Alumni, School Take Action to Increase Diversity
Alumni Action Group Inspires, Prepares Students
This spring, a group of alumni led by Josh Silverman, TJ ’94 (below right), co-owner of Edge Ed, a tutoring and test-preparation business located near the school, formed an independent group with the purpose of taking tangible steps to improve diversity at TJ.
At the TJ PTSA’s annual Diversity Committee event, held this year on June 4th and organized by Renee Jones, Parent ’16, and Michele Gonzales, Parent ’16, alumni from the group spoke about their background, TJ experience, career path, and commitment to expanding the number of students from underrepresented groups at TJ.
Erren Lester, TJ ’95 (top), said that it was students on his TJ bus — students who knew much more than he did — who spurred his interest in Computer Science. He is presently serving as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow and is also a Trustee of Carnegie Mellon University, from which he received both a BS in Computer Science and an MBA.
The TJ Alumni Action Group, which also includes students, current and former faculty, and others from the TJ community, promised comprehensive support to interested families, including application assistance, summer and fall test preparation sessions, mentoring, tutoring, transportation, and translation, all at no charge.
At Silverman’s summer test-prep session, a two-week course held in late July and early August at Edge Ed’s spacious new Backlick Road location, students learned how to approach logic problems, reviewed algebra skills, and received test-taking pointers (right). In addition to multiple practice quizzes and section review tests provided during the courses, Silverman will also offer a mock exam — with immediate feedback — on the afternoon before the TJ admission test in December.
Jack Kent Cooke’s LIFT Program Aims to Repeat Success
Thanks to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, 62 rising 8th graders sampled TJ’s Middle School Tech Institute (MSTI) offerings this summer as part of an effort to prepare and encourage them to apply and be admitted to TJ. The Foundation’s “Learning through Inquiry, Fellowship, and Tutoring” (LIFT) grant, now in its second year, is providing low-income students with MSTI scholarships, TJ test-prep sessions, materials, and academic advising in an effort to increase their numbers at TJ (see Nov. 2015 issue).
Last year the LIFT program made significant progress toward its goal of at least tripling the percentage of low-income students at TJ over two years. The number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch who were admitted to TJ climbed from four to ten, with eight of those ten coming through the LIFT program. Seven of the eight admitted LIFT scholars will enroll in this fall’s freshman class.
In addition, for the sixth year in a row, Northrop Grumman provided 100 scholarships so that rising 7th graders from under-represented minority groups could attend MSTI free of charge.
MSTI provides middle-schoolers with an exciting introduction to TJ’s unique approach to STEM learning. All classes, from the engineering problems tackled in this summer’s brand-new course, “Reinventing the Wheel,” to the ever-popular “Got an App for That?” focus on hands-on problem-solving, collaboration, and exposure to real-world STEM applications.
Young TJ Grads Stay Involved in Local Outreach
Whether students were more interested in the mechanics of flight or the possibility of alien life, this summer’s week-long NeuroInspire and AeroInspire/AstroInspire classes — with five themed days from “brains” to “photography” — were sure to encourage further learning.
NeuroInspire co-founders and 2013 grads Nathan Kodama (on left in photo, above right) and Sid Sivakumar (on right) returned from Case Western University, where they are rising seniors, to lead the four-hour “Founders Program,” held at Glasgow MS starting each day at 7:30am. TJ classmate Suhas Gondi, another co-founder, took a day off from his internship to help out on “computer” day. Glasgow Principal — and former TJ Assistant Principal — Shawn DeRose participated on “music” day and found funds to cover the cost of supplies for the free class. Rounding out the group of volunteers were Matt Conley, TJ ’13, and McLean HS seniors Willie Kodama, Brian Min, and Lucy Zheng.
At the end of every day, the two classes combined for a closing “story” led by an instructor. On Friday, “food” day, the fun began with an interactive exercise on the five tastes followed by an elaborate meal. The day ended with Nathan Kodama sharing his path from environmental science in middle school to neuroscience in high school to physics in college. “Don’t expect to find your passion immediately,” he told the kids, “just keep following your interests and you’ll find it.”