Monday, August 20, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: August 13th - 17th

Snow Mountain Ranch at YMCA of the Rockies
Hi all!

We are back for another school year here at West Leadership Academy!

Over the past week we didn't have any students. Instead, the teachers met for a professional development retreat at the YMCA of the Rockies! 

Over the course of two days we participated in several workshops on various topics and also mapped out some logistical issues for the upcoming school year. The location was quite beautiful and serene so it was certainly a good place to spend a couple of days. Additionally, team and community building was a big focus so it was nice to let loose and spend time with fellow teachers and staff talking about non-school related things.

The more we get to know each other over the course of the year, the better able we will be to help each other and in turn help our students.
Our own YESS classroom! 

On Friday we got back to the school and spent our day decorating our classroom and preparing for Monday's first day! After getting a room just for YESS students this year, I am certainly looking forward to offering a space where they can visit and receive help throughout the entire day and not just during certain periods. It should be a great year ahead, stay tuned! -Ben 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: May 28th - June 1st

Well we made it! The 2017-2018 school year has come to an end and it certainly was a successful one!

In this shortened week, we were quite busy with events such as HS graduation, 8th grade continuation, and end of year celebrations and final presentations.

Students at GrowHaus, an organization focused on
helping eliminate food deserts in the metro area.
With high school students finishing up last week, this past week was spent wrapping things up with our middle school students. Monday was Memorial Day so no school took place. Tuesday we had our final early release day so during those shortened periods students finished their final reflections and presentations for their Stand Up projects.

Our middle school students had significantly less time to work on these projects as they were gone for Explore courses last week. Nevertheless, we did have a few students who incorporated their Explore field trips with their social justice projects for my class. For example, one middle school student who was interested in food deserts was actually able to visit an organization that is combating this problem here in Denver and then share her experience with her classmates. This was excellent to see our younger students be passionate about a topic and then be active in learning how to help. What a great way to finish up the year.

On Wednesday, we had our last day with students. Most of the middle school students participated in a cookout and enjoyed some time outside at Sunken Gardens. Due to this, not all students were able to present their final projects in time, however they did finish them and most importantly, took the time to reflect upon the year. Several reflections were quite insightful and will certainly be helpful in continuing to improve the class next year.

"The most powerful lessons I learned this year were about relationships and emotions. The way I have grown this year is I have become more confident and I have grown a lot of self love." - 8th grade mentee

"I think the most powerful lesson was dating abuse because we are all in a stage where we can go through dating abuse and its good to know more about dating and understanding what to do if we are ever in that position." - 7th grade mentee 

"I have grown this year because I learned to speak up for myself even more and am able to say something when there’s a problem or bad situation. I can improve by being more social and sometimes even getting out of my comfort zone. I can offer the world my perseverance." - 8th grade mentee

It was certainly bittersweet ending the year after classes on Wednesday. Fortunately we were able to celebrate and send everyone off with bang by having our H.S. graduation and 8th grade continuation ceremonies. During the H.S. graduation on Wednesday night, two of our mentor leaders were asked to speak and did an excellent job not only being humorous and fun, but also by providing thoughtful advice and goals for their classmates. During our 8th grade continuation ceremonies, two of our 8th grade mentees also won awards for Best Math Student and Best History Student for their entire grades. It was just so cool to see these hardworking and talented YESS mentors and mentees being celebrated for all their efforts this year. I was very proud of all of them and certainly look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the years to come. 

After our continuation ceremonies on Thursday, students left for the rest of the day and staff began the checkout and clean up process. This continued into Friday as teachers packed up their rooms, posted final grades, and began getting things in place for the fall. Although everyone is excited for summer break, I will certainly miss the students and will be excited to see them again in a few short months.

On that note, I just wanted to say thank you to all of our students, parents, fellow WLA teachers and staff, and of course my colleagues at the YESS Institute for helping make this year such a successful and exciting one. I look forward to continuing our work in the fall. But until then...have a fun and relaxing summer everyone! -Ben

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: May 21st - 25th

A YESS student giving out McDonald's
to a homeless man at Sunken Gardens Park

This past week was a busy one as our high school students took their final exams and finished the semester!

Our classes were very light this past week as seniors were already finished and our middle school students were away during Explore week. That said, our high school students were given each day to either work on their Stand Up project or study for their other finals. Many students chose to do one last grade check before reviewing their coursework for their other classes on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday were work days with most students finishing up before their presentations on Thursday and Friday.

