That was the first year of what has become three years of aggressive intervention on behalf of our staff to help our students learn that science can not only be fun, but that these projects allow students to plan a long-term project and put in a great deal of hard work that results in tremendous pride. Our staff began to use this project as a time to teach students how to plan – sitting down with them and marking up calendars for the various components of the projects. Students learned what it meant to sacrifice for their school work, often times needing to give up soccer games or time with friends to spend an entire Saturday holed up in a garage. Students also learned great perseverance, that even the coolest of projects often times involved hours of tedious preparation or data analysis. The staff have gone to great lengths each year to be innovative in helping conceptualize project ideas, leading to projects such as bottle rockets, flammable edible dust, fireballs, catapults, and hovercrafts.
The turnaround in three years has been nothing short of miraculous. That first year, the hovercraft not only won at the school science fair but placed first at the district science fair. That sparked greater interest from the rest of our students and began to break down the idea that great academic success could never be achieved by a student from our area. Fast forward to this year, and not only did every Northwest Neighbors’ student who submitted a science fair project place in their school competition, but 4 of the top 9 spots at the district competition went to these students!
Academic achievement has never, nor will ever be the standard by which we measure the value of our students. However, education and academic achievement are both one of the greatest options for creating opportunities and lifting our youth out of poverty, as well as the major area where youth from Northwest Pasadena feel like they are at a severe disadvantage and experience the greatest disparity with youth from more resourced and educated areas. However, what we’ve seen in three years of science projects is that God is more than capable of breaking down even these most intimidating of strongholds. Our students have gone from not even turning in projects to expecting themselves to produce high enough quality work to place at the district competition. Even after the results were announced, students were quick to discuss what projects they would do the next year, or how they could have improved their projects from this year. This reflects not just the physical achievement of a medal, but the breaking of a mindset that has long been perpetuated in Northwest Pasadena that students should not expect great academic success compared to peers in more privileged areas, that school is simply a necessary evil, and that the only way students from this area can break out of poverty is through athletics or more vocational training. Would you join us in praying that God continues to tear down this stronghold across all academic areas and that our staff would continue to be attentive to the Spirit and walk alongside God in the transformative work He longs to do in Pasadena?