Imagine being just 14 years old and experiencing the process of becoming an agent of change by identifying and finding solutions to a critical, global issue that you are passionate about. Moreover, imagine being 14, and learning that this type of work is so important that it is embedded in your high school curriculum in which you will receive a grade. This isn't referencing the extracurricular volunteer or service work done in your free time. Rather, this challenge requires a daily focus that is a core component of what makes Cushman High School’s programming so different and gives Cushman students such an advantage moving forward into college and beyond! What is more important than thinking outwardly and improving the lives of others and our world?
The Society & Me Challenge Seminar (SAM) is a required course for all Cushman high school students. Its purpose is to have students identify and analyze major issues of our time, choose one they wish to tackle independently and deliver solutions that positively impact the society at large. This work inspires our students to find and share their voices on important timely issues … and ultimately bring about change.
Aside from their independent research, students listen to college lectures and guest speakers who are invited to campus. The SAM teachers ensure that students have the tools and skills necessary to conduct interviews with experts in the field, create a problem statement, and to be an influencer of change through identifying solutions. Topics range from hunger, poverty, migration, and climate change to human trafficking, body image, teenage mental health and gender identification. The end result is a more informed and engaged teenager who has produced a tangible platform (a blog, a call to action video, a website, etc.) that demonstrates how he/she can make a difference!
This is the 21st century mindset that college and universities, as well as employers, are looking for in applicants. Colleges want individuals who know how to think critically, problem solve, develop solutions to complex problems, and articulate them with confidence and poise. Cushman High School empowers its students by developing in them the skills needed to identify a topic, pose questions, research, analyze and effectively communicate ideas and solutions.
After watching the second annual SAM Showcase with the close of the 2017-18 school year, there is no doubt in my mind of how productive and meaningful the SAM Challenge truly is for our students and our society. Their presentations are more than compelling; They are powerful mechanisms for awareness, insight and change. Congratulations to Cushman’s agents of change. For more information about Cushman High School and SAM projects, visit:www.cushmanschool.org.
- Arvi Balseiro