Idaho Corps Members Accelerate Solutions to Systemic Challenges
Forty corps members work with more than 250 students—representing nearly every Idaho community with which we partner—during this year’s Acceleration Academies.
March 12, 2019
Each year, Teach For America Idaho corps members participate in the region’s Acceleration Academies, which are corps member-led service projects that work to tackle systems issues. Each leading corps member spends months preparing and building out a robust project plan, enlisting the help of fellow corps members, alumni, community partners, and schools in which they serve, and working closely with TFA Idaho’s Program Team to develop meaningful programming to pursue equity with collective action.
One of the goals of Acceleration Academies is to allow for corps members to embody what it means to pursue systemic change in coalition with others. This requires ensuring all corps members are invested in the project and can meaningfully contribute to the results. Supporting corps members self-select which project they want to help with and take on a role that ultimately helps the lead corps member fulfill their vision for their workshop.
This year, three teacher leaders spent five months engaging in a process that required them to lean into their leadership beyond the classroom. They pitched a project, garnered support from their schools, students and families, enlisted help from corps members, alumni and staff, and delivered amazing results. Over 250 students attended from nearly every community we serve in the Treasure Valley, ranging from third grade to high school.
Here are this year’s three amazing Acceleration Academies:
Jenell Mee (Idaho ’18) teaches fourth grade at Idaho Arts Charter in Nampa, Idaho. She created the workshop “Captivating Confidence” to bring rhetoric, healthy awareness and confidence to young female-bodied girls as their bodies begin to change and grow.
Mee recognized the importance of creating space for this conversation, understanding that the topic of menstruation is often ignored. “Through this workshop, my goal is to impact communities through these young women to gain confidence in their bodies and lessen the anxiety of going through these changes without an open dialogue.”
Students attended from many different schools from as young as third and fourth grade to high school. Corps members broke students up by age and had different stations around the room, each led by a volunteer corps member. The stations included talking about why girls get periods, the brain and how it changes during a period, product options for menstruation, journaling in response to various prompts that worked to build confidence, creating a frame and adding positive messages about self and others, and a favorite for the participants: the “Dump Trash Talk” station.
The “Dump Trash Talk” station created space for students to fill out a graphic organizer with positive messages and negative messages they either say to themselves or hear from others. Students kept the positive messages, ripped up the negative ones and dropped them into a trash can. Finally, they wrote positive messages on the trash can.
At the beginning of the workshop, one fourth grade student shared with her peers, “No, I do not have any confidence but I know I need to get some!” The girls who attended this workshop left equipped with more information, resources and more confidence!
Maggie Chapman (Idaho ’18) teaches Computer Science and Mathematics at Caldwell High School in Caldwell, Idaho. She sees an urgent need for more computer science college graduates.
“A lack of access to computer science education is tied to the systematic poverty that our communities face. Students are ill-equipped for the modern day jobs and industries, because our schools are are not able to adequately prepare them. Students at affluent primary and secondary schools are being taught computer science at a young age, where they are able to learn the basics. These students are more prepared to pursue additional education in the field, and ultimately get very high paying, well respected jobs.”
Chapman created a day-long program called “Caldwell Codes,” with support from local tech experts. Panelists attended from HP, Micron, and Boise State University to share about their experiences with students. All of the panelists shared similar backgrounds to that of the 50 students who attended the event.
One Micron panelist, Juan Flores-Estrada, is a first generation Mexican-American who graduated from Caldwell High School in 2008. He shared his experience working for the company: “When I joined my team two years ago I was the only Hispanic person on my team. I was able to bring a different perspective that they didn’t have before. Most of the most successful companies are highly diverse, and it’s not a coincidence. Different people bring different perspectives, beliefs, backgrounds, and the combination of all of those factors makes teams so much better.”
After students had a chance to learn from experts in the tech field, they were able to dive into creating their own website with facilitation from Chapman and twelve other corps members who volunteered to help with this project.
100% of students who attended Caldwell Codes agreed they would want to participate in this opportunity again.
Maddie Dew (Idaho ’17) teaches math at Lone Star Middle School in Nampa, Idaho. When Maddie saw the opportunity to create an all-day STEM camp she knew this would be a great opportunity for her students and other kids in the community.
Dew says, “By 2024, there are projected to be 36,000 unfilled STEM careers in Idaho alone. These high wage positions make up the fastest growing job sector in Idaho, but, despite the abundance of opportunity, many students talk about these as ‘jobs for someone else.’ My hope is that students and key influencers in students’ lives can begin to see themselves as capable individuals who can choose to fill those jobs in an effort to secure financial security for themselves and increase STEM representation and accessibility in the future.”
Maddie framed the day talking about what a scientist is and engaged students with science demonstrations such as the dry ice experiment. Then, the group of over one hundred students broke into groups to design a robot. They had to figure out what materials they needed, get the materials, and start building. Students used all kinds of materials including copper wire, batteries, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and more.
Students also had a chance to make their own catapults with found materials and even competed with their builds for distance, accuracy, and more with amazing prizes from local tech companies.
At the end of the day, students had an opportunity fair that hosted booths for different topics like, STEM in college, NASA, local STEM camps for kids, Micron and HP careers, and more. One thing is for sure: these students left knowing that STEM is not just important, but it is also a ton of fun!