Comic strip about drug and alcohol abuse
submitted by two YESS mentors.

When it came to the final projects and what the students were able to accomplish, to say I was impressed would be an understatement. Many students not only chose interesting and relevant social justice topics, but several went above and beyond to actually implement their proposed solutions to these issues. From interviewing local veterinarians for their perspective on animal rights to giving out McDonald's to the homeless - it was excellent to see some proposed solutions put into action.

Outside view of info graphic on
human trafficking submitted by a YESS mentor.

With this project, it was important that students chose a topic that they personally felt passionate about. Additionally, it was crucial that they were able to decide for themselves how to best present and educate others on their issue. The variation in their final products was really cool - from comic strips about drug and alcohol abuse to several info graphics detailing statistics about human trafficking, students did an excellent job in understanding how to best get their message across and play to their strengths. Included below is an example of students using various mediums to get their message across. A couple of YESS students put together a digital essay about immigration that covers a lot of really good information. Feel free to check it out!

As the final projects and presentations concluded, it was certainly a bittersweet end to the week and to the semester for our high school students. After seeing all of the hard work and effort being put in on their projects, I was very proud to see us end on such a strong note. While students had certainly earned their summer break, it was disappointing to see them go. However, not everyone is finished for the year - as our middle school students are back from their Explore week and will be finishing up with their presentations in the next couple of days. So stay tuned! -Ben

Monday, May 21, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: May 14th - 18th

Hi all! 

We had a productive week as we worked on our Stand Up projects and our seniors wrapped up for the year! 

On Monday, we had our final lesson of the year, Letter to My Graduating Self. In the lesson, students discussed goals, roadblocks, and detours and then were asked to complete a letter to their future selves in which they envision graduating from high school. In the letter, students were asked to visualize a successful version of themselves that they can work towards. We focused on what goals and dreams students want to accomplish over the next several years as well as the challenges and obstacles they may face when working towards them. The idea is for students to read these letters when they graduate and reflect on how much they've grown during their time in middle and high school. 

Tuesday we had students check their grades and then we discussed the Stand Up Project requirements in more detail, along with the final exam schedules and plans for the following week. Students had their topics set but it was important to review the requirements for their presentations, reflections, and final product. 

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we spent our class time working on our Stand Up Projects. With no middle school students next week as they will be completing their Explore courses, I wanted to give them as much time as possible to work in class. Additionally, with our seniors having their last day on Friday, we wanted to give them as much time to work as well. Seniors were able to take advantage of the time and presented their projects on Friday. It was good to see some diversity with the projects already - some students interviewed and recorded conversations with a local veterinarian to help with potential solutions for animal rights, others created a small school fundraiser to raise money for food that could be distributed to the homeless. Another student spoke about the importance of self empowerment and how to motivate young people to be agents of change. Overall, we saw some strong solutions and diverse ideas that attempt to tackle various social justice issues. I am very much looking forward to seeing what the rest of our HS and MS students come up with! Finals for HS are next week and then we will have one last week with MS students! Stay tuned! -Ben

Hola a todos
Tuvimos una semana productiva cuando los alumnos trabajaban en sus proyectos y los del último año terminaron.

El lunes, tuvimos la último lección para el año, la carta a mi cuando termino. En la lección, los alumnos platicaron sobre sus metas, barricadas, y desavios y luego tenían que escribir una carta a si mismo del futuro cuando terminaran con high school. En la carta, los alumnos tenían que imaginar un escenario de ser exitoso que podrán trabajar para este imagen. Enfoquemos en las metas y sueños que tenían y los retos y obstáculos que hay cuando están trabajando a sus metas. La idea es que los alumnos leyeran sus cartas cuando terminaran y reflejarse en el crecimiento.
En martes los alumnos revisaran sus calificaciones y platicaremos sobre los requisitos del proyecto Stand Up con más detalles, y también el horario y los planes hasta el fin del año escolar. Los alumnos tenían sus temas pero fue importante de revisar los requisitos para presentar, sus papeles de reflexión, y todo el producto final.

