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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Fifth-graders at the Kenwood Leadership Academy in Cedar Rapids led Iowa’s top educator around their school Tuesday, telling her about their favorite classes, activities and how they’re learning about being leaders.
The visit was part of Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo’s spring school tour, which focuses this year on work-based learning and hands-on, real-world experiences.
Lebo said she is reviewing examples of learning that integrates technical and academic skills that will help students make decisions about their future careers.
Makayla Lehman, 10, Mocca Howard, 11, and Anthony McCoy, 11, led the tour with notes they had written and rehearsed.
The Cedar Rapids Community School District is working to bolster innovative programming and equity, particularly in its magnet school programs and at Hoover Elementary School, a designated community school with a large immigrant population.
The district has a goal of reducing gaps in reading and math by 20 percent across all student demographic groups by June 2022 and to increase the graduation rate by 10 percent.
Kenwood Principal David Brandon said a recent survey showed 95 percent of families at Kenwood feel supported, valued and heard by their child’s teachers. The survey was completed by 186 out of the school’s 220 families.
“We’re thinking not just about academics but about developing the whole child,” Brandon said.
Kenwood’s mission statement is to see, inspire and empower students to be lifelong learners and leaders.
Mocca said that is why she feels like she can choose what she wants to do someday — which is a graphic designer.
Anthony said he likes having a voice at Kenwood and that he’s learning how to work in teams.
Before the pandemic, Makayla enjoyed speaking with business leaders about the seven habits of highly effective people, like beginning with the end in mind and putting first things first.
Following her tour at Kenwood, Lebo visited Iowa BIG’s campus in the NewBo area in Cedar Rapids, where high school students talked about their project-based learning.
Prairie High School seniors Callie Brown, 18, and Alexus Gause, 17, introduced the projects they’re spearheading that focus on social justice.
Brown is creating a documentary about youth gun violence in Cedar Rapids, which she said is happening so often it sometimes flies under the radar.
Gause hosts a podcast called “Power and Peace,” where she talks issues like police brutality and issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.
Gause said Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman has agreed to be a guest on the podcast at the end of April to talk about police brutality.
Other projects Iowa BIG students are working on include welding benches to place in Czech Village, studying bacteria and collecting luggage to donate to foster children.
“When I listen to you all doing such different projects and being so passionate about it, I think every kid should have the same opportunity,” Lebo said.
Gause said on her first day at Iowa BIG, she was asked to make a list of what she’s passionate about. It was tough.
Today, she said she could “write a book” on what she’s passionate about because of everything she’s gotten to explore at Iowa BIG.
Schools and communities need to come together to make work-based learning a possibility at all Iowa schools, Lebo said.
“I want every school to do what you do, and it won’t all look the same,” Lebo said.
Lebo also was to tour programs in the LInn-Mar and Marion school districts.
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