Guest post by Mary Benek
SySTEM Phoenix School was founded in 2014 as a non-profit, public charter middle and high school with the goal of preparing diverse students for the jobs of the future. We’ve got our hands full with all the issues any inner city school faces: a transient population that gets evicted or moves often; kids who come to school hungry or with problems at home; low reading and math scores from failing schools they attended before. But we are passionate and mission-driven, and we have a lot planned to make up those deficits.
On the subject of academic achievement, our internal school-wide tests show that students who have been enrolled at SySTEM for two years made an average of four years of growth in their math levels over the two-year period. Most nearby schools struggle to even get one year of math growth each school year.
Partnerships Drive Excellence and Opportunity for Students at SySTEM
A large part of our vision is to integrate with the community to find out what our students need. Through partnerships with organizations like #yesphx, CO+HOOTS, and the Arizona Technology Council, we get community resources to speak to our students at a weekly enrichment assembly about careers and life journeys.
Our students are currently working on several projects to submit to nationwide competitions, such as the MOONBOTS Challenge, an international online competition encouraging groups of youth 8 to 17-years-old to participate and learn about lunar exploration. They will create their own lunar robotic mission and present it to others. Teams win robotic toolkits and a great trip!
In our first year, we partnered up with the Microsoft TEALS K-12 program, which connects software engineers with our school to teach computer science skills. Through this program, all SySTEM students will learn to code. While this is common in the better charter schools, it doesn’t happen very often in the schools our students are drawn from, and only 10% of all high schools in the US currently teach computer science.
Banner University Medical Center provides weekly instruction to our students through our “Mini-Med School” club. Doctors from the family clinic on 12th St. & McDowell come every Wednesday and lead students in animal dissections, CPR training, and projects related to medicine.
Sisterhood Extravaganza provides weekly instruction to our students through a girls’ leadership club for those interested in leadership and entrepreneurship. The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation has also sponsored a teacher to run an elective entrepreneurship program for both men and women, and Dreamroads offers students a personal coach and a goal-writing curriculum.
Garden Pool leads an after-school club focused on teaching students gardening skills and sustainability. They maintain our school garden and learn science skills throughout the course.
But it’s not all work. Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts sponsor weekly clubs on campus, while Sounds Academy leads a Guitar Club for students interested in learning how to play the guitar. They have access to music field trips with behind-the-scenes passes to meet the musicians and are planning an end of the year concert.
For our gifted students, SySTEM will also be offering Computer Science college credit through Phoenix College in the Fall of 2017. This is the just the first of many college courses students will take while at SySTEM to earn their Associate’s Degree in Science by the time they graduate. All college courses are paid for by SySTEM, so parents pay nothing. Courses are mapped out so students earn an actual degree, rather than just taking random courses for credit, some of which may or may not be accepted by the university to which they apply.
We Need Your Help
We’re still a startup, and we have much work to do, and we hope you will be interested in being a resource for us as we try to shift the paradigm for these worthy children. We need Sponsors for our after-school programs which are provided free-of-charge to our students. We also welcome Corporate Partners to help provide mentoring so our students can learn about and aspire to the wide variety of careers in STEM. Please contact our Executive Director, Angelica Cruz to find out the many ways that you can be a part of a great future for our students!