Law enforcement, school administrators support sex ed addition

A Missouri bill voted on by the House looks to amend the state’s sex education requirements for public and charter schools.

It’s no secret the kind of access kids have to the web these days.

Whether it’s on their phones or on the computer internet danger is often just a click away.

“It’s getting younger and younger every day,” Detective Danny Hicks said.

Hicks runs the SEMO Cybercrimes Task Force with the Poplar Bluff Police Department and said teaching kids about internet safety cannot start early enough.

“Kids are getting on the internet at 5 and 6 years old playing games,” Hicks said.

He said too often kids just don’t what’s out there.

“Lack of knowledge is our biggest fear,” he said.

That’s what the Missouri bill hopes to address.

If passed, it would add an internet safety component to the state schools’ sex education curriculum.

“It’s needed,” Poplar Bluff Schools superintendent Chris Hon said. “Our kids are growing up in a time when the access is there for them.”

Hon said he supports the measure.

Some districts like his already try to inform students on their own.

“We teach a lot of digital citizenship at the junior high and the senior high,” Hon said. “We do it in the advisories and we do it in the classroom.”

Hon said incorporating it into sex education could prove efficient, but it needs to go beyond that.

“I think it needs to be hit a lot of places and also keep the communication line open with parents,” Hon said.

“For the most part the parents in a history when they didn’t have computers when they were five or six years old so they don’t have the knowledge,” Hicks said. “A lot of them don’t have the knowledge.”

In this case, law enforcement and school administrators are hoping to see that change.

“I’m not always real happy about things that legislature pushes down into curriculum, but to me this seems like a no brainer,” Hon said.

The measure will now go to the Senate for a vote.

Copyright 2015 KFVS. All rights reserved.

Injury prevention programs unpopular with high school coaches

By Kathryn Doyle

(Reuters Health) – Although injury prevention programs have been shown to help reduce leg and foot injuries in sports, less than ten percent of high school coaches implement the programs as designed, according to a new survey.

Half of coaches are aware of the programs, but many believe they’re too complex or do not offer an advantage over existing practices, researchers found.

“There are a ton of different programs out there,” said lead author Marc F. Norcross of Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Most include stretching and strengthening exercises focused on the hips and thighs, sometimes with jump-training to promote landing softly, Norcross said. Many are designed as 15 to 20 minute warm-ups three to four times per week before practices or games, in place of less structured warm-ups.

“We don’t know exactly how they work, but they are beneficial at least in some respects,” he told Reuters Health. “Rather than sit by and wait for the perfect medicine, let’s adopt this now.”

For the study, 66 head coaches for basketball or soccer at 15 high schools in Oregon completed an online survey of injury prevention program (IPP) knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.

Overall, 34 coaches were aware of IPPs, 14 reported using one of the programs with their team and six said they implemented the IPP exactly as designed.

Coaches of girls’ teams were more likely to be aware of IPPs than boys’ coaches.

Those who didn’t adopt an IPP often said the programs offered no advantage over their current way of doing things, were incompatible with their needs or would be difficult to implement, the authors write in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

“A good proportion didn’t view lower extremity injury as a problem on their team,” Norcross said.

In the 2013-2014 academic year, participants in high school sports in the U.S. sustained more than 300,000 lower-limb injuries that required medical attention and suspension of play for at least one day, according to a report by the Colorado School of Public Health Pediatric Injury Prevention, Education and Research Program. These include minor injuries and more serious ones, like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

ACL tears are serious injuries, but a coach may go several years without seeing one on his team and therefore believe they are not an issue, Norcross said.

“Most of these programs have been developed for ACL but also decrease things like ankle sprains and muscle strains, which are more common,” he said.

Oregon – like most U.S. states – does not promote awareness or education about lower extremity injury among high school coaches, the authors write.

Coaches are required to have training on so many important health and safety issues, adding another to their list of requirements may not be the way to address this issue, Norcross said.

“Sometimes a groundswell might be more beneficial for affecting change than a top-down approach,” he said. “From a layperson perspective, a parent or administrator can ask the coach, are we using this program?”

Coaches who are interested in implementing one can find free resources online for the FIFA 11+ warm-up program, designed for soccer players, or ask health care providers in their area for injury prevention mechanisms, he said.

SOURCE: Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, online April 1, 2015.

