Savanna Buckner: What makes Nevada State High School unique and why did you choose it for two of your own children?
Nya M. Berry, executive director at Nevada State High School: We are a real college experience and our students are college-ready. I have three kids and I’ve never subscribed to the idea that all three of them needed the same school environment. I looked for an environment that was going to fit what their needs were. I felt like traditional school environment wasn’t working for [my son], with not just the number of classes he was taking, but also making sure that he was transitioning from high school to college in such a way that he was taking on the responsibility and understood exactly what he was doing. I was looking for an environment that was really going to help him with that transition. Nevada State High School promises that we get kids college ready, and we give them a real college experience. I’ve experienced that wholeheartedly with my son. He did not graduate with an associate’s degree, which some of our students do. But he did take away 27 credit hours and he successfully transferred them to college. More importantly, he had that opportunity to experience some of those pitfalls that first year students make when they’re in college, he had a chance to do those while he was in high school, which was probably the best decision that I could’ve made for him. We weren’t the family that we’re able to shave off two years of school, but we were the family that had kids that graduated successfully and were able to move into a career.
Savanna: What do you look for in hiring teachers at Nevada State High School?
Nya: We call them education advising coordinators. We look for a combination of things in terms of the experience: Not quite a counselor, not quite a teacher, able to deliver instruction, but also that ability to develop relationships with students and develop those individualized education plans. You would see that in a special education teacher. We look for teachers of a wide variety. Sometimes it’s second career teachers that are coming into our school system. Some of them have sub-licenses and then transition to a full teaching license because they don’t necessarily have to be subject specific. I would say the biggest thing that I look for in them is being able to grasp the concept behind providing good advising for students. Our kids have a lot of independence in one sense and then in another sense they’re quite dependent because they don’t know what to do with that steady time and the process of actually studying.
Savanna: What extracurricular involvement opportunities are available to students at Nevada State High School?
Nya: Our kids are all required to do 40 hours of community service, so they are all over the community. That volunteer work can look very different because some students that are athletes are able to use their 40 hours for practices and participation in clubs and activities. They actually go back to their zoned school to do those things. In addition to that, our students are required to do 10 social points per semester and those social points are engaging them in social activities that require them to develop relationships. We do everything from skiing to college tours. We just came back from Disney last week. We hike, we do everything across the city from skating to Sky Zone to renting out a whole bowling alley.
Savanna: As a parent who has gone through the process yourself, what is your biggest piece of advice for parents who are searching for a high school?
Nya: My biggest thing is making sure that parents are listening to their kids. This is not a program for the lighthearted. You have to be motivated. You don’t have to be the smartest kid on the block. But parents have to be willing to be engaged and not look for a way. We really want parents to be partners with us. When I think about parents making a choice, sometimes I think that parents don’t think about that aspect when they’re looking for a school— how much the school wants to engage with me as a parent. We want them to learn how to help their kids through this transition because it’s huge. It’s huge to get all applications in, to make sure they’re taking their ACT tests, all of that has to happen behind the scenes. What they get with us is a whole lot of support in doing it. When I was looking originally, I’d already gone through the process of sending one [child] to college. I really wished that even during that I had the kind of guidance that I got here to help with the process. I think that’s critical when looking at a school. Are we providing you that? How can you engage?
Savanna: How do you celebrate National School Choice Week?
Nya: We celebrate School Choice Week by making sure that there’s awareness. We don’t think our choice is for every student, but we do want to make sure that every student has the option to make the choice. Springtime is really the middle of our recruitment season for our coming school year, so we do a lot on the recruitment side for our school… open houses, flyers, that sort of thing. It’s our way of making sure that we get information out to families.
Savanna Buckner is press secretary at National School Choice Week and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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