Andrew Campanella: Cynthia and Ray, from your perspective as school leaders, what makes Indian River Charter High School unique?
Cynthia Trevino-Aversa: It’s a very family-oriented environment and we live by a code of mutual respect. We don’t have a code of conduct where we have detention or suspension— that does not exist at our school. Kids are here because they want to be here. They sign a code of conduct before they enter that basically says that they are going to be respectful and a member of this school with a deep sense of integrity. We work together beautifully and I believe that is what has made us successful. Our kids know us by name, we know them by name, we live our lives together on a daily basis in harmony and we have created some unbelievable experiences and opportunities in these small walls.
Ray Adams: One of our teachers was a machinist who worked in the fine craft of making surgical equipment. In our science department we have teachers who were scientists in oceanography, out in the ocean doing studies. That brings a whole different perspective into a classroom when you have a teacher who says, “I have been out in the field and here’s what you really do need to know if you’re interested in being an oceanographer.” That adds tremendously to the kind of passion they have in teaching.
Andrew: Savannah, is there anything you would add from a student’s perspective?
Savannah Tanner: What really makes IRCHS special is the people who have volunteered to give all that they have to give to the students. The teachers have such great leadership that students want to mimic that. I definitely see them, like Dr. Adams or my choral director Mr. Miller, as role models.
Andrew: What was it like for students to perform at Carnegie Hall?
Cynthia: It was fantastic watching students’ faces as they had an opportunity to go into the actual rehearsal hall. Different choruses from across the U.S. made up the chorus, so not only did IRCHS students have the experience of being at Carnegie Hall but also of working with students from all over the U.S. You could watch the students’ demeanor change and become serious as they realized that they were singing these very important pieces. I think it was thrilling for all of them to come on stage before they performed and see the audience and all the tiers of seats.
Andrew: Tell me more about your performing arts program.
Cynthia: It’s interesting because IRCHS is not a professional music school. It is just a regular high school, but it has an unbelievable preforming arts department. Over 50% of our students attend this school due to that opportunity that exists here. For instance, our drama department has won five years in a row the Florida State Thespians “MainStage” selection to go to perform in Tampa.
Andrew: Wow! You have celebrated School Choice Week the last five years… how do you participate?
Cynthia: We have a celebration so that we can all come together. We bring everyone into the courtyard to celebrate choice as well as our seniors. It is usually in January and some of them have already received acceptances to universities, so we come together so that the whole school can acknowledge and celebrate those college acceptances, the awards they may have received, and their academic performance. We do our A and AB honor roll for our seniors on that day as well. Our board members attend and they are there to speak about choice and celebrate the successes of our kids.
Andrew: That’s fantastic. Savannah, what does school choice mean to you?
Savannah: During School Choice Week, our whole school comes together to celebrate everything that the students are here for. It’s not just one specific area, it’s everything that a school involves: every teacher, every type of student who has accomplished something here. We really get to open our eyes to each other and celebrate each other. During School Choice Week we celebrate the students who have reached for success, no matter what field. I really look to those students who have taken this school environment and used all its resources to become who they are.