Andrew Campanella: Why do you think parents choose Manchester Academic Charter School?
Vas Scoumis: What we try to do when a kid walks into our school is learn everything about that kid and then meet that child where they are. I was just talking to my science teacher about this. It’s not so much about what we’re teaching in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. It’s about building a passion so that when students leave in eighth grade they want to be scientists or doctors. We want them to leave thinking “science is fun, I can do it” and being able to build on that passion.
Andrew: How do you encourage every student, regardless of their circumstances, to dream big?
Vas: Sometimes it can be tougher when you’re coming from a low socio-economic background to dream and see all the things that are out there. It can be a little harder to try to help students see that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it doesn’t matter what you look like, what matters is where you’re going. Also, a lot of kids think that sports is going to be their way to financial success, and we help them see that there are a lot of other ways to success. Sports is not a bad way, but we help them see what else is out there as well.
Andrew: What role do you think that extracurricular activities and clubs play in helping to expand students’ horizons?
Vas: I think it plays a huge role. Since I am a CEO, people think this is kind of crazy, but just from 11 a.m. to noon— when the kids have lunch and recess break— I have a Lego club. The students do Legos and we have a competition. The school also has a chess club, an entrepreneur club, a math club, and more. The idea is to try to make these subjects ones that students are successful at, doing some great things with, and able to take into the future.
Andrew: What does school choice mean to you and the families at Manchester Academic Charter School?
Vas: I’m a huge proponent of giving parents a choice of schools. School choice gives parents who might otherwise not have a choice (because of class issues, socio-economic issues, etc.) the opportunity to choose between public schools and private schools and see what they’re interested in. Manchester Academic Charter School may not be the place for everybody, and we understand that. Not everybody fits into the same mold. Having the ability to go to different schools, having choices, is always a good thing.
Andrew: How does your school participate in National School Choice Week every year?
Vas: We get on a bus and we go to either Harrisburg or another place in the area for a rally. We also do things here at the school, like poster contents and different activities asking kids what choice means to them. It’s one thing for parents to talk about school choice. It’s another when you hear a kid say, “Well, I was at this school and I really didn’t like it and my mom said, ‘Why don’t we try this charter school?’ and now I’m here and I wouldn’t leave if they made me. I love it here.” You can’t buy that kind of testimony. That’s an incredible testimony for a school.