High School Students work on a project to create solar-powered shelters for the homeless

Twelve students from San Fernando High School, a math, science, and technology magnet school in the Los Angeles area, spent all last year working on a project to create solar-powered shelters for the homeless.  These16 and 17 year old girls are mostly from low-income families, and are either the daughters of immigrants or immigrants themselves.  They came together and created energy-efficient shelters for those in their community who are less fortunate, without any place to live.

Violet Mardirosian, a math teacher and magnet coordinator at San Fernando High, has worked with the team since the beginning.  There was a lot of work to be done, and the girls spent countless hours researching, working, writing, testing, and re-testing to get it right.  They’ve given presentations to their school, as well as to a group of local engineers.  Their work is so impressive that they’ve been invited to present their work at MIT this June.

These girls have not received a grade or even high school credit for their project, so the work takes place outside of their regular curriculum, after school and on weekends.  When asked what motivates these ambitious students to keep going, Mardirosian says “it’s their drive and compassion....  The girls want to provide comfort and dignity to those in their community who need it the most.”

These girls’ awareness, resolve, commitment and inventiveness are inspiring, but their story also shows that exposure to STEM-related opportunities really matter, and it sends an important message to young girls around our nation: “math and engineering are for you!”



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From Compton to Harvard!

“It was a struggle.  It was rough,” Elijah says of his time growing up in Compton, where only a little over half of students graduate high school.  He remembers a defining moment when he was little:  “It was kind of late at night, my mom ran into my room, and they were shooting outside.  So we would lay, actually, right there, kind of looking at each other.  I was just...looking at my mom for strength ... That moment changed me forever.  I knew I would have to leave Compton.”

Elijah worked hard to achieve his goals, immersing himself in his studies, and never losing focus of his academic goals.  He was accepted to a prestigious high school, over an hour away from home, and there he excelled - using the long commute to study.  Academics always came first, and he achieved a 4.69 GPA on a 5.0 point scale.  He was also a star football player, a track athlete, a leading actor in the school’s productions, and chair of the school’s peer mentoring program.  He became fluent in Spanish.  “I think that struggle - it ignites a fire under you to want to work hard and to want to do more,” he said.

“Everything in his life is preparing him for his future,” his proud mother said.  “He has been through a lot, he has seen a lot and guess what? It made him stronger.”  Elijah credits his mom with getting him to where he is, and she credits him with giving her the strength to be a mom.  His mother raised him alone for 13 years while his dad was in a federal penitentiary.

And where is he now?  Only five percent of applicants are accepted into Harvard, one of the world’s most prestigious universities, and 17-year-old Elijah is one of these elite Harvard bound graduating high school seniors!!!   Harvard awarded Devaughn a complete tuition, room and board scholarship, and his mom set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with books and other school expenses.

Where will Elijah be in 10 years?  “Umm, maybe med school, maybe Wall Street, or maybe an actor on somebody's stage,” he says. “I don't know, but I will be somewhere great. I know that.” Ducking for cover when he hears the ricochet of gunshots outside his bedroom window will now be a distant memory.



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FSU Football recruit is special on and off the field

  • Published in Sports

Bo Paske, a 6th grade student at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, is autistic.  He’s a sweet child with a smile and hug for everyone.  For whatever reason, he almost always sits alone at the lunch table.  His mother thinks his autism in some ways shields him from noticing he does not get invited to birthday parties, and that he eats lunch alone.  But one special day last year was different.  Travis Rudolph, then a junior and a wide receiver at FSU, was visiting the school, saw Bo sitting by himself, and so joined him for a slice of pizza.  The impact on Bo was huge.

“I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten,” said Bo’s mother. “This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life!”

“He’s a cool person, I’ll hang out with him any day,” said Rudolph.  The two have remained in contact for the past year.  Rudolph has sent tickets for Bo and his mother to come to FSU games, and he gave Bo a personalized jersey.   Rudolph recently signed a pro contract with the NY Giants, and among those in attendance at the draft party was Bo Paske.

 Do you remember middle school?  That some students can be mean and others can be lonely.  Did you have friends?  Do you remember anyone sitting by themselves in the cafeteria?  What can we all do today to combat bullying?  To help all have good experiences and good memories of school?  And we all need to teach our kids how a small act of kindness can make a big difference.




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