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A chartered course
Dave Childers is in recruitment mode.
As principal of The Academy for Civic and Entrepreneurial Leadership, it's his job (one of them, anyway) to make sure there are at least 80 students when the charter school opens in August.
So first things first — if you are/know/have a student going into ninth grade who would work well in a personalized, public, tuition-free school that focuses on entrepreneurial and leadership opportunities in project-based learning, find your way to more information. Start with the school's Web site (www.acelfresno.org).
Of course now you're probably thinking, “what does all that project-based learning, leadership-opportunity jargon mean?”
It's a question of choice, Childers says.
Not all students fit into the traditional high-school system. Some do. The 4.0 students, they do fine, he says. They'd do fine anywhere.
“A wide receiver looking for a football scholarship, he needs Edison.”
But others, the 3.0 students, the ones gliding by under the radar, they could use a school like ACEL.
Obviously, says ACEL co-founder John Minkler. He used to teach high school social studies and saw students, who were disconnected from learning — lots of them.
“The kids are bored, and the kids are dropping out and the dropout rate is 1/3.”
It's strange then, the response you can get when students become responsible for their own education and they are challenged to get in touch with what they are interested in.
Here, the students don't ask, “when am I ever going to use algebra?”
Or social studies. Or history.
They understand the use because they see it in practical application.
“The best learning happens when they kids don't realize it,” Childers says.
For the first year, the school will be housed at the Boy's and Girls Club's Zimmerman Center on Belmont and Fresno Streets, though Childers has been on the hunt for a more permanent home — possibly downtown.
The area is the epicenter of what he calls the Fresno Renaissance — a hotbed of art and culture and entrepreneurship.
“I would love to see education there as well.”
This is big-city thinking.
In Philadelphia — one of the first cities Childers visited as way of research — there are schools on every other block downtown.
“And these are non-traditional schools.”
That kind of interplay could be amazing for the city, Childers says.
Imagine 300 students on the Fulton Mall. From there, the students could be foot soldiers for downtown revitalization, asking questions — why doesn't Fresno have a better public transportation system? — and being compelled in a real way to find the answers. This creates deep connections for the students.
Spend four years working on a community project and that's what happens. You begin to know the city, identify its issues, understand its needs. That could keep these students in the area, Childers says. Or bring them back — our next crop of boomeranged creative professionals and entrepreneurs.
“We will get them involved and ready to be more involved.