Becker Professional Education Awards 2015 Scholarships


Becker Professional Education, a global leader in professional education and a part of DeVry Education Group, today announced the recipients of its annual Newton D. Becker 2015 scholarship program. This year, more than 120 Certified Public Accountant (CPA) candidates will receive either a full or partial Becker CPA Exam Review scholarship.

Since its inception three years ago, the Newton D. Becker scholarship program has awarded more than $750,000 in financial assistance to students and accounting professionals aspiring to earn the CPA credential. The program was created to continue the legacy of Becker Professional Education’s founder, who passed away in 2012. Newt Becker founded the organization in 1957 and pioneered a new approach to prepare candidates for the CPA Exam, a test that Becker himself had initially struggled to pass.

“We are honored to recognize this year’s recipients of the Newton D. Becker scholarship program,” said Timothy McClinton, vice president of U.S. Accounting at Becker Professional Education. “These students embody the spirit and integrity exemplified by our founder, and we are excited to be able to help these bright individuals succeed in their pursuit of a CPA credential.”

To qualify, applicants had to meet the requirements to sit for the CPA Exam at the time of enrollment and demonstrate financial need, high moral character, leadership and commitment to community service.

“The Newton D. Becker Scholarship allows me to focus completely on passing the CPA Exam, positioning me to springboard into a new career as a 49 year-old single mom,” said Holly Doherty, a 2015 full scholarship recipient. “Until now, I worried about how to make this happen financially. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t need to do this the hard way. I will pass the exam and continue to grow as a CPA and as a human being, always mindful to give back.”

For additional information, visit:

About Becker Professional Education

Becker Professional Education, a part of DeVry Education Group (DV), is a global leader in professional education serving the accounting, project management and healthcare professions. Nearly half a million professionals have prepared to advance their careers through its CPA Exam Review, ACCA® Courses, CMA Exam Review, PMP® Exam Review, USMLE® Review and Continuing Professional Education courses. Throughout its more than 50-year history, Becker has earned a strong track record of student success through world-class teaching, curriculum and learning tools that enable its students to develop the knowledge and performance skills necessary to stay ahead in an ever-changing business world. For more information about Becker Professional Education, visit or call 1-877-CPA-EXAM.


Becker Professional Education
Liz Diakonow

FEATURE SERIES Pt. 1: Exam-ining education in the Sooke School District

In part 1 of a three-part series examining high school education on the West Shore, we look at provincial performance statistics and the difficulties with using them as indicators of how the system is working as a whole

Earlier this year, the Gazette ran an editorial talking about the graduation rates of students within the Sooke School District (SD62), which covers much of the West Shore of the Capital Region, as well as Sooke.

It was pointed out by people within the system that the numbers cited in that opinion piece, while technically accurate, did not tell the whole story of the state of education in the region – doing so in a 350-word piece about graduation statistics is nearly impossible. We realize that our interpretation may have created a perception amongst the public of a failure on the part of the school district.

“There’s always a story behind the data,” was almost the first thing out of assistant superintendent Dave Betts’ mouth when he sat down to discuss the editorial, entitled “Graduation rates an issue in SD62.”

Citing graduation statistics that were “enough to raise alarm bells in the hallways,” we called on the district to “act quickly to ensure a downward trend doesn’t continue.”

Possibly most alarming was the statistic cited that, “among all students listed as first-time Grade 12s in the Sooke district last year, just 68 per cent graduated in 2014.” That caused an uproar among educators, parents and administrators alike.

Betts acknowledged the figure was accurate, but pointed out that “first-time Grade 12s” by the province’s definition includes anyone who takes a Grade 12 course. He says such a percentage shouldn’t be in the discussion when it comes to graduation rates, because many of those students couldn’t possibly gain enough credits to graduate in that year. Maybe they are Grade 11 students who are ahead in a particular subject and want to get the Grade 12 course in that subject out of the way early, for example.

Maybe they’re Grade 10 students who chose to get the Graduation Transitions course – one of only two required Grade 12 courses needed to graduate with a Dogwood Diploma – out of the way.

“There’s a huge difference between a first-time Grade 12 and a person who is actually eligible to graduate,” Betts said. The second group are students who are actually within striking distance of gaining the requirements to complete their secondary schooling, while that factor isn’t even taken into account for the first group.

Looking at the second group alone, SD62’s “actual eligible grad rate is 83 per cent,” Betts said.

Another factor skewing the numbers downward, he said, is the fact that roughly 25 per cent of the student population are in what he calls “non-traditional” or “alternative” programs. Not surprisingly, the completion rate in those programs is significantly less than in traditional high schools.

