#RETHINKHIGHSCHOOL: EHS students earn $200,000 award, $1,000 scholarships by XQ Super School Project

Published 7:11 pm Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Carden                                Excitement filled the air inside the media center at Elizabethton High School Wednesday as students and faculty awaited their award from the XQ Super School Project.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Excitement filled the air inside the media center at Elizabethton High School Wednesday as students and faculty awaited their award from the XQ Super School Project.

Tasked with rethinking the way of learning, Elizabethton High School students were able to make an impact within the community.
Nestled inside the school’s media center, students of EHS Alex Campbell’s sociology class from December 2015, along with Elizabethton City School officials, were able to celebrate after learning they received a $200,000 award for their Bartleby Super School project submitted to XQ America’s Super School Project during a nationwide livestream Wednesday evening.
Along with the monetary reward, students from the class – some who have graduated and others that are still enrolled at EHS – also received a $1,000 scholarship each.
“We have phenomenal children who are focused on bettering our community,” ECS Superintendent Dr. Corey Gardenhour said. “I think they are special … when you’re in a pool of 10,000 different teams and come out on top, it tells us we’re doing the right thing. Our teachers are doing the right thing, teaching our children. They’re phenomenal, our kids are phenomenal … I just can’t say how proud I am of our students. Today is all about them.”
Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of Apple founder Steve Jobs, created XQ America’s $50 million project known as the Super School Project in 2015. During the process, schools across the country submitted various ideas to help “rethink” the way high school is approached by teachers and students. During Wednesday’s broadcast, 10 schools were recognized as ‘Super Schools’ – receiving grand prizes, while a handful of others, like Elizabethton, were also recognized.
It was a collaborative effort, according to Dustin Hensley. Hensley, along with Campbell and Daniel Proffitt were the instructors at EHS that assisted the students during the process.
“They enjoyed our ideas so much that they are sending a production team here to EHS to interview us about ideas for the broadcast and present us with an award,” Hensley told the Elizabethton Star Monday.
Students submitted a 70-page proposal last year that focused on experiential learning, community service and group based learning, Hensley explained, as a way for students to think critically on how to solve issues that benefit local needs. Students that took part in ‘Bartleby’ would not have textbooks and not have grades, solely passed based on their ability to work.
And that hard work paid off, as students and faculty were featured on a livestream featured worldwide, even trending on the social media outlet Twitter.
It is really, really amazing,” senior student Eliana Rangel said. “We expecting maybe $50,000, maybe less … we definitely wasn’t expecting getting $200,000 and then $1,000 for the each of us. This was just an amazing surprise for us. We didn’t expect this to happen. It means so much for the school, they can do so much with it. The students will have some say in how the school uses it, this was something student-created for the students.”
Much like his classmates, Ty Lawson was also in shock once the announcement was made.
“Being able to witness this is so surreal,” Lawson said. “We came into this project basically for the experience. We wanted to address problems within the educational system, within the community and how we could fix those. The fact we got a $200,000 bonus for our work speaks volumes about the capabilities of minorities, like students. I think it speaks a lot.
“I have to thank them,” Lawson continued about the instructors. “Without them, this project wouldn’t have even be started in the school. They have done wonders, not only with the project, but to guide us and help us along the way.”
Rangel was also quick to second Lawson’s sentiments.
“The teachers were amazing,” she said. “Mr. Hensley was the one that found the competition and Mr. Campbell was the one that guided us the entire way. He guided us, gave us ideas and helped us the entire way and telling what we needed to find. Without them, this wouldn’t have happened. Just the fact we have teachers that are so supportive to let us think and let us do things for our community and school is wonderful.”
On a livestream that featured the likes of President Barack Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and other highly-recognized figures, Dr. Gardenhour said the event was the perfect conclusion for the students, and the start of something special in Elizabethton.
“We’re trying to teach our kids on how to follow their dreams,” he said. “That starts with good education and a good foundation. I feel like what our students have done here today will be an example and a legacy that can be used for the betterment of this school and this community. They just left a big positive mark on our community today.”

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