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Mia Henry, Daphne Bradford, Trestan Fairweather
Crenshaw Students Headed to Democratic National Convention
“I do not want to be a traditional teacher,” declared non-profit organizer and educator, Daphne Bradford.
“I will never be that. I don’t teach to a test, I teach to the real world…”
With that mindset, Bradford, a former entertainment industry insider, has taken the first group of digital media students at Crenshaw High School all the way to the White House. They’ve written a book about their experience, Journey to the White House: An Educational Blueprint for Change in Action. And, two of them, 17-year-old Trestan Fairweather and 18-year-old Mia Henry are headed to the Democratic National Convention in September where they, according to Bradford, are hoping to meet President Barack Obama and show him what his newly proposed educational policies can produce.
In 2010 Obama unveiled his plan to reform the No Child Left Behind legislation put in place by the Bush administration before him. Critics of that law said it created an atmosphere where teachers focused only on high standardized test scores, so their schools would not face punishments like decreased funding and school closures. Instead of punishments, Obama said he wants improve the school system through innovative teaching techniques, assessing students according to their individual needs and providing incentives for higher achievement.
Said Bradford, that’s exactly what the digital media program is about.
“There’s some good innovative technology training going on at Crenshaw High,” she explained.
“And, through that, these kids are learning more than just digital media. They’re improving their English and math skills and they are learning how to be productive citizens.”
Fairweather and Henry, who graduated this past June, signed up for the program as ninth graders.
“For me when the class started, because we didn’t start working on the computers (right away), I was like, ‘well this class is going to be boring,’” Henry recalled.
“Because I like working on computers and when they weren’t there I was… (sighs heavily). When the computers came we started going through the book and actually working on the computers. It was [better] because I felt more comfortable working with the computers because I’m a hands on (learner).”
Software for the course included iLife (which consists of iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, etc.)
As their skills improved, the students were called upon by organizations to provide media coverage for different events. One of their major partners was Organizing for America, a community-organizing project of the Democratic National Committee.
“When we started getting involved in the political stuff with OFA we were their go to digital people,” said Fairweather, who will turn 18 one day before the convention.
“We would go to the events that they asked us to and we would film. We would (also) take lots of pictures…”
“The one I did was for Women for the President,” said Henry.
“They asked me to take pictures for an event and I was kind of nervous. I guess with me being so nervous and with [Bradford] saying, ‘you can do it,’ my pictures came out great. And so, Ms. Bradford gave me a picture [from the website with a photo credit] that I took. I was like, ‘whoa like, that’s my name, my picture. It felt great.”
Added Bradford, “It’s been really rewarding when you can encourage them to do something like this and then it actually happens. It was the best learning experience of their lifetime. It was very encouraging because not only… the start out was a digital media project in class… they learned a lot about government. They learned a lot about collaborating.”
The result: Fairweather was the first 11th grader to intern at ABC 7. He’s on his way to Cal Poly Pomona in the fall he said, to study botany (he wants to be a pharmacist). Henry will go to Cal State Dominguez to study criminal justice (she wants to be a homicide detective). They and the other students are all certified in the digital media software.
“That’s what needs to happen in education,” said Bradford, who credits much of the program’s success to Obama’s plans for education.
“Because we have a 21st century president, Barack Obama, I was able to justify why I was doing it because this is what he wanted… to bring 21st technology into the classroom, so every kid could be ready for college and career.”
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