La demás de la semana fue para trabajar en los proyectos. Trabajamos duro porque los alumnos de middle school están en sus clases Explore y los del último año no asistan despues de viernes. Los del último año presentaron sus proyectos en viernes. A mi, me gustaba ver la diversidad en los proyectos, y que algunos alumnos hacen entrevistas con una veterinaria para ayudar con soluciones contra el abuso de animales, otros hacen un recaudo de fondos para agarrar comida para el homeless. Otro habló sobre la importancia de empoderarse y motivar los jóvenes de ser agentes de cambio. De todos modos he visto soluciones fuertes y ideas diversos para resolver asuntos de justicia social. Estoy emocionado de ver los demás proyectos en la próximas semana de High School y de Middle School en la última semana. Nos Vemos-Ben

Monday, May 14, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: May 7 - 11

Hi all! 

Wow! Last week was such a whirlwind here at West Leadership Academy. We dove into our Stand Up projects, completed lessons on Roadblocks and Detours, and had our Year End Event at the Broncos Stadium! 

On Monday, students selected two social justice topics and were asked to identify the cause of the problem, something that is currently being done to solve it, and something they could possibly do to help. We reviewed and modeled various examples on topics such as homelessness and gentrification that could provide a template for them to implement for their Stand Up project.

Tuesday was spent checking grades and then getting our topics finalized. Basic information was transferred into a Google Doc for each student. The docs will be used for ongoing research and exploration. Students then shared their with me and I provided each student with a link or two about their topics that I found beforehand. It is important when doing a project over current issues that they are using the right information and facts from the get go. Several students were interested in the same topics but the overall actual plans and product proposals varied quite a bit which is exciting.

Wednesday and Thursday we dedicated our class time reviewing Goals, Wants, and Needs from last week as well as introducing Roadblocks and Detours. Students shared their goals with each other as well as roadblocks they have or may face. From there we discussed how to plan ahead for these roadblocks in order to create detours. By planning and creating a detour we can stay on our path and still reach our goals without compromising or settling. It is always great to have these conversations about goals and hear the students' hopes and dreams. It is even better when we get a chance to map out these dreams by breaking them down, putting them into steps with dates, and making them even more of a possibility. 

Wednesday night was also the YESS Year End Event! YESS students from West Leadership Academy, North, Lincoln, Adams City, and Westminster high schools celebrated their achievements from this past year by having an event at Mile High Stadium! The event was a great success. From the stadium tours and meeting with Miles and Broncos player Zach Kerr to the raffle, awards ceremony, and scholarships - students and families had an excellent time celebrating all of the hard work put forth this year. Our four speakers from WLA who had a role in the ceremony all did such an excellent job, particularly our Mentor and Mentee speakers who practiced and got over their nerves to give testimonials about the power of the YESS program. I was so proud of them. The biggest news of the night came during the scholarship ceremony as both of our YESS Mentor Leaders received scholarships! One of our students, Paola Rodriguez showed that hard work and humility take you far as she received YESS' largest scholarship of the night. As our West community can attest, Paola is incredibly deserving of the award and we are all excited to see what great things she accomplishes in the future. It was an honor to be part of such an inspiring event and to celebrate our YESS students as one big community. What a night! 

On Friday, we had a community day and had some fun. It was service learning in the morning so throughout the West campus students and teachers were working on cleaning up the neighborhood and Sunken Gardens. After a tiring morning, we decided to spend our class time by playing a few Kahoot! games and having a free day. Students enjoyed the silly trivia game I created and we ended the week on a fun and positive note. It was well deserved to say the least. 

With only three weeks left of school we expect each week to be just as busy as this past one. Up next will be continued work on our Stand Up projects and helping each other prepare for finals! Until next time! -Ben 

Hola a Todos.

Wow! La semana pasada fue un torbellino de actividad aquí en West Leadership Academy. Trabajamos con ganas en los proyectos “Stand up”, tuvimos lecciones sobre obstáculos en la vida, y tuvimos el evento del fin de año en el estadio de los Broncos.

El lunes los alumnos seleccionaron dos temas de justicia social y tenían que identificar algún causa del problema, algo que se está haciendo a resolverlo, y algo que podía hacer para ayudar. Revisamos y modelamos ejemplos varios de temas como estar sin hogar y aburguesamiento que podía proveer plantilla para usar en su proyecto final.

El martes revisamos calificaciones y finalizamos las temas para el proyecto. Ellos me dieron la información básica a cualquier alumno por medio de Google Doc. El Google Doc seria usado para investigacion y exploracion. Los alumnos recibieron sitios de web y más sobre sus temas que encontré antes. Es importante cuando hacer un proyecto sobre temas de ahora que tiene datos e información correcto desde un principio. Los alumnos fueron interesados en las mismas temas pero los planes fueron varios y a mi es interesante. 

