Why did you select this student?
By Monica Sanchez
As a teacher at Rose City Continuation High School, I believe the “Every Student Succeeding” award should be presented to Iana Samuel this year due to her personal and academic growth, as well as the mental obstacles she has overcome. Iana first arrived to RCHS as a junior one year and a half ago with fifty credits and a GPA under 1.0. She had been in multiple fights at John Muir High School and had severe attendance issues. Upon her arrival at Rose City, her teachers reported that she chose to sit in the center front seat of her classes. She was timid then and afraid to speak up, but it was apparent that she was determined to learn. She appeared quiet and tough. She confided in several staff members that being from a large, broken family with a lot of siblings has been difficult for her. During that first week of school, Iana explained that she wanted to be a better example for her younger sister, a freshman in high school and how she didn’t want her sister to make the same mistakes she did. Iana had this innate desire to better herself, and for that reason, she changed her schedule after the first week of classes so she could join the Speech and Debate class in order to be a member of the debate team, a community we have cultivated that motivates students to come to school, improve, and thrive. After a few weeks of participating in the Speech and Debate class, Iana began to speak, and the staff noticed that fear shed off her skin. They were ecstatic to see the colorful phoenix that rose. She felt encouraged and made it known that she now enjoyed coming to school every day. She became a positive influence on others and encouraged others’ attendance to change for the better as well. Her confidence drastically improved, which caused her grades to do the same in all her classes. When she became more comfortable with us, she shared the truth of her past. The revelation of who she is now made it nearly impossible for her to believe that she actually had a short temper and engaged in physical fights with others. Speech and Debate changed her perspective and showed her how language can hold power and steer people away from negative convictions or resolutions. She knows that her words have value now, and she lifted those words up to advocate for herself and teach others how to do the same. She was elected President of the debate team for this reason. Words are now everything to Iana, which the staff often sees whenever they walk in during a mock debate and see her slam her linguistic talent on a basket of fallacies and loopholes as she asks, “How can we believe China will effectively participate in trade cooperation with the United States if the evidence in your first Luft 15 card states that China cheats?” I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that Iana smiles and feels motivated to improve even further than she already has whenever she knows she destroys an opposing team’s argument with one sentence.
Ever since she arrived at Rose City High School, Iana’s grades consist of A’s and B’s, and her GPA for last quarter was a 3.77. This huge accomplishment is due to our amazing staff and caring teachers, who she regularly visits during tutoring hours in the morning. Whenever she was enrolled in English classes or Speech and Debate here, she always reached for an A and took it due to a high level of discipline that has developed within her as a result of her active participation on the debate team in and outside of school. Iana’s dedication to this team is incredible. Not only does she have one hundred percent attendance and participation in all of our tournaments, but she also stays after school to help with fundraising so that the team can compete in the National Debate Tournament at UC Berkeley in February. Recently, about five days ago in fact, Iana’s brother was shot and killed. She came to class on the day she discovered this devastating news not only due to shock but because Speech and Debate is important to her. She knew we had an important guest coming this week to observe the debate team, and despite this tragedy, she wanted to be prepared and in the loop about what was happening. She took one day off for her brother’s funeral and came back the very next day to ensure that the team presented themselves well and performed at their very best. Every day, Iana surprises the staff with her determination and hard work that have put her on the pathway to success.
Describe how an ACSA member has contributed to this student’s success, and the practices or programs the entire supporting team utilized which contributed to the student’s success.
The success of Iana Samuels can be attributed to many factors. The most important factor is the support of our administrator, Brian Stanley. Mr. Stanley exemplified leadership by supporting the staff’s vision to develop a program that would help raise the academic achievement amongst our student population. He has created an environment where the voices of students, teachers, and staff are valued and welcome. When the idea of a Speech and Debate team was proposed, Mr. Stanley was open to this novel way of promoting achievement. As a leader, Mr. Stanley has been innovative and on the cutting edge of evidence-based research related to education. Rather than just going along with the traditional way of teaching major concepts, Mr. Stanley considered and supported the positive effects of the Speech and Debate class on achievement for students in urban environments.
“A University of Missouri study found that after one year in a UDL, debaters attended school more frequently, improved their GPAs by 10%, decreased risky behaviors, and achieved a 25% increase in literacy scores relative to a non-debating control group.” (http://www.lamdl.org/?page_id=81)
In addition, Mr. Stanley has spearheaded and implemented a collaborative working relationship amongst the staff, which has benefited the school and students. Every Tuesday, teachers work together to create integrated lessons or projects in the CEO academy. On Wednesdays, teachers and support staff come together to discuss students that are in need of more support outside the classroom. This partnership amongst the staff has allowed teachers to be aware of Iana’s progress and others and make adjustments in curriculum, inform her of career opportunities, and provide work-internships. Opportunities for staff engagement has allowed the school to provide an environment where students feel they are a part of a community that cares for them in every way. Despite the demands of his schedule, Mr. Stanley is very hands-on and is visible to staff and students. Through words of affirmation, visibility at debates, concern and genuine interest about her life, Mr. Stanley has demonstrated what it means to be a selfless leader.