At Pacific Secondary, one of the alternative education programs under the SD62 umbrella, 63 students took a Grade 12 course in 2013 – they’d be “first-timers” – but only eight graduated. That’s 13 per cent.

Two out of 41 kids  who were enrolled in a Grade 12 course at Juan de Fuca – another alternative program – got their credential. That’s five per cent.  Similarly, the BITE program graduated 31 per cent of its first-timers.

Most educators would agree these students need more time to be successful. They have different needs from those in traditional systems. They live different lives and struggle with more than just school.

Betts was once the principal of those alternative schools, so he knows the myriad challenges students face when they’re trying to get to graduation.

“Without a high school graduation,” he said, “they don’t have the foundation for a better life. We don’t say to them, you know, ‘You’ve had your five years in the Sooke School District, so see ya later, it’s time to go.’ We give them six, seven, eight years to graduate if they need it.”

Statistically, the schools are “not doing us any favours,” Betts admitted.

“But I know personally that the people who have graduated, what a boost that has been in their life and what an opportunity that provides for them that otherwise wouldn’t exist. In this district we pride ourselves on making sure that we’re providing those opportunities for all of our students.

“We serve our community. These folks are a big part of our community, and I think it’s our obligation –  our duty –  to make sure we’re providing programs for them that are going to enable them to be successful in life.”

So how is the district working towards improving the numbers within the alternative education section, if that’s what’s bringing down the overall totals?

“What we don’t want to do is play games with the numbers,” Betts said. “We could play games with the numbers and not record people who are just enrolled in any Grade 12 class, or we could say ‘you’ve had your time and now you’re out.’ That would be a way to make the numbers go up quickly and would look great on paper. But it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is work with the kids who are not being successful in the current situation …”

That’s where Paul Block comes in.

As the district principal for adult and alternative education for SD62, he’s one of the people driving that change for the better within the system, in an attempt to get those numbers up without “playing games” with them.

“These kids are highly intelligent, incredibly resourceful and very resilient,” Block said. “They just need some guidance and compassion for what they’ve endured and continue to endure.”

They also need to have education presented to them in a different way.

“What I saw when I was working in primary school,” Block said, “was the strength and power of the cohort model, where the same group of kids move through together and build a community.”

He felt this style of learning would translate well for older kids who don’t necessarily learn best in a traditional structure, and presented it as an option to the established model of alternative education.

His model has now been adapted for the region’s alternative education programming, and everyone is not only hopeful, but confident it will benefit those who need it most.

So the numbers are actually better than they might first appear on a spreadsheet. The district is, in fact, keeping pace with overall graduation outcome averages throughout the province as well as taking care of an underserved segment of the population and increasing their ability to do so.

Block, Betts, and the school district as an entity all believe the new model being implemented in the alternative education system will make a huge difference to the overall average outcomes in the district.

There are still gains to be made, however.

Ian Johnson, president of the Sooke Teacher’s Association said, “When you look at the data that’s collected, I think we’re doing as well as anybody. It’s generally agreed by everyone, I think, that under the conditions we are forced to teach in right now, we do a very good job. Could it be better? Absolutely.”

Hear more from Johnson in Part 2 in the series, where we examine the challenge of just straight-up not having enough money.

U.S. senators propose fix to controversial education law

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two senior U.S. senators released a bipartisan proposal on Tuesday that would shrink federal influence on U.S. elementary and secondary education, keeping a mandate for annual tests, but letting U.S. states decide how to use the results.

The proposal is a rewrite of No Child Left Behind, a law signed in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush. It required that U.S. children take annual standardized tests, and sanctioned schools that do not meet performance targets.

The law was intended to help children do better in school by setting high standards and increasing teacher accountability, but it was criticized as too test-focused and too punitive after struggling schools lost students and funding.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s education committee, and Senator Patty Murray, its top Democrat, negotiated for months to produce the bill announced Tuesday. They said there would be a committee vote on it next Tuesday.

The proposal keeps the No Child Left Behind requirements that states have to test every student annually in math and reading in grades 3-8, and once in high school, according to a summary released by the committee.

The bill restores to states, instead of the federal government, the responsibility for determining what to do about struggling schools, the summary said.

The bill also says the federal government cannot mandate or incentivize states to maintain any particular standards, such as

“Common Core” — a set of academic standards developed by state education chiefs but promoted by the federal government with funding as an incentive.

