Youth Forward scholarship summer 2016 – Inspiring Children for the Future

Name: Jonathan Weiss
From: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grade: 12
School: William Penn Charter School
Votes: 0

I am often told that I am lucky to have such a great education at my school, and
as I have come to appreciate this to a greater extent, I began
seeking opportunities to help students less fortunate than I am. This
past spring, I contacted Eli Wachs, the founder of High School
HeroesX, and initiated Penn Charter’s involvement in his service
project. This organization is dedicated to solving urban issues and
attempting to lower the high school dropout rate in Philadelphia. We
were partnered with the Gesu School, which had recently been
expanding its computer and technology program. I knew that many
students at my school are passionate about this field, so I met with
our school’s science and innovation club to recruit students who
could teach small classes over the summer with me. Many of the club
members, who ranged from freshmen to seniors, were interested, and
six of us were able to make the commitment to teach a weekly class
about basic coding and computer literacy to fourth and fifth graders
in the school’s summer enrichment camp.

All of my group members already had busy schedules over the summer, so I
coordinated a different day each week that was best for us and the
Gesu School. Once we were in the classroom, our group successfully
kept the students engaged, and we incorporated effective teaching
skills that were developmentally appropriate for the young children.
Although our first class was productive, we experienced how difficult
it is to keep a class of twelve energetic children seated and
focused. In response, I encouraged my group to debrief after each
class to discuss the methods we utilized, both effective and
ineffective, in an attempt to plan and improve for the next week. My
biggest challenge was finding the balance of assertiveness in order
to keep the students under control while making sure they were
enjoying what they were learning about computers.

A large
part of my leadership in this project began with my initiative to
bring together two passionate groups of students to contribute to the
important cause of education. Service and the S.T.E.M. fields are
significant and meaningful in my school and in Philadelphia, so
arranging for my classmates to use science in the service setting to
teach younger students is gratifying for me. Our work as a group this
summer was no small dedication and required much effort in organizing
logistics and planning each class. I kept our group informed,
motivated, and confident that our work each week could be better than
that of the previous week. Nevertheless, I could not have followed
through with this project without the help of my classmates. They
have since helped me submit an abstract of our work to the High
School HeroesX Philadelphia Education Challenge from which we won a
$1400 grant that we will use to purchase new equipment for several
less privileged schools’ science programs.

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