A group of about 50 University Heights Middle School students spent their day on Thursday, April 23 hiking Sycamore Canyon and learning about the plants and animals there as part of the SISTERS program – Success in Science and Technology: Engagement with Role Models. The girls got a chance to interact with a UC Riverside professor as well as the UC Riverside Science Ambassadors. This was just one of many fun and informative interactions the girls have had as they have spent the year exploring science in hands-on activities. They also have spent time in a college laboratory and visited the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. It’s all designed to give young women hands-on experience in STEM fields to encourage them that they can succeed in and pursue careers in these areas. It is hoped that this pilot program soon can be expanded to serve other schools as well.
Programs like this are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Encouraging students to pursue an education in STEM is no easy task, but the UCR students can relate to the young girls and encourage them to purse a career in the STEM field. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.
To read a in-depth article about the program, click here.
Congratulations to the 15 RUSD teens who are among Riversides’ 25 Most Remarkable teens. Our honorees are: Jessica Goehring – Arlington HS, Sydney Azpeitia – Poly HS, Karen Cuautle – Ramona HS, Tracy Doan – Ramona HS, Christine Flores – Ramona HS, Ivett Martinez – Ramona HS, Andy Meza – Ramona HS, Amanda Orantes – Ramona HS, Christopher Paz – Ramona HS, Juliana Tiscareno – Ramona HS, Leslie Vergara – Ramona HS, Nathan Williams – Ramona HS, Asia Suarez – John W. North HS, Connor Tom – John W. North HS, and Hannah Terao – University Heights Middle School. These students will be honored at a special City Council meeting, to be held at 4 PM Tuesday, May 12 at the Council Chambers at City Hall, 3900 Main Street. This program is coordinated by the Riverside Youth Council.
RUSD’s outstanding scholastic achievements make Riverside a location of choicefor parents seeking the best education for their children.
Congratulations to North High School Assistant Principal Rich Davis, who has been named the Riverside County Office of Education’s Certificated Administrator of the Year! Mr. Davis learned of the honor with a surprise visit from Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenn Young on Monday.
Awards like this demonstrate what makes Riverside a location of choice for residents seeking a great education.
Educators of the year are selected by a committee comprised of Riverside County educators—including former honorees—that review nominations, letters of recommendation, and other criteria. Committee members also conduct selected site visits and interviews as part of the awards process.
More than 200 special needs students from across the Riverside Unified School District celebrated Super Bowl Sunday at few days early on Wednesday, Jan. 28 as Poly High School hosted its second annual Super Bowl for Kids event.
This event gave students in kindergarten through sixth grades the opportunity experience the excitement of being part of a high school football team. As students arrived, they ran through a welcoming row of cheerleaders and through the Poly Bear tunnel. The Poly band played the fight song as each student got out on the field, grabbed a football and made a touchdown with help from members of the Poly football team.
And, just like a real game, colorful posters lined the fence near the stands, which were, of course, filled with crowds of cheering fans. Television news crews were on hand to capture all of the action.
Lisa Miller, Special Education Student Advisor at Poly, said the event benefits special needs students by letting them be part of an exciting school activity they might not otherwise be able to participate in. It also helps the high school students learn respect and acceptance of others.
“It puts a smile on my face. It’s just really heartwarming,” noted sophomore quarter back Alec Quintero. “Seeing these kids smile, it’s just a good feeling.”
“This speaks to the spirit of the Poly community and the RUSD community,” added Poly Principal, Dr. Michael Roe.
Miller said Poly is excited to keep the tradition of Super Bowl for Kids going and added that they likely will invite middle and high school students to participate next year.
Events like this truly demonstrates what makes Riverside such a unified city. We are a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.
