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LPS In The News

In Lynn, Students are Seen and Heard
The Lynn Item

 

The group is called Centering Youth Voices, and if ever a name perfectly captured a purpose, this is it. An idea crafted by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Evonne Alvarez and implemented by her and Robert Bishop, interim executive director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Lynn Public Schools, Centering Youth Voices is designed to give students a seat at a table where meaningful discussion will take place and action will result.

Two of the student representatives in the Centering Youth Voices group are, Javier Patricio Santo, left and Genesis Castro.
 
“It’s about including students’ voices in decision-making,” said Alvarez, who has led the school district since last summer. “That is critical to how we continue to shape the student experience and what we do at LPS.”


Students at the five high schools – Classical, English, Tech, Fecteau-Leary and Frederick Douglass Collegiate Academy – were invited to apply for the advisory group and 10 were selected. They will meet regularly with the superintendent in person, with Zoom gatherings in between. The primary goal, according to Alvarez and Bishop, is for students to be able to candidly express what they see as important in all aspects of their educational experience.

“We can paint a broad stroke of belonging (for students), but this is backing it up with action,” Bishop said. “This isn’t just a grand idea. It starts with what kids are thinking, what matters to them the most and brings them to the table in their space.”

The students decide the topics they want to discuss with the superintendent. At the first meeting, which was held in late January, it was school safety. “They shared a lot,” Alvarez said. “They talked about why they want to be part of change.”

Two of the members of Centering Youth Voices said they take seriously the role of bringing forward issues and concerns felt by them and their fellow students. “It’s important to have student voices impacting our future,” said Javier Patricio Santo, senior class president at Lynn English. “I’m so happy they created a group like this. It felt like a call to action.”

Genesis Castro, a freshman at Frederick Douglass Collegiate Academy, located at North Shore Community College, said while there are other student groups, the talk does not always turn into action. This group feels different.

“This group is so important to elevate students’ voices,” said Castro, who was Lynn’s representative on Project 351, a statewide service initiative with one student from each of the cities and towns in the Commonwealth. “This is a good forum for what we want in our education.”

Santo said it is important for the Centering Youth Voices members to bring the discussion topics back to their respective schools and continue the dialogue. “The conversations we have don’t end at the meetings,” he said. “We will take them back to our friends and peers. We want to create a more inclusive student environment.”

Other topics that will be on the list for discussion include curriculum inequality and school tardiness and detention. Both students were asked what has to happen in order for Centering Youth Voices to be considered a successful endeavor. “We will be able to deem the program a success once we see change in place,” Santo said. “It won’t be instantaneous. As we see a move toward change, that will show us the success of the program.”

Castro gave a similar answer. “Success will be ideas being put into action,” she said, “and when students say they are happy to go to school and they feel comfortable there. It starts with this.”

Alvarez said the work of Centering Youth Voices will have a positive long-term effect on Lynn students. “These students will provide feedback on their student experience and future innovative programming at our high schools,” she said. “Their voice and their experiences will shape the future of LPS.”

In addition to Santo and Castro, the Centering Youth Voices group includes: Awan Awan, Lynn Tech; Gianah Cowan, Classical; Boo Disaia, Classical; Cassidy Galdamez Garcia, Lynn Tech; Maryelys Villegas Lopez, Fecteau-Leary; Annah Malima, Classical; Rachel Villanueva Martinez, English; and Janah Rojas, English. LPS teachers Alan Bercy and Rathanak Pres, the LPS Staff of Color Affinity Group leaders, have partnered with the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in mentoring these students.

Lynn Public Schools To Add Rosetta Stone in January
LCHS Photo
Lynn schools will make the Rosetta Stone language learning program available to all students, families, teachers and staff beginning in January. A new language learning option will be available in the Lynn School District in January. In an interview with The Item last week, Superintendent Evonne Alvarez said that the district signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Rosetta Stone, an online language learning program.
Alvarez said that knowing a second language will be a crucial skill in the future.
“Research says that most of this country will be black, brown, and speaking Spanish in the next 10-15 years,” she said. “It’s a disservice to our students who only speak English not to have an opportunity to also learn Spanish. The jobs of the future will require students who can speak both languages.”

She said that today’s kindergarteners will compete with people who speak two languages by the time they go to college or start a career.

“We have to make decisions now to make sure that those students are able to compete and have the same access and opportunities,” Alvarez said. “It’s our responsibility to provide them the opportunity to learn Spanish.”