The bill ensures federal money may be used for pre-school programs by clarifying that states, school districts and schools can spend federal dollars to improve early childhood education programs, the summary said. This was important to Murray, a former pre-school teacher.

While the bill’s bipartisan nature is a good sign for its Senate future, it is unclear what will happen in the House. There a rewrite of No Child Left Behind was pulled from the chamber’s floor in February after conservatives said it did not do enough to let states opt out of the law.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell. Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Andre Grenon)

Senators announce agreement to update education law

WASHINGTON (AP) — School kids would still take annual standardized tests, but states would have much more control in how the results are used to scrutinize schools under a bipartisan plan to update the No Child Left Behind education law announced Tuesday by two key senators.

“We have found remarkable consensus about the urgent need to fix this broken law, and also on how to fix it. We look forward to a thorough discussion and debate in the Senate education committee next week,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, in a joint press release issued with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee’s senior Democrat.

Murray said there’s more work to be done, but the agreement is a “strong step in the right direction.”

The Senate agreement comes in contrast to a partisan stalemate in the House, where a vote on a GOP-crafted bill to update the Bush-era law was abruptly cancelled in February amid opposition from conservatives concerned that it would continue too strong a federal role in education. House Democrats all along widely opposed the bill, authored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and said it abdicated the federal role in protecting minority, poor and disabled children. The White House threatened to veto it.

The senators announced an April 14 hearing to debate their proposal, which Alexander and Murray have worked on behind closed doors for months. Among the issues they’ve grappled with is whether to maintain requirements that all students be tested annually in reading and math in grades three to eight and again in high school. Their plan keeps those requirements, but allows states to determine the weight of those tests in how they judge schools.

Initially, Alexander said he was open to debate over federal testing requirements. Murray has supported the requirements as a way to track student progress.

The House bill also keeps the testing requirements.

But, one significant difference is that the senators’ proposal does not allow public money to follow low-income children to different public schools, such as charter schools. Some Republicans support allowing public dollars to follow students to both public and private schools.

Despite this consensus, there are still many roadblocks ahead to get the law changed. The House has yet to reschedule a vote, and there’s widespread disagreement in Congress over how much of a federal role there should be in identifying and improving failing schools and determining how federal dollars are spent for education.

The No Child Left Behind law, signed in 2002, has been credited with shining a light on the performance of poor, minority, disabled and non-English speaking students, but led to complaints from both Republicans and Democrats that the requirements were unworkable.

The Obama administration in 2012 began allowing waivers around some of the law’s more stringent requirements if schools met certain conditions.


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Middle College to begin enrollment for 2015-16

Sonora High School will hold an informational meeting this Thursday explaining a program placing high school students in the college classroom. 

The Middle College Program, in partnership with Columbia College, allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college courses while completing their high school education.  




Thursday’s meeting will cover applying, enrolling and successfully completing the program.

Courtney Castle, Sonora High School’s Middle College coordinator, stressed that both parents and students understand the level of responsibility that comes with enrollment.

“Students must be mature enough to handle the academic challenges and responsibility of the program,” Castle said.

Students spend two periods on the Sonora High School campus and attend Columbia College, unsupervised, for the remainder of their courses.

Counselors from the high school and college guide students throughout the process, but responsibility falls on the students to select courses at Columbia College that meet high school graduation requirements.

Sonora High will enroll 45 new students for the 2015-16 school year — more than any year since the program’s creation in 2007, Castle said.

“Our program is really booming,” she said.

The application process requires references and written responses expressing a student’s interests and education goals.

Along with an application, program coordinators review attendance records, discipline records, grades and standardized testing scores to determine eligibility.


Public meeting: Sonora High Middle College Program student/parent informational meeting, 6 p.m., Sonora High School library, 430 N. Washington St., Sonora.


EXO U Launches The New Digital Education Platform at the 2015 ASU-GSV Conference

The EXO U Digital Education Platform solves the universal problem facing schools today – managing and delivering the overwhelming number of apps, devices, and technologies in the classroom.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ , April 6, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ – From the 2015 ASU-GSV conference in Scottsdale Arizona , EXO U (EXO.V) today announced the launch of its Digital Education Platform, making the 1:1 and BYOD vision for learning an achievable, affordable reality for every school and district. The EXO U platform focuses on the new digital learning landscape in education, delivering a range of instructional content to any student device. With both offline and online flexibility, EXO U levels the playing field for every learner with access to a device. The platform creates a classroom-focused, learner-centric operating system, that runs across multiple devices, is compatible with most OS’s, and delivers both online and offline access to students in and beyond the classroom.

