I am a college student who attended the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference for the first time. My name is Salma Perez. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference is an opportunity for charter school educators, professionals, leaders, and advocates to come together to connect, share perspectives and stories. I had the chance to join the general session that took place on the second day of the conference.
The general session opened up with storytelling through two students, Austin Smith and Brandon Rodriguez, and Christopher De La Cruz, the learning coach, who all belong to the South Bronx Community Charter High School. Christopher De La Cruz introduced his students, Austin and Brandon, who are rising seniors at the South Bronx Community Charter High School. Both students had the chance to speak on their experience in attending a charter school in the community of the South Bronx and the impact it has had on their day to day life and opportunities presented. Learning Coach Christopher De La Cruz spoke to the innovative approaches he takes in the classroom with his students. He spoke about his theater class that took on a new style in learning in theater by utilizing inspiration from a TV show presented by Nick Cannon known as Wild ‘N Out. Christopher De La Cruz went on to explain that Wild ‘N Out is a show that uses improv and head to head battles as forms of expression. He applied what the show produced in the classroom and saw that his students become more engaged, excited and even put on a performance together. The students eventually got Nick Cannon to visit their school and watch their performance. Listening to their experience at a charter school in South Bronx allowed me to see the impact that charter schools have on the lives of students when given the opportunity to learn in ways that are not traditional in the typical education system. Creative and innovative ways of approaching the classrooms allow students to think beyond the boundaries of their minds.
During this general session, there was also a keynote address by Hadi Partovi, who is a tech entrepreneur, and CEO of the education non-profit Code.org. Hadi Partovi discussed “Unleashing Opportunity and Creativity with Computer Science.” He raised the importance of students receiving computer science classes as we move towards an age of automatization. He shared that it has been possible to establish a curriculum platform for K-12 computer science classes, and as a result students have been expanding in the areas of creativity and opportunity as they learn skill sets that are changing the way we are moving towards technological advances.
The last speaker of the session was Keri Rodrigues, one of the founders and Mom-in-Chief of Massachusetts Parents United a parent advocacy organization. She spoke to her experience as a parent concerned with the education system her kids were being provided and how that led to her parent organizing work. Keri has focused on helping parents find their voice at the policy-making table and education reforms. During her time speaking, Keri called upon the need for parents all across the nation to find their voices concerning the education of their children. She introduced a new project recognized as the National Parents Union (NPU).
The National Parents Union will provide parents across the nation to come together and continue to push for quality education for all students and their families. The National Parents Union also pertains to the charter school movement as it brings to light the work that charter schools do for communities all throughout the United States.
My attendance at the National Charter School Conference was one that allowed me to see the impact charter schools have had at a national level. It also allowed me to learn about those who make charter schools a possibility all throughout the United States, providing students with enriching classrooms and opportunities.