This past October on the Northside of Chicago, Lincoln Park High School kicked off the first pilot program for Mawi Learning, in partnership with Florida Virtual School (FLVS) under the guidance of dean, Christy Walker. 100 students participated along with 10 student mentors. Because the program was brand new and no student had completed the program, the staff invited incoming seniors, who exhibited the leadership qualities Mawi’s program taught to write an essay, apply and serve as mentors for the participants in the program.

Lincoln Park High School has an extremely diverse student population- a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities, native spoken languages, economic statuses, and achievement levels. There are some students attending Lincoln Park High who are consistently high achieving and Ivy League bound as well as students who come from high risk households and have very little to no support for their learning once they leave school grounds. Meeting all these students’ needs is a definite challenge, particularly in the Chicago Public Schools, a district who has recently dominated the headlines for cutting resources and funds.

Mawi Learning helped meet the needs of a diverse population of students without breaking the budget. Christy and the Lincoln Park HS staff chose students at that they thought would truly benefit from a Leadership Skills Course. The Mawi course is a blended learning model, where a good amount of the curriculum is covered online, through the FLVS platform. There is also a classroom component. The students in this pilot program fully committed to meeting regularly on their own time, after school, to discuss the content and connect with their peers in a classroom setting.

Both the teachers and the students were excited to embark on this new curriculum. Students were motivated by every different type of medium available. The course included reading Mawi Asgedom‘s book. Also, in addition to the text, students completed coursework online, where they listened and watched inspiring stories being told as well as see the leadership skills being modeled on video.

Each week, after completing the online component, the students came together in the classroom with their peers to connect, developing their self awareness and growing as leaders. The students at Lincoln Park High School, specifically selected  for this character building experience were very unlikely to connect in a social setting of their own terms. They all came from different backgrounds and experiences. One unexpected triumph was that class ignited connections and friendships that would probably not have ever happened without Mawi/FLVS course.

In just one short year, Christy and her team were excited to recognize very tangible, positive results in the students that were truly struggling as they started the year. One student had drudged through his school career up until this point. By taking the course, he realized he wanted to leave a meaningful legacy for this world and knew a successful education would allow him to do that. He admitted his biggest regret was that his Grandma had passed away a few years before and she had never seen him bring home good grades. He is now determined to leverage his education and succeed in a way that would have made his grandmother proud. An exchange student from Morocco also enrolled in the class this past fall. She had definite language barriers as well as a generally rough transition to school in the US. This course not only strengthened her leadership skills throughout the year, but gave her the support system and friendships she needed to feel comfortable and succeed as a student.

The Mawi course truly defines what a blended learning model should look like. Next year, Mawi Learning will grow in its second year at Lincoln Park High School, with even more students enrolled and very informed student alumni/mentors, leading the way.

FLVS will provide the high quality and easily accessible content for the students to be able to access 24/7 and work through at their own pace. Mix that with the face to face/classroom time- facilitated by caring teachers and peers, all ensuing from the truly dynamic spirit of Mawi Asgedom and you have a recipe certain for success!

 

FLVS is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

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