Access to Rosetta Stone will also benefit teachers. “For our teachers who are primarily dealing with students who speak only Spanish – how do they communicate?” Alvarez said. “This is a great tool where they can learn some conversational Spanish or learn to be fluent at their own pace. We’ve had an inordinate amount of teachers and staff who have asked, ‘How do I pick up some Spanish to be able to communicate with my students?’”

The program will not just be available for students and teachers, though. District staff and parents will also be able to utilize Rosetta Stone.

“School Committee members who don’t speak other languages, how do they support the families they represent when they can’t communicate with them?” Alvarez said. “They’ll have access as well to be able to pick up Rosetta Stone and use that tool.”
Rosetta Stone offers learning in 25 different languages.

Alvarez said that would be especially impactful for families who do not speak English.
“Think about a family that only speaks Portuguese or Spanish or Arabic or Khmer, which are our primary languages, being able to learn English, what that does for the economic growth of our local community,” she said. “It’s something as simple as providing a platform where they can learn at their own pace.”


Career Exploration Fair Inspires Achievement
News Photo Junior Achievement of Greater Boston welcomed more than 1,200 eighth graders to take part in its second annual “JA Inspire” Interactive Career Exploration Fair at the Hynes Convention Center. Lynn was one of the nine municipalities invited Tuesday, as eighth graders from both Breed and Thurgood Marshall Middle Schools were given the opportunity to engage with 40 different exhibitors.
Junior Achievement of Greater Boston’s vision is to close wealth and opportunity gaps for young people in the nine participating Commonwealth communities by creating pathways for middle schoolers to find their career, igniting youth entrepreneurship, and educating young people on how to be financially resourceful. The nonprofit organization was founded more than a century ago and now has chapters in 100 different countries.

Junior Achievement of Greater Boston President and CEO Radhames Nova spoke on why he chose to focus this event on communities such as Lynn. “These are gateway cities,” Nova said. “They’re communities where young people have huge amounts of talent and potential, but perhaps they don’t have the same resources as some of the suburban communities that may have more opportunities for them.”

In addition to representatives from the 40 companies, numerous state officials also attended in support of Junior Achievement’s work. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, a former Lynn Public Schools superintendent, said that the fair is one large component of a greater movement for middle schoolers across the state.

“This is part and parcel of a real important transformation that’s happening in secondary schools that really focuses on high-interest, deeply relevant experiences for students,” Tutwiler said. After a brief introduction, students were given free reign to explore the various career paths. The exhibits included representation from a diverse group of fields that included engineering, business, education, law, communications, health services, and more. The first booth students encountered upon entry was that of Staples, as the company served as the event’s main sponsor. Breed students Jasly Deleon and Tyler Doan both came into the fair with the interests of medicine and science respectively, and had little issue finding exhibits that piqued their interest. Thurgood Marshall teacher Leigh Ann Meshay prepared her students for the occasion by making them think about what they want to do in the future through a mock interview.

“I had them do an elevator pitch about themselves,” Meshay explained. “Like if you were trying to have a potential employer hire you, why should they hire you? What do you care about? What do you like?” DuPont Electronics and Engineering’s Marlborough site leader, Ellen Mager, alluded that the students are not the only ones who benefit from taking part in the fair. “It’s really exciting to be a part of this event to introduce the science, technology, engineering field to so many students,” Mager said. “It’s inspiring to me because all of their minds are so open about where they would like to go.”
Nova said that Junior Achievement will continue to work with the attending students as they enter high school and beyond

Tech Field House Gets A Facelift
News Photo For the first time ever, the sound of basketballs bouncing on wood will be emanating from the T. O’Connor Gymnasium in the Jack Barry Field House at Lynn Tech this winter.
Lynn Public Schools and the City completed a $1.3 million renovation of the field house that included the replacement of the rubber floor that covered the entire surface since the building opened in 1972. A hardwood basketball floor was installed, with rubber floor all around it.

The project, which ran from June until mid-October, was paid for with funding LPS received from the Mass. Department of Education after the pandemic.

In addition to the basketball court, the field house features a new running track. Joe Abelon, a driving force in track and field in the City for decades, played an important role in ensuring the lines were painted correctly. The field house enhancements also include painting, new lighting and repaired bleachers.

The field house renovation project was conducted in partnership by LPS and the City, with Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan taking the lead on the City side.