New year, new ranking

With the announcement of America’s top high schools of 2014 by Newsweek, LASA high school is now ranked eighth best high school in the nation, and first in the state. This is the highest ranking the school has ever received on both a national and state level.

 

Inside the Greater Austin area, among LASA, Westlake High School in Eanes ISD was ranked 117th in the nation while Westwood High School in Round Rock ISD was ranked 268th. But, according to LASA assistant principal Kenisha Coburn, rankings like these will have more of a positive effect on a national perception of LASA rather than it’s local reputation.

 

“I think for some outside of Texas who don’t know us there are some ways in which it validates what we do here,” Coburn said. “I think our students like to be able to say that they go to a school thats ranked this high when they’re applying to college. It definitely increases our applicants which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not the best. But really it makes us more visible outside of Texas.”

 

Rankings like that of Newsweek and U.S. News pull data from the 2011/2012 school year, the most recent school year in which all public school information necessary is released to the public. Because of this and other factors, Coburn said that she tries to not focus too much on rankings but instead on student needs.

 

“Honestly we don’t pay much attention to them, we don’t actively try to climb, because we try to build the program around the student’s needs,” Coburn said. “It’s nice to see that meeting the student’s needs is reflecting in a higher ranking but it’s not something we shoot for. So we were a little excited, but we kind of move on.”

 

The rankings are based off of six separate indicators: enrollment rate, graduation rate, AP scores, SAT/ACT scores, holding power (ability to keep students at the school for 4 years), and the counselor-to-student ratio. The indicators were then used to determine a “College Readiness Score”, of which, LASA received a 99.48%.

 

“I think the counselor student ratio is one that I’m really proud of,” Coburn said. “Our counselors do a whole lot of really great work here and I think they’re valued by the faculty, staff and the students in a way that isn’t necessarily the standard for public schools in Texas.”

Click here to view Newsweek’s list of top schools

story by Sammy Jarrar

summer service and sights

In the thick of the summer heat, LASA students traveled across the globe to enrich their cultural understanding. Students dispersed themselves into Latin American nations, offering their labor and knowledge to small communities who needed an extra hand. No matter what country visited, the total immersion into a foreign land gave these students a new-found appreciation for the world of travel.

As school has begun and summer comes to a close, LASA senior Sadie Barron, LASA junior Hannah Read and LASA junior Zennie Wey are benefitting from the experiences they have gained on their trips. Their time abroad has changed their perspective on American culture and education and has transformed their understanding of foreign lifestyles.

Wey traveled to the Dominican Republic this summer for a service project within the Neyba community. Going into the trip, Wey said she was very nervous. Wey said that Dominicans live a very different lifestyle than what she has grown up with, so she was worried that she may not be prepared for what was in store.

“I was really hesitant about being able to spend seven weeks in a country that didn’t speak English,” Wey said. “I also wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable with their very simplistic lifestyle. We had no running water, bucket baths, some pee buckets, and really sketchy electricity. But I ended up enjoying everything a lot.”

Read’s trip to Peru and Barron’s trip to Nicaragua were fueled by an interest in the Spanish language. They both participated in the Amigos program, which combines language immersion with service work in third-world countries. Barron, Read and Wey all said that their service trip tremendously improved their Spanish skills. Because they were completely immersed into a Spanish-speaking culture, Barron said they had no other option but to speak the native language.

“If you don’t like something, you’re going to have to eat it, or you’re going to have to tell them ‘I don’t like it,’ which forces you to speak Spanish,” Barron said. “Either you speak Spanish, or you’re going to die.”

Barron visited the community of Monte Grande in municipal San Ramon, Matagalpa, Nicaragua where she stayed with a host family which nine children.

“I liked living with a host family, because it’s like you’re actually in the culture, like you aren’t American anymore,” Barron said. “Rather than being the outsider looking in, you’re actually the person.”

Read said that she became comfortable with her community and the language that they spoke by teaching children at summer camp. Spending time with the same kids every day allowed her bond with the community as a whole.

“We would walk 40 minutes up a mountain about five days a week for ‘campamentos,’ or extracurricular camps, with the kids at the primary school,” Read said. “At the school I would teach the kids about nutrition, health, sanitation, children’s rights and leadership. I would also play lots and lots of soccer and Duck, Duck, Goose.”

Read engaged with the Peruvian community, even outside of the school system. She worked closely with her host family and assisted them with their daily chores as well as working on a community improvement project.

