#NEXTis: A student’s POV
“So what exactly is NEXT High School?”
I get this question often.
So often in fact, that I have perfected my response to be as involuntary and mechanical as the computers people assume NEXT High Schoolers are obsessed with.
The conversation almost inevitably occurs as follows:
“NEXT High School is a new charter high school across the street from Wade Hampton High, located in the Concentrix buildings.”
“So, it’s not a public school?”
“Oh no! It is; it’s just a public charter school, which means it is free and accessible to all students — it receives funding from the state but is also supported by partners in our community. It basically means they have more freedom as far as policy and curriculum.”
“Ok, so what is its focus? I’ve heard it’s like a tech school right?
“Yes and no. Our focus is impact-based learning, like project-based learning, but our projects are designed to have an actual impact on the community instead of just being thrown away. We also focus on preparing students for real life, which means we are heavily involved with new technology, and we all get Chromebooks, but don’t worry, we still know how to use paper and pencils.”
At this point, the imbalance between my unstimulated brain and overused voice is unfortunately audible in my tone and my conversational partner usually parts from the conversation with some degree of understanding.
While all I say is true and necessary to know when trying to wrap one’s mind around the complex concept of NEXT High School, here’s what I really want to say:
“What is NEXT? Where to start? NEXT is taking over a year (yeah you heard me right) to find the time to write this article between starting a nonprofit, making time for three little brothers, soccer five days a week, a job and that other thing, what’s it called? Oh right, actual school — the thing that’s gonna get me into college — or so I’m told.
NEXT is getting up every morning, and just like at every other school, sitting in class, but not really in class, because there are no walls and no rooms. And NEXT is having to deal with the challenges this environment presents, especially when you’ve got a common case of crazy ADD.
But, just as there are no walls in our space, there are no walls on our ideas. We don’t just check the boxes that force our potential into traditional public education, we fill them — with food for Harvest for Hope, with used clothes to be transformed into stuffed animals for children with cancer. Sure, we get distracted by that kid over there playing a recorder through his nose — oh it happens — the incessant bouncing of the soccer ball yet to be tamed by teachers, or the spontaneous flash dancing often initiated by that one group of girls, but NEXT says it’s ok.
NEXT is turning your flash dance into a concert, and using your talents to show the world that teenagers aren’t just self-obsessed computer freaks destined to ruin the coming generation. NEXT is breaking down the barriers that “grown ups” insist define their status, and replacing them with bridges of creativity, realistic problem-solving, an appreciation for failure, and a passion for making a difference.”
At this point I imagine I would be holding a yellow diamond studded microphone, solely for the purpose of dropping it before my listener could respond with what would surely be something like:
“What the heck is wrong with you kid?!?”
Lucy Manley, NEXT School Foundation Fellow