Longfellow families were treated to blackberries, mangos, tomatoes, onions, eggs, and a bounty of other fresh produce on Wednesday, December 17 as the Kids’ Produce Market came to school. This program, coordinated by Feeding America in conjunction with the RUSD Nutrition Services Department, brings fresh fruits and vegetables to students once a month. It is currently in place at Longfellow and Madison Elementary Schools and will be growing soon. This program allows families living in ‘healthy food deserts” – areas with little access to fresh and healthy food – to get the nutritious fruits and vegetables they need.
Organizations constantly collaborate to identify ways to make Riversiders healthier. In this example, we were able to take advantage of some great programs to improve our kids’ health. Riverside is a healthy community and that makes it a location of choice.
Riverside Unified School District high school students and their parents are invited to attend the Pathways to Higher Education Conference which takes place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at J.W. North High School, 1550 W. Third St., Riverside. Parents and students will see what it takes to get into college and learn about financial aid.
Faculty and staff from Riverside Unified School District are devoted to their students and provide resources necessary for them to succeed, exemplifying Riverside as a unified city. These types of seminars and conferences are designed specifically for students and their parents to ease the transition into college. With a lot of students being the first in their families to move onto college, not every student is given equal or ample advice and instruction. This conference will help bridge the gap of confusion between distraught students and resources to higher education.
The conference will cover what classes students need to take in high school to be eligible for university admissions, writing a successful college entrance essay, financial support, the California Dream Act and guarantee programs at RCC and Cal State San Bernardino. Workshop sessions are intended to answer questions.
Riversiders are brought together among mutual interests to enhance quality of life and accelerate the common good for all through education.
Some students tightened screws on machines they designed. Others programmed computer controls and watched pneumatic rods, conveyor belts and small motors push blocks up 3 inches and over 4 inches on their machines. “It’s not like your average class,” said Kyle Soren, an 18-year-old senior at Riverside’s King High School. “It’s hands-on everything we do. We learn by example.”
Soren and his classmates are in Project Lead the Way, a national advanced, hands-on curriculum for engineering and technical skills. Several Inland high schools participate, but few other high schools have such extensive engineering programs. At King, the project’s 400 students use math to design and build projects. His class created machines using robotics and pneumatics, or compressed air power.
King engineering teacher Mike Martin said the project helps address a national shortage of engineers and technicians while challenging students. He said 90 to 95 percent of his students who took classes in the program for at least three years went on to major in engineering in college.
Riverside’s Hillcrest High School in Alvord Unified School District also plans to start Project Lead the Way with one class in August and more later, Superintendent Sid Salazar said. At King, students designed their machines to lift an object up 3 inches and over 4 inches, “just like you would in a factory,” Martin said. As part of the assignment for the two-week project, students had to use pneumatics for one of the two separate motions and program their machines like robots.
On a recent day, the 24 students in Martin’s fifth-period class built their table-top machines a little bigger than a breadbox in groups of three. All students drew their designs in a notebook and then compared drawings with other group members and combined the elements, explained junior Justine Macaskill, 17. “It fosters creativity,” said junior Josh Candelaria, 17, who works in Macaskill’s group. “You never go with just one design,” added fellow group member Andrew Sanchez, also 17 and a junior.
The Computer Integrated Manufacturing class is one of eight in Project Lead the Way. The program also includes two introductory classes and up to five specialty classes offering a broad overview of various engineering disciplines. An Engineering Design and Development class offers 12th-graders a chance to apply all the skills they learned in earlier classes.
Project Lead The Way is an outstanding representation of the seizing our destiny pillar, catalyst for innovation. The objective of the program is to catch students’ attention and expose them to the world of engineering. It offers students a new outlet to develop creativity and harness ingenuity.
What would most help all students in the Riverside Unified School District to be successful in elementary, middle, and high school and beyond? What can YOU do to improve the quality of life in Riverside? RUSD wants to hear from you! RUSD is now developing a Local Control and Accountability Plan and they want our community to be part of this historic process, which will bring more local control of educational programs to our community.
