Students Successfully Tackling Real-World Problems, Even in Distance Learning
If last year showed us anything, it’s that our country is volatile and easily compromised when our health, democracy, civil rights, justice system and scientific and environmental standards are threatened. There are cries of “something must be done to safeguard our future,” but few proactive solutions are offered.
We the People High School, a Long Beach charter school, is tackling these threats head on by cultivating the next generation of leaders through a unique curriculum that provides students the knowledge, practice and tools to make change in their communities — and beyond. The school’s motto is “envision, design, create a better world,” and the goal is to graduate students who will not only be able to identify problems, but find and implement solutions.
Despite We the People’s first year being virtual only due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on in-class learning, Executive Director and Principal Anita Ravi said it’s been a success. “We are looking forward to welcoming new students in the fall,” she added, noting that enrollment for fall 2021 begins in January.
“At We the People, we value the new ‘three Rs’: relationships, relevance and rigor,” Ravi said. “Now more than ever, students need to have the time and space to develop relationships with each other and with their teachers where they are known and feel supported. They deserve an education that focuses on relevant issues that they face every day, like climate change and racial injustice. And they deserve a rigorous curriculum that sets them up for success in life as citizens and as future college graduates.”
This year so far, the schools’ inaugural class of 9th graders have learned about:
- The impact overfishing on the coastline and how the wetlands in Long Beach benefit the region in Environmental Science class;
- The history of voting rights and the role of political parties and interest groups through the lens of the 2020 election cycle in Civics class;
- Filmmaking and storytelling, turning personal narratives into short film scripts that they will pitch to film industry experts in their Film and Media Studies class, and
- The intersection of identity and race through reading graphic novels and the history of racial strife in Los Angeles through the book “Twilight Los Angeles: 1992,” a series of monologues about the Rodney King case and the uprising that followed in English class.
Once at capacity, We the People will serve 360 students in grades 9-12. In addition to meeting California’s A-G requirements, We the People’s coursework utilizes the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for its entire curriculum. The goals relate to specific actions and milestones around solving 17 global challenges by 2030. The goals include: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities and climate action. These goals will figure prominently into the special projects and internship opportunities that students will have in their junior and senior years.
The founding staff and Board of We the People reflect the diversity of the City of Long Beach, which was an intentional part of the school’s design. “It is important that our students see themselves and their histories represented in school curriculum,” says WTP Board Chair Khemara Has. Has grew up in Long Beach after arriving here with her family from Cambodia as refugees. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I really learned about my own history and the history and literature of other minority groups. We the People, by virtue of its name and mission statement, aims to change that. And it’s about time.”
We the People High School is one of 24 charter schools authorized by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. It is located on Long Beach Boulevard near Pacific Coast Highway on the education innovation campus that includes another charter high school and Centro Cha, Inc., a nonprofit that serves low-income Latino/a families in Long Beach.
The school is currently offering virtual family information sessions. To learn more, sign up for an information session or apply for the 2021 school year, visit www.wethepeopleps.org.
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