“The second part of the program was the Community-Based Initiative Process,” Read said. “My partner and I worked with our host family and other members of the community to find and create a sustainable and beneficial project for the community. We decided to build soccer goals out of plastic tubes at the school and at the main soccer field where the adult men played twice a week. I also helped [my host family] with daily activities such as bringing the cows to water, harvesting crops, preparing food and just getting to know my family and other members of the community.”

Wey’s service project had goals very similar to Read’s. Like Read, Wey taught at the ‘campamentos’ within her community, and focusing on healthy lifestyles and leadership skills. She also worked on a community improvement project that she said was very successful.

“For our project, we repainted their basketball court,” Wey said. “We also put in lights so the community members could not only play basketball after dark but also host more basketball games more frequently.”

Getting to know the children within the community was Read’s favorite part about her trip. She said that the more she played and worked with the kids, the more she saw the group as her family.

“One time, the school of San Ignacio was playing in a soccer tournament in another community and my partner and I went with our kids and watched all the games,” Read said. “Our team lost, but I had so much fun spending time with the kids. They loved using my camera to take pictures and I taught them how to do cartwheels. After that day, I felt really accepted and welcomed as a member of the community.”

Wey most enjoyed spending time with her community because it gave her a new understanding of cultural differences and standards. She said that everyone she met was so welcoming, and their positivity was astounding.

“The area [I was in] was very rural and a lot of the houses either had adobe, straw or tin roofs,” Wey said. “So coming from America, I considered the people to be poor. But one day when one of the children was talking to my partner during Campamentos,  and he told him that they weren’t poor.  He told them that they were middle class because they had enough resources to feed their families.  Going to the Dominican Republic redefined my idea of not only social class, but [it] also changed my perspective on the lifestyle that people in America, myself included, lead.”

Each student has said that their experience has been extremely beneficial and has enlightened their cultural understanding.  Read said that she learned so much that she returned to the United States with a new perspective on the world and with many newly acquired skills.

“I experienced so many things that were wildly different from my life here in the United States,” Read said.  “I faced many challenges at first, but was able to grow from those. My Spanish skills improved incredibly, and I learned how to be flexible. I tried new things like eating guinea pig and harvesting a vegetable called oka with my bare hands. I am now much more grateful for all the wonderful things and commodities I have in my life, but I know I can be happy and successful without things like the internet and a shower.”

story by Willow Higgins

 

Cutting the Ribbon with Music

photo courtesy of Ciara McDaniel

Section leaders of the LBJ band perform at the Grand Opening Ceremony of the ACC Highland Campus. LASA senior and LBJ band head drum major Sydney Robinson conducts the group. “It was a lot of fun and we felt very honored to be performing at the event,” Robinson said. photo courtesy of Ciara McDaniel 

As rapid drum beats come to a close, LBJ band members play energetic stand jams under a large tent with about 300 people present. When the ribbon is cut for the grand opening of a new Austin Community College (ACC) campus, the LBJ fight song rings through the air.

LBJ band section leaders and the Reagan High School drumline performed at the Grand Opening Ceremony of the ACC Highland Campus. Many Austin dignitaries, AISD school officials and others were in attendance. These groups were chosen to perform because of their close relationship with ACC through the Early College High School program present at both high schools.

LBJ head band director Don Haynes said the grand opening ceremony was a great opportunity for LBJ and for the band. He also said the campus was beautiful.

“I felt great about the event and how we performed for the opening ceremony of the Highland Mall campus,” Haynes said. “After we performed three selections, our students were given a marvelous walking tour of the facility.The inside is very impressive and artistic in style.”

LASA senior Sydney Robinson, the head drum major for the LBJ band, attended the event. Section leaders of the LBJ band performed after the Reagan drum line. Robinson said the section leaders got a tour of the ACC building after performing.

“[The LBJ band] played stand band regulars, like ‘Do What You Wanna,’ [‘Knocking Pictures’] and the [LBJ] Fight Song,” Robinson said. “I thought it was a lot of fun and felt very honored to be performing at the event.”

Haynes said he chose these songs because they fit the upbeat occasion. He said the band members present represented LBJ/LASA very well, as did the Reagan drumline.

“[The LBJ band] played football music, which was most appropriate [for] a spirited and uplifting mood for the grand opening,” Haynes said. “There was a ribbon cutting part where we got to play our Fight Song.”

According to Haynes, this event was a great performance experience for the LBJ band. He also said it was a good way for members of the Austin community who would not typically attend football games or band competitions to see the LBJ band play.

