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RSF Women’s Fund grant helps High Tech High’s Theatre Arts program

Editor’s note:

This is the final part of a four-part series that spotlights four separate local organizations, each of which received a financial gift from the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund (RSFWF) during the 2010 award cycle.

By Diane Y. Welch

Contributor

When a visitor enters the building at High Tech High North County (HTHNC) they see students designing beautiful work in a safe community that honors their individuality, so notes the public charter school’s website.

HTHNC is one of the newest additions to the High Tech High portfolio of schools. Located in San Marcos, the school opened in September 2007 with approximately 140 students in 9th grade and now serves approximately 500 students in grades 9 through 12.

While staying true to its individualized curriculum, the school offers a college preparatory, project-based learning environment and the Performing Arts classes are an important aspect of this approach. A recent grant of $16,055, awarded by the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund, will directly benefit the school’s Theatre Arts Program.

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RSFWF member Jinda Schatz — currently on the grants committee and co-chair of the publicity committee — was one of those assigned to conduct a site visit prior to the grant award. Others on the site visit team were Becky McKinney, Donna Vance and Dawn Hummel.

“Our group really loved High Tech High because of its alternative way of teaching kids who learn in a different way,” Schatz said. “The school knows that every child is different and they celebrate it!”

Schatz shared that she has two friends each with a child who attends HTHNC; one has bipolar disorder, and the other has ADHD.

“These kids at previous schools suffered from the feeling of not fitting in and having the worry of falling behind. Here at High Tech High, they have blossomed,” Schatz said. “The school really embraces creativity and the kids seem to thrive on this philosophy.”

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On the day of the visit, students were completing their final school project in the theatre space, said Vance, currently the grant’s chairman. “Each class was building their own exhibit that would be shared with fellow students, parents and the community. The students were all quite engaged. We were left with a very favorable impression of the campus, the students and the facility,” she said.

The funding from RSFWF was designated for the purchase of equipment, including portable stage pieces and lighting for two areas which the theatre program uses the most, said Lori Mullins Johnson, the liaison for the site visit and a parent of a HTHNC student who will be in the first graduating class next summer.

“One area is the classroom, which is a black box-style smaller theatre space, and the other is the community room, which is a larger flexible space within the campus,” said Mullins Johnson. The upgraded specialized lighting will enhance school productions, but may also facilitate a source of income for the school if the theatre space can be rented out when school is not in session, she added.

High Tech High began as a single charter school, launched in 2000 by a coalition of San Diego business leaders and educators. Over the last few years it has evolved into a school development organization with a growing number of innovative public charter schools spanning grades K-12. By creating a personalized, project-based learning environment the schools are designed to combat the problems of student disengagement and low academic achievement.

“In this day and age, with schools in the spotlight — mainly a negative spotlight — High Tech High is showing that there are schools out there who are truly making a positive difference to our future generations. We need to support that,” said Schatz.

The Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund began in November 2004 as a way for women to join together in meaningful and engaging ways to give back to the greater community. To find out more about the organization, visit www.rsffoundation.org/womensfund or call Nancy Hashim at 858-756-0249

To find out more about HTHNC, visit www.hightechhigh.org/schools/HTHNC


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