By L. Denice Randle, Assistant Director, Summit Public Schools-Sierra
At Summit, helping students find their passion is part of getting them ready for success in college, career and life. Students can find their passion in different places so that’s why we give them many different avenues through our expeditions program to explore and dive deep into their interests and career opportunities they’re considering.
Expeditions also give students the opportunity to engage with organizations from the communities our schools serve. From learning break dancing from the world famous Massive Monkees who have roots in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, just a few blocks from Summit Sierra to learning culinary arts at Coyote Central in the central district, the students learn from experts in their field that have a long standing commitment to the community and young people.
One of the groups we work with helps our students learn and succeed in a skill most fear, public speaking. We.App stands for we act, present and perform and was established in 2012. We.App provides a public speaking program to some of the largest companies in the region and our students.
“Public speaking is a skill you use throughout your whole life,” said Toyia T. Taylor, founder of We.App. “Students will need to speak up for themselves whether that be at school, on the job or at an interview for a scholarship. We help students find their authentic voice and recognize who they are and become who they choose to be.”
During the two-week expedition students learned a new theme like critical thinking, improvisation and presentation and projection to help them write and perform a speech. Every day was filled with rewriting and rehearsing their speech and thinking about their own voice and how they want to communicate their message.
“The kids want to learn and be challenged, they want something different,” said Olivia Thomas, a teacher at We.App. “The public speaking expedition gave students a platform to be themselves, come out of their comfort zone and be more confident while supporting their fellow students.”
At the end of the two weeks, the students participated in an oratory competition with students from other Seattle schools, and one of the Sierra students finished third. We’re proud of all our students for having the courage to try something new and share their voice with the community.
As our students participate in the expeditions they are not only building skills and self esteem that will help them succeed in college and life, but they are also building awareness of what’s going on around them. From Black Live Matter to homelessness the students learn how they can use their voice to be change agents in their community.
We’ve heard from our families that the students are enjoying the process of starting and finishing a project and that expeditions give students a space to talk about real things that are going on in their lives. Our students have told us that while the expeditions are a challenge, they are learning to stick with things. If they can shine in a newfound passion, they can also shine in the classroom.
“Summit has created a foundation for its students that meets them where they are,” said Taylor. “I’m blown away with the type of learning environment at the school. They are truly a family.”