“This event is a good example of how we show up in the central Texas area,” Haynes said. “most of the folks there such as the mayor, our state representatives, and our US Congressman don’t get to see our Band in action at games or parades. I feel we added a great deal to the success of the ceremony.”

story by Frankie Marchan

We Shall Overcome

Secret service agents survey the grounds from the roofs of all buildings in the periphery. The growing crowd of protesters expressing sentiments for improved immigration policy anxiously wait on the facade of the Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) Presidential Library, singing songs of equality and chanting powerful statements about deportation.  The protesters anticipate the arrival of President Barack Obama, the keynote speaker of the Civil Rights Summit, with the hopes that he will acknowledge their cries for change. History unfolded during this three-day event, which also showcased speeches and conversations with former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush about the importance of civil rights in America.

“I picture [LBJ] standing there, taking up the entire door frame looking out over the South Lawn in a quiet moment — and ask[ing] himself what the true purpose of his office was for, what was the endpoint of his ambitions,” Obama said. “He would reach back in his own memory and he’d remember his own experience with want.”

All four presidents said that they are in awe of the civil rights progress that President Johnson has made and feel that it is important that his legacy will carry on forever. The Summit was held on April 8-10 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of President LBJ’s administration and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody — not all at once, but they swung open,” Obama said. “Not just blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability.  They swung open for you, and they swung open for me.  And that’s why I’m standing here today — because of those efforts, because of that legacy.”

Although society has come a long way since 1964 in terms of civil rights, Obama says there is still room for improvement. Carter, Bush, and Clinton agree that although we have made social progress, the civil rights movement cannot be slowed down.

“LBJ was nothing if not a realist.  He was well aware that the law alone isn’t enough to change hearts and minds,” Obama said. “A full century after Lincoln’s time, he said, ‘Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.’”

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a piece of legislation, the presidents said that it encouraged equality in a way that had never been done before in America. The act created a pivotal change in history that at first was rather controversial and caused uproars across the nation. But today, the Civil Rights Act is considered to create the basis for our society, and allows citizens to live the way in which they do.  Obama said that although the act has brought us a long way, we must remain momentous and not allow ourselves to become stuck in time. He said that there is still progress to be made.

“We are here today because we know we cannot be complacent,” Obama said. “For history travels not only forwards; history can travel backwards, history can travel sideways.  And securing the gains this country has made requires the vigilance of its citizens.  Our rights, our freedoms — they are not given.  They must be won.  They must be nurtured through struggle and discipline, and persistence and faith.”

Carter focused on the inequalities between men and women as well as the lack of effort by Americans to change things in the United States. Other presidents touched upon these topics but each brought a different outlook to the summit. President Bush focused on education, in particular with children and minorities. Bush said that education remains to be one of the biggest inequalities in modern day society. He said that the average reading score for a white student is the same for an African American student at age 17, and that this four-year disparity should call America to take action.

“The achievement gap between whites and minorities have narrowed,” Bush said. “During the last 50 years, education progress has been generally positive, but completely insufficient. Education in America is no longer legally separate, but it is still not effectively equal. Quality education for everyone of every background is one of the most urgent civil rights issues of our time. From Little Rock Central High School to the University of Mississippi, the fight for civil rights took place in educational settings. Education provides the skills necessary to expand horizons and allow for economic success. In so doing, we secure our democratic way life.”

Guests of the Summit, such as civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, Johnson’s two daughters, and various speakers who discussed civil rights in a series of panels on things like gay rights, immigration, and education. Jackson said that because of the racial and educational inequalities that we have seen in our nation’s history, and to a lesser extent, in modern society, American minorities remained to negatively affected.

“Segregation gap has shrunk but the disparity gap has widened,” Jackson said.  “We can’t have more and more making less and less and less and less making more and more.”

Throughout most presidencies in American history, inequality has remained to be an issue. This inequality has forced different presidents to work together, despite their political standpoint, in order to find an effective solution. Obama said that he is grateful for having the privilege of working with presidents past, because in law cooperation is key if one expecting progress to occur.

“Those of us who have had the singular privilege to hold the office of the Presidency know well that progress in this country can be hard and it can be slow, frustrating and sometimes you’re stymied,” Obama said. “The office humbles you.  You’re reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions made by those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your vision.”

The our presidents at the summit said that within the past 50 years an ample amount of progress has been made and that The Civil Rights Act has changed our society from a place of complete segregation to a place where everybody is given equal opportunity. Obama said that since Johnson’s presidency the progress that has been charted has made dramatic change in a short period of time, which should encourage the nation to keep striving for equality in all aspects of life.

“We have proved that great progress is possible,” Obama said.  “We know how much still remains to be done.  And if our efforts continue, and if our will is strong, and if our hearts are right, and if courage remains our constant companion, then, my fellow Americans, I am confident, we shall overcome.”

story by Willow Higgins, Zia Lyle and Madeline Goulet