Two Glencliff High School students were honored for their work in helping with one of the most pressing problems in schools.
Top officials, including Congressman Jim Cooper, Schools Director Jesse Register and Tennessee AT&T president Gregg Morton lauded seniors Lisa Bilavarn and Itzel Gonazalez for their effort to help with the number of student dropouts, attendance and graduation rates in their classes.
The pair was behind the ideas and wrote proposals that led to $20,000 worth of grants awarded by AT&T to the school to build an outside classroom and get more student involvement in the school garden.
“When teachers come out here and do their lesson plans, the students are very interested in what's going on,” explained Itzel outside the large-gazebo like structure that kids in her class helped build.
She continued, “It's something different from the normal classroom to get our attention.”
Classmate Lisa added, “Students are only going to get involved, if they can relate to it, if something is relevant to the rest of their life. Everyone can use the outside classroom. Math classes, science classes, any class.”
With its diverse students where 20% are still learning English, Glencliff's faced a daily absenteeism rate of 20% a few years back.
A-T&T noted that figure is now around 2% with some of the credit going to the two seniors who helped cultivate a school garden with an outdoor classroom room.
The grants given to Glencliff are part of AT&T's Aspire program which has given more than $150 million dollars to U.S. schools since 2008 and has committed another $250 million over the next five years.
Both Lisa and Itzel plan to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville next year.