Our trip to Providence was an amazing success. The community we built among the participants and the innovative programs we witnessed inspired our learning and put wind in our sails that is still blowing strong. I look forward to sharing with you our learning and reflections over the next weeks and months as we find the time and words to process the stories we want to tell. Winooski High School student Duc Dang, who entertained us with his amazing singing and impressed us with his wit and insight has written a reflection that I’m so excited to share with you here. Duc’s words are a fabulous tribute and insight to the trip. Well done Duc! Enjoy!
A Trip to An Independent Future
By Duc Dang
The 21st century world is more complicated than the last century. In the 1990’s, a high school diploma could get anyone a good job and reasonable salary. Today, a multi-national and complex world demands more. Students not only need math, reading and writing skills, they need familiarity with new technology. School systems must provide a high quality of teaching environment to make students successful. With the idea of this new world in mind, a group of sixteen students and teachers from Winooski and Burlington High Schools, representing the Partnership For Change, headed to Providence Rhode Island to visit Metropolitan Regional and Technical Center (MET) in early April.
It was a wonderful Sunday morning. The passengers were full of passion and enthusiasm. They had many questions. Some of them wanted to see how MET students used their technology systems. Some wanted to learn about the international or immigrant students. Others wanted to see how the students absorb knowledge from their teachers. Everyone had different questions but only one goal: To learn something that could help them develop their school systems.
They reached Hoppin House, a part of Brown University, on Sunday evening. First they participated in listening and understanding activities. At the end of the day, everyone acknowledged that the trip was about learning the partnership between schools and between students.
When the visitors came to the MET, co-director Nancy Diaz-Bain welcomed them. She told them about how the students in the MET stay independent and become successful doing what they love to do.
The visitors split up into small groups heading to four different buildings. The MET students impressed them with their convenient and flexible working environment. In a small building called Unity, an advisor worked with small group of students.
The teachers in MET are called advisors, and are not attached to any specific major. One advisor will take care of fifteen to twenty students for four years. Joe, one of the advisors said: “Even though the students might not like each other, they still find some way to deal because they have to stick together for four years.” The MET system works so well that Nancy Diaz-Bain admitted that the MET is the safest school in Providence.
There was a lot at MET that impressed the Vermont visitors: The close connection of advisors and students, the flexible schedule, the independent working environment, and the stories of successful students. Students in the MET only go to school for two or three days a week! They study math, literature, science, or work on their own projects. Most of the time, they work on their internships, use their professional skills, learn about a future career, or just do what they love to do.
Lizcal Valdez, a MET junior, wants to be a FBI officer one day so she focuses on the criminal justice field. She has already finished a two-year training program about self-defense, fingerprinting, shooting, and paperwork. Jeira Titin, another MET student, has been successful in business. She owns a low-fat cupcake brand and has made thousands dollars selling baked goods while she was a student at MET.
In the MET, students learn about technology, develop confidence and independence, and feel comfortable to speak in public or doing presentations. The 21st century world will require things like this. Today, more than 80 schools follow the MET model and bring new independence and flexibility to high school education.
Editor’s Note: Duc Dang came to the United States from Vietnam in 2012 and entered the junior class at Winooski High School. He wrote this essay for Mr. Clark’s Reading and Composition class.