By Ocea Lattimore, Director Logistics and Asset Management, City of Tampa
As Leadership Tampa ‘16 began our journey through Education Day, we were greeted by two words as we exited Poe Garage and entered the Glazer Children’s Museum. The freshly painted instruction, ‘Stay Curious,’ was the hallmark of what would encompass our Education Day as we explored ‘non-traditional’ educational opportunities in Hillsborough County. Each stop sparked an unknown curiosity within me.
Because the day’s insight took us from cradle to grave, it was befitting that we started our exploration at the Glazer Children’s Museum and ended at the HCC Training Center. I am not suggesting that students attending the HCC Training Center have one foot in the ground. On the contrary, this hidden educational resource caters to individuals who realize that the traditional college setting does not fit their needs, so they are intentional about their work and career choices. To me, the ‘grave’ is analogous to the students already having figured out what they want to do with their lives.
Our expedition started with ‘play-time’ at the museum. Unlike ten or fifteen years ago when a child’s play day consisted of mom or dad sitting an infant or toddler on a lap to read a book, the museum gives children space to explore and imagine as they master life-long learning skills. Members of the LT ‘16 were given an opportunity to explore 170 interactive exhibits and several themed areas, such as ‘the water cycle’ and ‘flying over Tampa Bay’.
One particular area of interest for the Glazer Children’s Museum is that adults are only allowed to visit if accompanied by a child.
The next leg in our day took us to nearby Howard W. Blake High School, Home of the Marching Yellow Jackets. Even though Blake has a highly reputable band, the school is a diamond in the ruff for many high school students as they develop their talents in the Arts. These students are taught that the Arts and traditional subjects that encompass reading, writing, and arithmetic are interconnected. This was evident by witnessing our private show of only a few genres of Art that Blake has to offer in orchestra, guitar, poetry, piano, and musical theater. When questioned about their future plans and goals, several of the students remarked of their interests in pursuing physics, pharmacology, and English to name a few.
When used in education, the arts have proven beneficial in harnessing the power that lies within its various genres to raise educational outcomes for students. Even though Blake is a performing arts school, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough County School District partner to provide literary arts in every K-12 classroom.
After our cultural infusion from students at Blake, we trekked to Academy Prep to witness the extraordinary opportunities middle-school students are given to provide them with a competitive edge with other students in Hillsborough County. With 100 percent of the students living within 150% of the poverty line, intervention was needed to save children who live in economically challenged areas in close proximity to the school.
Academy Prep adheres to its mission: “To inspire and empower students qualifying for need-based scholarships to become future community leaders through a rigorous middle school program coupled with ongoing graduate support.”
How is this accomplished? Through corporate sponsorship, donations, fundraising, and community tax credits, this not-for-profit organization has definitely made an impact….and the results are staggering.
Since its inception, 97% of these students graduated from high school and 83% are enrolled in college. The faculty and mentors follow these students even after they graduate from college. Many of the alumni come back to serve the school. Notwithstanding the efforts of the faculty and donors, these children have definitely invested in their own education by being educated approximately 11 hours/day. This includes their mandatory participation in musical theater and the arts.
By now, we were off to lunch at Outback, but not the typical restaurant one would patronize. This culinary experience teased our palates as we dined at Chamberlain High School with students in the culinary arts program.
Even though the food was exceptional, the students were disappointed that they felt rushed in serving us our lunch. I know of several restaurants that could definitely take notes from these teens. Before now, I did not realize how creative arts play such a vital role in the culinary industry. Eye-appeasing food must be displayed. If it doesn’t look good, people may not get to know if it tastes good.
Next, the panel discussion among the local college and university presidents proved most interesting to me as a local entrepreneur showcased her ‘No Mo Nausea’ invention and used the University of Tampa’s entrepreneurial center as the incubator for her product. I was aware that the University of South Florida has a research and entrepreneurial center as I had the privilege of using it during a previous employment; however, I did not know that a similar resource existed for the University of Tampa.
Finally, our last stop takes us to the Hillsborough Community College Workforce Training Center. By now, most of us are exhausted from a full day, but that did not stop us from learning about the police and fire academies, welding and automotive collision repair. Were you aware that there is an ‘art’ to the proper application of painting a vehicle? Apply too much and waste the product. Apply too little and have a very upset customer. Thankfully, the students gain the experience by using a paint simulator to get the feel of the arm and hand motions.
As you can see, from cradle (children’s museum) to grave (paint simulations), ‘Education Day’ convinced me that it is virtually impossible to separate art from traditional education.