Conference Event

During the 2015 ASU-GSV conference, representatives of EXO U, a conference sponsor, will participate in the 7 Minute Speed Pitch, offer platform demos, and on Monday, April 6 th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. , the company will transform its sponsor conference room into a 21st century classroom, giving conference attendees the opportunity to take part in immersive teaching and learning experiences using the EXO U Digital Education Platform.

The EXO U Digital Education Platform Advantages

The Digital Education Platform supports the instructional content in which schools have already invested. Its dashboard environment is purpose-built for on-demand visibility into student activity and engagement, and offers these capabilities:

  • Support and encouragement for collaboration and transparency.  Teachers can share instructional content easily and see student activity and engagement at a glance.  Distractions are minimized.  Efficiency is optimized.
  • Device agnostic, helping schools and districts accomplish their 1:1 and BYOD vision more easily and securely.
  • A unique offline option gives students who many not have Internet connection beyond school hours continued access to their digital materials outside the classroom.
  • A unified experience in using other applications for instructional continuity, such as Learning Management System curriculum content.
  • Seamless access to and support for Open Education Resources (OER), opening a world of enrichment and engagement for students and teachers.


“The EXO U Digital Education Platform increased student engagement and productivity in our classrooms, allowing more instruction time and direct connection with my students. The platform’s intuitive and easy-to-use interface made it possible for both teachers and students to begin using the technology immediately.” — High School Administrator, Quebec, Canada

Shan Ahdoot , CEO and Co-Founder of EXO U, stated, “The EXO U Digital Education Platform has the power to change the way, teachers manage technology-infused learning experiences. Using one central dashboard, they can teach more efficiently and engage students more fully with personalized instruction.  Administrators save time and money, future-proof technology investments and gain visibility into how technology is being used.”

Ken Chen , Vice President of Product Management explained further, “One key goal for the Digital Education Platform was to help schools and districts minimize costs and time associated with  technology implementation and training – while making it possible for them leverage the investments they’ve already made in devices, content, and tools. With more affordability, faster implementation, and dramatically reduced requirements for training, administrators can deliver best-in-class resources and tools across the district, supporting equity and effective technology access for every learner.”

The EXO U Digital Education Platform integrates seamlessly with a district’s existing learning and student management systems (LMS and SIS systems) and makes it easy to provide apps and instructional content at an enterprise level. This leverages the investments districts have already made in systems, content, and data.

The EXO U Digital Education Platform is available for pilot and beta test programs and is available on annual license basis. A limited number of free pilot implementation will be available through September 30, 2015 for schools and districts interested in testing the new platform.

Additional Feature and Function Details

  • EXO U Administrative Console helps administrators implement digital learning solutions district wide, using the Console to add users and accounts, configure servers, build a private app library and more with ease.
  • EXO U Teacher Workspace includes the tools teachers need to engage, manage, and motivate students including:
    • Classroom App gives teachers tools to manage classes and students daily with at a glance ease. Teachers can take attendance with a visual roll call, get notifications in real time when a student disconnects or leaves the workspace, and limit distractions with the lock student screen feature.
    • Lessons App helps teachers create engaging lesson plans with video, websites, eBooks, PDFs, and the digital materials schools already have. Teachers can deliver instruction with zero transition time when switching from one unit to another. 
    • Notes App enables teachers or students to easily take and share notes.
    • Quiz App helps teachers instantly assess student comprehension, create written or verbal questions, and allows free form, true / false, or multiple-choice answers. Results are available immediately so after the quiz is completed, teachers automatically receive compiled quiz results so they can remediate, accelerate, or intervene as needed.
    • Share App delivers one touch sharing from users’ workspaces, while teachers maintain control of the classroom environment. Teachers can select what materials to share with an individual or group and share materials with disconnected users who automatically receive content once their device is re-connected.
    • Library App organizes and centralizes important teaching materials, apps and files for the school or classroom. End users can search the private library for apps and learning materials, find detailed information about apps, download content, view recently posted apps and share favorite apps with peers.
    • Browser App is easy to use in and beyond the classroom for instruction. To keep students on task, teachers can use the lock feature while sharing the browser, allowing students to view and bookmark the web page, but not navigate away to another website.  
    • PDF Reader App make is easy to open, view and share existing PDF files in the classroom. Using a Windows or Mac OS computer, teachers can find and open PDF files saved on your computer hard drive.
    • Home App: View a list of shared events and related information during your day. You can even see missed shares while you were offline, and then take action and catch up on these shared events after you have re-connected.