En miércoles y jueves dedicamos el tiempo de revisar la tema de metas, deseos, y necesidades de la semana pasada y también introducir los obstáculos. Los alumnos compartieron sus metas entre ellos y también los obstáculos que se puede parar la habilidad de agarrar las metas. Hablamos sobre planear cuando hay obstáculos de hacer desvio. Cuando planeamos y hacemos desvios podemos estar en el mismo camino y agarrar las metas sin perderse. Siempre me gusta tener estas pláticas sobre las metas y hablar sobre esperanzas y sueños. Es mejor cuando podemos poner estos sueños en papel, dar pasos para agarrar los sueños, poner fechas con los pasos, y hacer los sueños más posible.

La noche de miércoles también fue el último evento del año escolar para YESS. Los alumnos de YESS de West Leadership Academy, y los High Schools de North, Lincoln, Adams City, y Westminster celebraron sus éxitos de este año escolar por tener el evento en Mile High Stadium. Este evento fue un gran éxito. De los tours del estadio, conocer a Miles y el jugador de los Broncos Zach Kerr hasta la rifa, los premios, y las becas, los alumnos y sus familias tenían un tiempo excelente celebrando todo el trabajo duro que hicimos este año pasado. Nuestros cuatro oradores de WLA quien tenían rol en el evento hicieron un buen trabajo, particularmente el orador Mento y también su protegido quien ensayaron y se mejoraron de sus nervios para dar un buen testimonio sobre el poder de nuestra programa. Estoy muy orgullosos de ellos. Las noticias más grandes fue que los dos líderes de mentores recibieron becas. Uno de ellos, Paola Rodríguez mostró que el trabajo duro y humildad puede ayudar mucho y ella recibió la beca de YESS mas grande. Como nuestra comunidad puede decir, Paola merece mucho este beca y estamos emocionados de ver las grandes cosas que ella podía hacer en el futuro. Fue un honor de ser parte de este evento que inspira y celebrar con nuestros alumnos de YESS como un gran comunidad. Que buen noche!

En Viernes tuvimos un dia de comunidad y algún diversión. Fue dia de servicio en la mañana entonces los alumnos y maestros de todo el West Campus fueron a trabajar en limpiar el barrio y Sunken Gardens. Después de trabajar duro, decidimos de usar el clase por jugar los juegos de Kahoot! y tener una dia libre. Terminamos la semana positivamente. Fue merecido por su trabajo durante de la semana.

Con nomas tres semanas del año escolar tenemos la expectativa que cada semana seria tan ocupada de la semana pasada. Aproximadamente continuamos a trabajar el los proyectos y ayudar todos con sus finales. Hasta Próximo!-Ben

Monday, May 7, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: April 30th - May 4th

Hi all! 

Another busy week here at West as we got through a couple important lessons and introduced our Stand Up Project! 

On Monday, the class checked their grades and listed them on their grade tracker. From there they completed the YoBD surveys and got this submitted. Additionally, students were taught the Tools You Can Use lesson in which we went through and discussed various resources to help us with our problems such as Safe2TellColorado and the Good Samaritan Law. Students were surprised that the law existed in the first place and after discussing several scenarios, they began to see how it is important and could be helpful. 

On Tuesday, students had a general study hall and homework day. Wednesday we picked right back up and had our lesson on Goals, Wants, and Needs. Students were taught about the various types of goals: micro, short, mid, and long term. They were also taught about the differences between wants and needs and how achieving short and mid term goals we can eventually reach our long term hopes and dreams. This lesson and the conversation as well as action plans to reach out goals continued into Thursday as well.  

Thursday the class had an opportunity to finish up our conversations on Goals, Wants, and Needs. From there we moved onto our discussion and lesson on Budgeting 101. Students went over the 50-20-30 rule and the difference between fixed expenses, flexible spending, and savings and investments. Students created various financial goals and broke down how to achieve them using the 50-20-30 formula. 

On Friday the class was introduced to the Stand Up Project. We went through and discussed various social justice topics and answered any questions the students had about a particular issue. Students showed interest in a wide variety of topics which is good to see. The plan for Monday is to have students identify two or more topics of interest, write down the cause and solutions to the problem, and then come to an agreement about how to address it within the context of our project. We are looking forward to dedicating as much time as we can to these projects in the coming weeks. Stay tuned! -Ben

Monday, April 30, 2018

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: April 23rd - 27th

Hi all! 

