has been a nice experience. I’ve learned a lot and we’re excited about bringing our kids in and letting them start playing.”
zSpace technology is spreading throughout Texas but Dougherty said EPISD has become an area of focus for the company.
“What’s most exciting about working here in El Paso ISD is the great sense of vision and the idea that anything is possible,” Dougherty said. “As a result, we’re looking to set El Paso ISD as our first district of distinction in the state of Texas for zSpace.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Video by Raymond Jackson/EPISD
While other students spent their summer hanging out with friends, Silva Health Magnet senior Juan Pablo Speer spent his time at local nursing homes, visiting residents and playing his violin.
Speer was not visiting family or working a summer job. The dedicated student was at the nursing homes as part of Visiting the Lonely Birds, a group he created to link teens like himself with seniors living in assisted-living communities.
The group is dedicated to enriching the lives of nursing home residents, while providing volunteers, many of whom are future health care professionals, invaluable patient care training.
“I wanted to do something to help the community,” he said. “The organization was originally intended to be a summer project, but after I saw the impact it was having on the residents and volunteers, I knew we had to keep going.”
Visiting the Lonely Birds, or VLB for short, teamed up with the Double T Health Professions Honor Society at Silva to continue the program beyond the summer. The group also gives participating students the chance to boost volunteer and community service hours.
VLB students currently volunteer at seven assisted-living facilities in El Paso.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Speer said. “The residents start to remember a lot more about when they were our age, sharing their stories with us. One of the residents I visit with at the Alzheimer’s facility lived in Germany during World War II, so she’s always telling me about her father and how he was a painter.”
Speer visited residents up to four times a week during the summer. Now that school is in full swing, he uses his time in between classes designing a website, organizing volunteers and preparing for weekend visits.
“I really enjoy playing music for the residents. They always ask me to play one song or the other,” Speer said. “I learn certain songs so I can come back and play it for them. ‘Over the Waves’ is always a favorite. It’s a waltz they like a lot.”
VLB volunteers spend time with residents, partaking in fun activities or just keeping them company.
The group, for example, is helping the Legacy at Cimarron facility organize a mystery dinner theater, making costumes and creating a festive atmosphere for the residents.
Silva senior Karen Robleto joined the group to get high-school community service hours, but kept volunteering long after she had met requirements.
“When I heard about it, I was like ‘hey, I need volunteer hours.’ It has become much more than volunteer hours,” she said. “I have already exceeded the amount I need, but I keep going because I love it. Walking in and seeing their smiling faces just makes me so happy.”
Robleto spends her time playing different games with residents.
“We play cards and dominoes, but mostly we play virtual bowling. They love it,” she said. “I hope more people get involved because I want them to feel the same way I do.”
Speer wants the group to continue to thrive, even after he graduates and goes to college. He is already setting up coordinators at each of the seven facilities to ensure the visits continue.
“I am hoping the Double T’s will keep sending students. It is difficult to leave your loved ones for someone else to care for and that is completely understandable,” he said. “I want them to see that the community cares about these residents, and that we are there to make sure they feel valued and appreciated.”
Author: Alicia Chumley / Photos by Leonel Monroy-EPISD
Several EPISD campuses delved into the TED-Ed Clubs this school year, exploring and learning to express their passion through talks. The campuses came together last week for a district-wide TED-Ed Club talk and community presentation at CCTE.
“TED-Ed helps kids develop their confidence in speaking to an audience, develop their ideas and express their ideas,” said Karen Blaine, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer. “This not only prepares for skills they will need in the future, it gives them a place at school to express their passions.”
Campus participating in the program are: Barron, Cielo Vista, Coldwell, Guerrero, Mesita, Newman and Tom Lea elementary schools; Armendariz, Lincoln, Morehead and Richardson middle schools; Coronado High School and Silva Health Magnet.
“It’s really fun,” said Mathew Hernandez, a Schuster 5th grader. “I think it’s a great idea. You get to express what you feel with the world.”
The talks included a wide variety of topics including bullying, body image, post traumatic stress disorder and being a good friend.
“I think this is very important because it teaches them that if they have a great idea, their voice matters, too,” said Schuster teacher Stormy Daniels.
Collaboration is key to TED-Ed Club talks. In TED-Ed Clubs, students work together to discuss and celebrate creative ideas. Club leaders receive TED-Ed’s flexible Clubs curriculum to guide their school’s club and to help inspire tomorrow’s TED speakers and leaders.
“I may have a great idea but not speak very well and might need a friend help me articulate it better or make my presentation using technology,” Daniels said. My role has been to guide them and help them with the opportunity. It’s their ideas, they research and the parts they liked they went for.”
District officials and the area TED Ed representative are encouraged by the students’ collaborations and talks. The clubs, which began in EPISD at the beginning of the school year, is open to any campus interested in participating.
“We’re pleased with the response and how the clubs have taken off in such a short time,” Blaine said.
Summer is winding down and that means two things here in the Borderland—school is back in session and the Water Festival is fast approaching.
These two things are reason enough for El Paso Water to talk about its August 20 Water Festival at the TecH2O Center and spotlight educators who have placed high emphasis on conservation.
The August 20 event at TecH2O, located at 10751 Montana Ave. will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Now in its 17 th year, the Water Festival is a free event where children and adults of all ages can learn about the water cycle, water conservation, and about where a desert city like El Paso gets its water.
“The Water Festival has been centered on encouraging people to learn about water resources,” said El Paso Water Conservation Manager Anai Padilla. “With our students going back to school, it makes sense to use this year’s festival as an opportunity to promote water conservation and recognize teachers who have helped us drive this message to them.”
As TecH2O readies for the festival, Padilla and El Paso Water staff wanted to recognize Guadalupe Tapia, health science teacher at Silva Health Magnet High School.
With 13 years of teaching under her belt and more than two decades of experience in the health care field, Tapia places a high value on teaching water conservation.
Through her Community Health Rotation class at Silva Magnet, Tapia encourages her students to become familiar with community issues, such as drought, water needs and conservation. In past years, Tapia has taken her students to the TecH2O to broaden their knowledge on these topics.
“My goal again is for them is to be aware of the city needs, and hopefully for them to become the problem solvers in the future,” Tapia said. The veteran teacher added that part of that instruction includes teaching students about the growing demand for water and how that will affect El Paso’s future.
“Personally, I am concerned about water consumption and preservation. I want the students at Silva Health Magnet to be aware of steps and procedures to preserve this precious element,” Tapia said.
Tapia’s interest in water conservation sprouted in 2010 while her daughter was interning at TecH20.
Tapia said that each afternoon her daughter brought home conservation knowledge and useful takeaways.
This led to a family affair of volunteering at TecH2O and other community events. Now, Tapia is a strong advocate for conservation, urging her students and others to be mindful stewards.
She added that, while her students are always receptive and mindful of conservation lessons, one of the greatest challenges is debunking the notion that “we will never run out of water.”
“The second (challenge) is to break water waste habits and instill water conservation actions starting in the home,” Tapia said about reaching out to students. “Having information that is accessible, bilingual, and with examples that they can relate to is essential, so that they can be the water conservation ambassadors in their homes. It is important to make all citizens aware about water usage and water waste.”