LBHS PTA Gives Grants to Get Ideas
Laguna Beach High School students engaged with an assortment of animal companions on campus last week to help them de-stress before final exams.
Four support-therapy dog teams provided by the Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OCSPCA) PAWS program (Pets Are Wonderful Support) brought hugs and smiles to the kids from two golden retrievers (Adobe and Coral), a Labrador retriever (Gunner), and a greyhound (Teagan). Meanwhile, across the quad, students visited with a variety of reptiles – including snakes, lizards, an iguana, and a giant tortoise – for a different kind of connection.
While one student declared the event to be “the best idea this school has ever had,” the idea actually came from the students themselves as part of a grant program offered by LBHS PTA.
Now in its second year, PTA’s Student Grant Program was introduced as a way for PTA to fund suggestions made directly by students, as well as to gather new ideas for how to better address student needs. “Every year, PTA creates its budget based on what members – mostly parents – think is best for kids,” said program chairman Kathleen Fay. “This program gives students a voice by asking what matters most to them – what ideas do they have to improve their school?”
The answers come in the form of a brief grant application submitted by students followed up by a short (3-minute) presentation to the grant committee to discuss their idea. “We offered $1,000 last year and $2,000 this year to help make these student ideas become a reality,” said Fay. “But there’s also an important indirect benefit that comes from reading through all the suggestions: it helps us learn what’s really important to these kids. We are even able find ways to implement their ideas outside of PTA.”
Interacting with animals to relieve stress and anxiety before finals was suggested last year by students Clara Becker and Grace Wilson, who took their winning idea and started a student group to support the concept on an ongoing basis; this year they were joined by Maya Gallego and Gavin Gee to again be awarded with PTA funds to continue hosting these stress-healing events.
Another one of this year’s grant winners was Amar Bhatia, who proposed having CRV recycling cans in every LBHS classroom. Bhatia and his on-campus club, Zero Trash Laguna, offered to pick up the recycling on a regular basis. PTA purchased the recycling bins and Bhatia placed them in rooms around campus where they were needed. Remaining funds may be used for expansion of the program next year.
Soren Patchell suggested furnishing LBHS T-shirts for all students when school starts again in the fall to help build school spirit. “One of the goals in ASB is to build school spirit and create unity amongst the student body,” said Patchell. In the past, students have worn shirts in their own class colors to school events and activities, based on their year of expected graduation; this would shift the focus to overall school spirit by having a unified color for all. “We want remove obstacles for students to participate and get involved by providing shirts to every student,” Patchell said. PTA, in conjunction with ASB and LBHS administration, will contribute funds to help make this happen.
Leonard Wallstein urged LBHS to offer secure bicycle parking on campus to encourage students to bike to school. LBUSD welcomed Leonard’s recommendations and will use district funds to install bike racks on the Park Avenue side of campus (near the Artists’ Theatre) as part of summer renovations. “I hope people can enjoy those racks and maybe can learn to love biking to school as much as I do!” said Wallstein. He and members of LBHS Cycling will make themselves available to help with the project if needed
Wallstein also expressed appreciation for the grant program overall: “Thank you for setting this grant up; it’s really rare that students can directly share their ideas with PTA like this.”
LBHS PTA President-Elect James Azadian said he plans to continue the program next year.
Village Laguna Awards Scholarship
Village Laguna has awarded a scholarship to Charles Dickerson, a graduating senior at Laguna Beach High School. Since 1978, the organization has given scholarships to students who demonstrate leadership and involvement in activities protecting the environment and promoting humanitarian goals.
Dickerson is an avid photographer and is a member of the cross country and track teams. In a course in environmental studies at Saddleback College, he became aware of climate change, and water and air pollution, and was inspired to start an Environmental Awareness Club at LBHS. Club members have worked on ecological restoration in the salt-water marsh in Upper Newport Bay. Dickerson plans to major in chemical engineering and environmental studies at Irvine Valley College.
LBHS Seeks Mentors to Participate in Authentic Exploratory Research Program
Laguna Beach High School is seeking mentors to participate in Authentic Exploratory Research (AER), a student self-directed project-based learning program set to launch in the fall.
Focused on real-world application, AER asks students to identify a field of interest and pairs each student with a volunteer mentor in that field. The role of the mentor is to provide students with professional expertise and guidance as they work through one of three study plans: a business challenge that results in the resolution of a real-world business issue, an action-based project that solves a real-world problem, or academic research that concludes with an oral defense.
“The mentorship component is vital to this course. It is a one-on-one personalized learning experience for the student that connects them with an individual who is personally invested in their success, teaching them the value of building meaningful professional relationships,” said AER Mentor Coordinator Jenn Lundblad. “These are mutually beneficial relationships that build community capacity.”
AER, inspired by Palo Alto Unified School District’s Advanced Authentic Research program, is an independent research course in which students propose driving questions to explore their passions and career pathways in a variety of fields. The program was designed to encapsulate six experiences identified by Gallup (Crabtree, 2019) as the keys to success in the job market: a caring teacher, an inspiring teacher, a mentor, a long-term project, an internship, and involvement in extracurricular activities.
“Authentic Exploratory Research steps away from the traditional teaching methods to create a space for student-generated project-based learning where students will solve complex problems using a combination of skills, including reading, writing, math, teamwork, research gathering, time management, and information synthesizing,” said Superintendent Jason Viloria. “With the introduction of this elective course with real-life practice and relevant social contexts, we want to encourage students to become independent workers, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners.”
Interested mentors will be paired with a mentee according to the field of the student’s choosing and invited to attend an orientation to review the AER Mentor Handbook and go over any questions. Once the student-mentor partnership is established, it will be up to the student and the mentor to determine when and where they will meet. Mentors can expect a time commitment of 40 to 50 hours throughout the school year.
To participate as a mentor, contact Lundblad at 949-497-7750 ext. 1216 or [email protected]