Your ideas matter! Please let them know what you think would most help them to help their students to be successful. Contributing what you believe is important for our community is important for the success of Seizing Our Destiny’s desires for educational opportunities. Share your ideas below by clicking on the link or attend one of the Community Meetings.
(This article was written bySteven Frasher, Communications Consultant for the Completion Counts partnership on January 9, 2014.)
Completion Counts enters 2014 entirely on its own, now supported by the local commitment of its partners. Far from fading or faltering, Completion Counts is on firm footing and making a real difference in the lives of thousands of Riverside students.
“We want our students to complete two-year degrees, four-year degrees, certificate programs,” said Mayor Rusty Bailey, speaking for the Completion Counts partnership in a recent video update just posted to the City’s GTV and YouTube. “We’ve made a real concerted effort setting them up for success.”
The Completion Counts initiative was launched with a great deal of fanfare in 2010 when the national League of Cities announced that Riverside was one of four cities nationwide to receive a three-year $3 million Communities Learning in Partnership (CLIP) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together with New York City, San Francisco and Mesa, Arizona, Riverside was challenged to treat postsecondary education as a workforce development imperative. Cities and their public education institutions worked to raise their college completion rates.
Then-mayor Ron Loveridge gladly accepted the charge and brought executive focus to the challenges at hand. The initiative, several partners have claimed, forged “the new way we do business” in Riverside.
The partners are the City of Riverside, Alvord Unified School District, Riverside Unified School District, Riverside City College, Riverside County of Office of Education, University of California, Riverside and the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce.
“The name, ‘Completion Counts,’ is intentional,” said Dr. Wendel Tucker, a former superintendent at Alvord Unified School District, who did consulting for the partnership. “Our expectation is that you will complete college. We will help you to succeed – to have a vibrant economy, here, in Riverside.”
Three years later, not only the mayor but the school superintendents, chancellors and community college president, are all new faces but the commitment remains.
“We’ve been at the table since Day One,” said Cindy Roth, President of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, to a group of student reporters, in December. “It’s for your benefit and our benefit. We can’t attract jobs without the workforce. Employers look at education.”
Roth pulled no punches reminding listeners why Riverside benefitted. Any entity assessing strengths and challenges of the Inland region found local advantages offset by a low rate of college completion and university degrees among regional residents. Up to 93% of current jobs require some sort of postsecondary education, she said.
Postsecondary education can include college and university, as well as career certificate programs.
Industries attracted to Riverside – including technology, medical, advanced manufacturing and logistics – all require mastery of core classes, called the A-G sequence, demanded of the University of California and California State University systems, for entrance.
“You need a college degree to get in to today’s job market. Things have changed. Times have changed,” Roth said. “The jobs will go elsewhere if we’ don’t have the labor market.”
Dr. Imran Farooq, a member of the California Workforce Development Board, told students that the Riverside – Inland region is poised for tremendous period of growth.
“There are a growing number of consumers demanding products and services,” Farooq said. The region needs a qualified workforce and innovative entrepreneurs, and students need to know they have the support and commitment of their community.
“We’re here to help you,” Mayor Bailey told the students.
Educational attainment is so important that Completion Counts is embedded in Seizing Our Destiny, the City’s strategic action plan.
“It takes a team. We’ve set students up for success, but we need students to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you,” said Bailey, who was himself a high school teacher prior to becoming mayor in 2012.
Many of Riverside’s families have never sent anyone to college. The partnership especially targeted low income and first generation college-goers. Completion Counts created the College311.org website as a comprehensive source of free and authoritative information about financial aid, college and university applications, and other helpful information.
Counselors received additional training and met with their college counterparts. Math and English teachers and instructors met to compare curricula and now those same lessons and partnerships are being applied to teaching Career Technical Education (CTE) courses in city high schools and at RCC.
“Completion Counts has been an investment in alignment,” said Dr. Rick Miller, the former superintendent of Riverside USD.
Grant funds paid to bring together high school teachers from both school districts with college professors. Both sides realized they didn’t really know what to expect from the other. High school math and English courses were adjusted to align with college-level expectations.
