Student engagement and RPS 205 academies: A no-brainer

The benefit of the high school academy concept is obvious when it comes to college and career preparation. But Michael Mendoza pointed out another advantage of academies in the Rockford Public Schools: being around people who like the things you like.

Mendoza, who graduated from Jefferson High School last month, spoke at the Academy Awards Dinner June 3 at Riverfront Museum Park. Mendoza was in the Health Sciences Academy at Jefferson. He told about 130 attendees at the dinner that, as a junior, the HS Academy led him to engage in school, get better grades and build relationships with people of similar interests.

Michael Mendoza graduated from Jefferson High School last month. He spoke about how the Health Sciences Academy changed his life.

Michael Mendoza graduated from Jefferson High School last month. He spoke about how the Health Sciences Academy changed his life.

He recalled a trip to the cadaver lab at Northern Illinois University.

“It feels good to be around these people. You can’t tell everyone you’re holding a brain and they’ll think it’s cool, you know?” Mendoza, who spoke eloquently with no notes, received a lot of laughs and a standing ovation when he was done.

Mendoza’s comments came during a ceremony in which two community volunteers, a school project, a teacher and a community organization were honored. A total of 69 people and organizations were nominated. The Academy Awards recognize exemplary service and thank staff and volunteers in the RPS 205 college and career academies.

The winners were:

Council Member of the Year—Chad Moe, Rockford Fire Department

A nominator said Moe has never turned down a request to meet a teacher’s need. “A joke in the Human and Public Services Academy is that Chad can weave fire safety messages into any content area. We’ve tested him and found this true.”

Academy Support Team Member of the Year—Sam Basile, Trekk

Basile helped Auburn High School Graphic Arts students create an advanced conceptual ad campaign for the Business, Arts, Modern World Languages and Information Technology Academy (BAMIT), including graphic design elements such as a custom augmented reality code, a QR code and design layouts for promotional materials.

Project of the Year–Jefferson Freshman Academy Quality of Life Project

Students met throughout the year with Midway Village staff to plan a three-day field experience for freshmen that would explore the quality of life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a cross-curricular project that met academic standards for content-area teachers.

Academy Staff of the Year—William Rose, BAMIT Academy team leader, business and social studies teacher at East High School

Rose launched a new course, Virtual Enterprise, at East. It is not unusual for his students to be in class and working before the bell has rung to start class. He has taken students on field trips, to events and competitions to expose them to opportunities outside the classroom.

Community Organization of the Year—Rockford First

Volunteers from the church brought hundreds of dollars of media equipment to Guilford High School to transform the library into a media studio, provided training space for Youth Court, and helped transition special needs students to meaningful post-graduation jobs.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.