Last week was a busy one with our YESS Breakfast as well as our lessons about the War on Drugs. 

On Monday, the class checked their grades. As with last week, if they had a grade of a C or lower, they were to come up with a plan on how to fix it. As we near the end of the semester, these plans and their execution will become increasingly important. Additionally on Monday we also started the War on Drugs unit by going over the general timeline of marijuana leading up to today's policies. Students were introduced to some new vocabulary and we had discussions as well as provided examples prior to diving too far in. 

On Tuesday, students were given an article about the history of the War on Drugs that gave them a better understanding of the timeline and context of what occurred. Students primarily focused on how marginalized communities were the target of many drug laws and the various consequences that stemmed from these policies. 

Wednesday we had our YESS Breakfast fundraiser which was a great success! I was fortunate to sit with various administrators from West and talk about the program while also having the help of 5 of my YESS students. Our Mentor Leaders and a couple additional students helped out at the event and did an excellent job being strong representatives of the program. I was really proud of their willingness to help out and get involved. 

After Wednesday's breakfast, the class dove back into the content and we showed various clips from the documentary, 13th, while having conversations about the War on Drugs and its effects on society today. We continued this review and conversations on Thursday as well by also sharing statistics that we found from the DEA and Drug Policy Alliance websites. Students were surprised to see the number of arrests, the costs associated with fighting the drug war, and how drugs are perceived in different parts of the country. Overall I was very pleased with the robust conversations we had and how engaged students were in the content. 

School was out on Friday at WLA. The day was originally intended to be a professional development day with additional culturally responsive training. However, due to the teacher walkout, teachers were given the opportunity to plan which I took advantage of as we gear up for the final push of the year! Another a good week in the books, stay tuned for next week as we near the end of our curriculum and approach the final Stand Up Project! -Ben

Hola a todos!

La semana pasada fue ocupada con el desayuno de YESS, un recaudación de fondos, y los lecciones sobre la guerra contra drogas.

En lunes la clase revisaron sus calificaciones. Como la semana pasada, si tenían un C o peor, tenían que hacer un plan para mejorarlo. Como estamos casi al fin de semestre, estos planes serían más importante. También en lunes empezamos la tema de la guerra contra drogas y empezamos de hablar sobre la historia de marihuana del pasado hasta ahora. Los alumnos aprendieron vocabulario nuevo y platicamos sobre ejemplos antes de continuar.
En martes los alumnos leyeron un artículo sobre la guerra contra drogas que dio un mejor entendimiento del tiempo y contexto de lo que pasó. Los alumnos se enfocaron en cómo los comunidades marginalizados eran blancos de acosto con los leyes de drogas y las consecuencias que afectan la comunidad.

El miércoles tuvimos el recaudacion de fondos para YESS con el desayuno, que fue un gran éxito. Fue afortunado de asistir con algunos directores de WLA y hablar sobre la programa y tambien 5 de nuestros alumnos ayudaban a servir. Los alumnos líderes y otros alumnos nos ayudaban y hicieron un trabajo excelente de representar la programa. Estoy orgulloso de su disposición de ayudar e involucrarse.

Después del desayuno hubo clase. Usamos el tiempo para mostrar partes del documentario, 13th, y platicamos sobre la guerra contra drogas y sus afectos a la sociedad hoy. Continuamos la plática y revisar la materia en jueves también compartimos estadísticas que encontramos de los sitios de la DEA y Drug Policy Alliance. Los alumnos fueron sorprendidos de ver los detenciones, los costos de la guerra contra drogas, y como las drogas están percibiendo en las áreas diferentes del país. De todos modos, estoy orgulloso con las pláticas grandes tuvimos y cómo los alumnos participaban en la tema.

No hubieron clases en el viernes pasado. Originalmente, el dia fue diseñado de ser un día de desarrollo para los maestros con capacitación de cultura. Sin embargo, por medio de la huelga de los maestros, los directores nos dieron de planear par el fin del año escolar. Me aproveche del tiempo para terminar el año exitosamente. Fue otra semana bien, manténgase informado cuando terminamos y tendremos el proyecto final! -Ben

West Leadership Weekly Round Up: August 13th - 17th

Snow Mountain Ranch at YMCA of the Rockies Hi all! We are back for another school year here at West Leadership Academy! Over the...