About EXO U

EXO U focuses on the new digital learning landscape in education.  From delivering a range of instructional content to any student device to providing tools for one-touch content management, personalization and organization, we make the 1:1 and BYOD vision for learning an achievable, affordable reality.  With both offline and online flexibility, EXO U levels the playing field for every learner with access to a device. EXO U (TSX-V: EXO) is located in Palo Alto, CA and   Montréal, QC. For more information, visit


Certain statements made in this press release that are not historical facts are forward-looking and are subject to important risks, uncertainties and assumptions. The results or events predicted in these forward–looking statements may differ materially from actual results or events. As a result, readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. For additional information with respect to certain of these and other assumptions and risk factors, please refer to EXO U’s management’s discussion and analysis for the three and nine-month periods ended December 31, 2014 available under the Corporation’s profile on SEDAR at The forward-looking information contained in this press release represents EXO U’s current expectations. EXO U disclaims any intention and assumes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information, except by applicable securities laws.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts any responsibility for the adequacy of this release.



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NASA Hosts Student Rocket Fair, Helps Students Launch High-Power Rockets

More than 30 high school, college and university teams will launch student-built rockets during the 15th annual NASA Student Launch event April 10-11 near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Middle school and high school teams will launch their rockets to an altitude of one mile, deploy onboard science experiments and land safely using a system of recovery parachutes. University and college teams will participate in either the Mini-Mars Ascent Vehicle (Mini-MAV) or the Maxi-Mars Ascent Vehicle (Maxi-MAV) divisions. Mini-MAV teams must use a robotic system to autonomously load a payload into their rocket, launch to half a mile and eject the payload during descent. Maxi-MAV teams, competing for a share of $50,000 in prize money, will attempt to meet more autonomy requirements before also launching to a half mile.

All launches will take place at Bragg Farms in Toney, Alabama. Maxi-MAV launches begin at 10 a.m. CDT and will run until approximately 5 p.m. on April 10. Mini MAV and middle and high school launches begin at 7:30 a.m. and run until completed April 11. In the event of rain, the event will move to April 12.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 9, students will participate in a Rocket Fair at Marshall’s Activities Building 4316, where they will give technical presentations to, and get valuable feedback from, engineers and team members from NASA and Student Launch corporate sponsor Orbital ATK.

New to this year’s Student Launch event is a partnership with NASA’s Centennial Challenges, the agency’s prize program for citizen inventors. The awards banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 10 inside the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space Rocket Center at 1 Tranquility Base in Huntsville. Real-time coverage of the banquet and awards presentation will be provided on the NASA Student Launch Twitter account @NASA_Launchfest.

Media interested in covering Student Launch activities should contact Angela Storey of the Marshall Public and Employee Communications Office at 256-544-0034 no later than 4 p.m. April 8. Media attending events at Marshall must report to the Redstone Visitor Center at Gate 9, Interstate 565 interchange at Rideout Road and Research Park Boulevard no later than 10 a.m. April 9 for escort. Vehicles are subject to a security search at the gate. Journalists will need photo identification and proof of car insurance. 

The Student Launch program challenges participating student teams to design rockets that address the research needs of different NASA missions. Student teams will share their research results, which may be used to design and develop future NASA projects.

The program is managed by Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office and supported by NASA’s Office of Education, Human Explorations Operations Mission Directorate, and Centennial Challenges Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, as well as Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems of Promontory, Utah. Marshall manages the Centennial Challenges program for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.

Student Launch is open to public viewing and will be aired live on NASA Television and Marshall’s Ustream and Twitter accounts, at:

For more information on Student Launch, visit: 


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High school seniors in mad scramble to finish community service

Mary Wagner gets insistent with her students at this time of year. It’s 10 weeks until graduation day, and she’s been nudging seniors at James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring to finish their community service hours.

“We keep making it clear: This is not optional,” says Wagner, whose last count showed 93 of the school’s 378 seniors had come up short on the Maryland state graduation requirement.

In many schools in the Washington region, community service hours take on a new-found urgency in spring, as students nearing graduation look to put in time at soup kitchens, charitable events, libraries, parks, recreation centers and retirement homes.