Foundation-granted funds also paid for assessments of each school district, their course offerings and college-going rates, in processes guided by consultants from Oakland-based The Education Trust-West.
School districts have placed greater emphasis on the core A-G curriculum demanded by universities, which is more rigorous than classes required simply for high school graduation or for entrance to a community college. Still, even the college finds that too many students step into postsecondary classes unprepared for what’s expected of them.
School districts have changed how they schedule and deliver classes to better serve students.
“It’s been a change in culture,” said interim RUSD Superintendent Mike Fine. The goal isn’t just getting to high school graduation. “The focus goes beyond that – to the next two years, the next four years.”
The success of alignment means fewer students have to spend valuable time and money taking remedial courses at RCC; it also increases the chances of student success in college, said Dr. Wolde-Ab Isaac, the interim President of Riverside City College.
As Mayor Bailey put it, “You have to make your senior year valuable” in terms of continuing to take care classes and keeping math and English skills fresh, going into college. “It’s money in your pockets.”
Community colleges are shifting emphasis from just ‘access’ to ‘success,” Isaac said.
In a Riverside-San Bernardino region with one of the lowest college-going rates in the state, post-secondary education is no longer optional, added Dr. Edward Bush, Vice President of Student Affairs at Riverside City College. Area students can’t think that college is not for them, he said. Some sort of postsecondary training is necessary for everyone.
“When students are told they’re not college material, they stop aspiring toward college,” Bush said. The result, then, is students unprepared for college when they realize they really have to go. Students are then stuck repeating courses they could have completed in high school.
One of the paths Completion Counts put into motion is the RCC 2-Year Completion Contract, announced in May 2012. The offer is made available to any Alvord or Riverside unified school district graduating senior who is prepared for full-time college-level work.
“If you meet the [math and English] requirements, we will guarantee that you will have access to classes with the support you need to be able to graduate in two years,” Bush said. At present, fewer than 4% of California community college students are able to earn enough credits to graduate in just two years.
There are currently more than 500 students enrolled in Riverside’s 2-Year Completion Contract, with more than 200 of the first cohort poised to graduate this spring.
Higher education is necessary, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are multiple pathways to postsecondary success. Students and their families must actively seek out their options, the Mayor said, but the opportunities are there.
Educational and professional pathways are so important that educators look hard to find the best fit for students, said Dr. LaRae Lundgren, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment at the University of California, Riverside. “We’ve tried to make those pathways shine a little brighter.”
Completing the official FAFSA federal financial aid application is an important first step for preparation, regardless of a student’s plans for their family’s financial means. There are often more financial resources available to students than they expect, Lundgren said.
Cash for College workshops, which are open to any student of any high school, are being presented at several Riverside schools between January and March. Complete schedules will be posted to the College311.org website.
The Welcome Center, on the RCC campus, is another option available for all students to learn about their college and university, regardless of where the student wants to attend.
Completion Counts “is a game changer,” said Alvord Unified Superintendent Dr. Sid Salazar. Meaningful education means positions, jobs for our students, once they graduate from high school and college.”
The Riverside Unified and Alvord Unified School Districts are among six California school systems to win school food innovation awards. This is another demonstration of Catalyst for Innovation, a pillar of Seizing Our Destiny. Riverside is a community rich in new ideas and exploring variations in food preparation may lead to healthy eating options for youth.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Janey Thornton presented the California Food for California Kids 2013 Leadership Award to Rodney Taylor, director of nutrition services for Riverside Unified School District at the event on Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
Thornton also presented the California Food for California Kids 2013 Innovation Award to Pamela Lambert, Alvord Unified School District’s director of child nutrition services.
The event was called Celebration of California Food and Cultures and included cooking, learning, and inspiration for school food service leaders. It was hosted by the Center for Ecoliteracy as part of its California Food for California Kids initiative.