Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Opening Remarks

Opening remarks to the second Classics Academy Night held Wednesday June 13th.

I would like to take the opportunity to formally welcome everyone to the second of what will hopefully be many Classics Academy Night.  It is great to see so many family, friends and educators present for this evening’s program.  

First, I would like to thank Anthony, Cynthia, Dawn and Mark.  The success of the program and national recognition we have received is a direct result of  their dedication, effort and professionalism.  Their unwavering belief in what the Academy represents and faith in what our students are capable of achieving compels all  of us to redefine the educational paradigm at MHS.

In introducing last year’s program, I talked about a group of high school students from Massachusetts who started their own school within school.  In similar fashion, I wanted to take a brief minute to share a story I came across while reading Tony Wagner’s latest work Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.

In Creating Innovators, Wagner provides a rationale for developing an innovation-driven economy. The book explores what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators.  Throughout Creating Innovators individuals, teachers, corporations and educational programs such as the Stanford d. School and High Tech High are profiled.  There is an emphasis in the book on dissecting forward-thinking environments where cultures of innovation based on collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and intrinsic motivation are allowed to flourish.

One such program highlighted is the D-Lab at MIT.  Started by Amy Smith, the D-Lab’s mission is to improve the quality of life of low-income households through the creation and implementation of low cost technologies.  Sixteen different academic offerings make up the suite of D-Lab classes, falling into the broad categories of Development, Design and Dissemination. All D-Lab courses are based on the same values and principles of providing experiential learning, using technology to address poverty, building the local creative capacity and promoting local innovation.

Jodie Wu graduated from MIT in 2009 with a degree in mechanical engineering and also, was among the very first to enroll in d-Lab classes.  Upon graduating, Ms. Wu turned down a scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley to start her own business in Tanzania.  At age 24 Jodie is the president and CEO of Global Cycle Solutions.                                                   

Global Cycle Solutions  is working to share affordable, quality technology for villagers around the world. Ms. Wu’s core team works on the ground in East Africa visiting villagers to understand their lives and needs. Where there is a need and a solution, GCS brings that product to these villagers. Where there is a need and no solution, GCS develops these technologies in-house to cultivate creative capacity in the local communities.

Ms. Wu was quoted as saying, “everything changed when she took D-Lab,” which at that time was a sequence of D-Lab I, II and III.   Again Ms. Wu, “What I loved about the course was that it integrated my wanting to make a difference in the world with my engineering skills.

I believe there is a profound link between Ms. Wu’s experience and what you are about to see this evening.  It’s simply inspiring what can be achieved when young people are encouraged to follow their passions and develop a sense of purpose.  In just two years the Classics Academy and in particular this night of public exhibitions has shown the need to empower students to explore issues of personal and global relevance.

Before closing I would Personally like to thank the 2011-2012 Classic Academy students.  Our students  took a leap of faith in taking the road less traveled.  I hope the journey this year has been challenging, enduring, inspiring and something they will hold dear throughout their education and professional careers.

Again, I want to welcome everyone this evening and at this time I would like to turn the program over to the Classics Academy staff.