In Montgomery County, 26 percent of seniors had outstanding hours in the second week of March, according to school system figures. In Prince George’s County, the number was 28 percent at about the same point.

“I always tell them, ‘Spring break is the perfect opportunity to get things done,’ ” says Yvette Wright, a counselor at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville. “Kids tend to procrastinate and wait until the last minute.”

In Maryland, students must earn 75 student-service learning hours to graduate, though many of those hours may be embedded within academic courses. D.C. public schools require 100 hours of community service. Virginia doesn’t have a statewide mandate, but many students may do such work through certain classes, organizations or on their own.

Ideally, students land work that is related to a strong interest or career possibility, Wright says. Her students have put in time at an animal shelter, a food pantry, an arboretum, a hospital and the National Institutes of Health — not only helping others, she said, but also gaining practical experience and boosting college applications.

Wright says she’s noticed that amid a renewed focus on the issue, “kids are understanding the purpose, that service learning is about giving back and getting involved.”

In spring, some popular community service spots are flooded with calls.

“We are more than overwhelmed with high school kids who want to do service hours,” said John Krivak, a librarian at the Prince George’s County Memorial Library in Hyattsville.

In D.C., Peter MacPherson, a parent and Ward 6 education ­activist, said the service requirement is worthwhile but can be daunting. His daughter, involved in a rigorous academic program at School Without Walls and competitive swimming for many years, has put in more than 35 hours since January, helping at a library, a school, a science fair, a pet adoption event and a museum, as well as tutoring children, he said.

“It’s a scramble,” he said.

At Montgomery’s Clarksburg High School, Natoscha McKinnon, head of the counseling department, also notes that many students have competing obligations. For some, jobs and family responsibilities are a priority, she said. “They understand the importance of it,” she said. “It’s just a matter of finding time to fit it in.”

At Clarksburg, just under 30 percent of students still have hours to document, said Ed ­Dalton, who coordinates the effort. Still, he said, “it all does come together in the end,” adding that he could recall only once when a student did not complete the hours and could not graduate with classmates.

Last year, fewer than 10 Montgomery County students, in a senior class of more than 10,000, failed to graduate for lack of service hours.

At Asbury Methodist Village, a continuing-care retirement community in Gaithersburg, volunteer manager Sharon Bennett says she’s seen an uptick in student interest as graduation nears. “We have a big mass of seniors right now trying to get their hours done,” she said.

Still, Bennett says, the teens contribute a lot — helping dementia patients use iPods, reading to the vision-impaired, playing bingo, providing simple companionship.

On Friday, high school students were working with Asbury residents preparing packages of food for residents of a homeless shelter.

Aiyla Vallier, 17, a Clarksburg High senior performing community service at Asbury for the first time, said she liked the work and hoped to keep going after she met her school obligations.

“They’re like my grandparents,” she said of the residents, recalling one woman who smiled and joked with her. “I like being around the seniors.”

Some students take on community work regularly.

In D.C., Benjamin Banneker Academic High School requires 270 hours of service. In Montgomery, students who earn 260 hours or more are recognized with a purple tassel at graduation. In Prince George’s, students with extra hours are eligible to compete for a scholarship.

“We’re teaching them global citizenship and how you give back to the community,” said Banneker Principal Anita Berger.

Karen Osorio, a 17-year-old senior in Prince George’s County, says she has completed nearly 200 hours, working at an elementary school in the summer and with a softball team for developmentally disabled students.

“I always think it’s good to give back to the community and also to gain experience,” she said, pointing out that she has learned workplace skills she would not have otherwise acquired.

At Blake High School, Wagner, the school’s coordinator for ­student-service learning hours, says seniors and their families are notified of outstanding service requirements in a variety of ways, including letters, robocalls and meetings.

Many students consult the county’s volunteer center Web site for opportunities. But Wagner also has created a wall for service opportunities just outside her classroom.

One recent day, she checked in with several seniors during lunch. “What are you going to do?” she asked, looking for specifics.

One student said he had done many hours but neglected to hand in his paperwork.

Tyronne Okunoren, 18, said he had two service gigs, one at his younger brother’s elementary school and another at the National Capital Trolley Museum. He was nearly done, he said.

“At first I thought it was going to be a chore,” he recalled. “But after the first week, I started to get into it.” He says the work gives him a view beyond the classroom: “It kind of lets me take a break from academics and focus on the real world.”