Before National Fame, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho Started As An Undocumented Immigrant

What’s News In This Story?

This story is part of a new partnership between RISE NEWS and Miami Today to highlight impressive people doing big things across South Florida. To learn more about Alberto Carvalho’s plans for the future of Miami’s public schools: read the story in Miami Today

Here’s another cool story: 

Meet The Three Frenchmen Who Are Taking Over Miami’s Culinary Scene

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Broward County Will Start The 2018-2019 School Year WAY Earlier Than Usual

What’s New With This Story: 

-Broward County will start the next school year nearly a week earlier than usual. 

-The first day of class for the 2018-2019 school year will be on Wednesday August 15. 

– The last day of class is scheduled for June 4, 2019. 


The Broward County School Board voted to start the 2018-2019 school year a bit earlier than usual.

The first day of class will be on Wednesday August 15, in contrast to the August 21 start date for the current school year.

There will also be 10 teacher planning days, 6 early release days and students will have Election Day off on November 6.

WSVN reports that the School Board has also set aside five hurricane make up days in case they are needed.

You can see the entire 2018-2019 Broward School Calendar online.

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Cover Photo Credit: Brett Levin/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What It’s Like Being One Of The Only White Kids In A Predominately Black School

I have to confess.

I enthusiastically agreed to write this piece.

It seemed as if it would be easy to write about my life, a part that was as formative as it was unpredictable.

The truth is, I was completely at a loss for how to actually put into words my 7th and 8th grade years in Arlington, Texas.

At first, I thought I would tie in school choice.

I figured it’s a hot topic in our current political climate, and I have plenty of thoughts on the issue.

Then, I decided I would write it as if it were a platform; I’d persuade you to my side with tales from my childhood.

Instead, I’ve chosen to write you a letter.

This letter is addressed to all those who have ever feared the unknown, that have ever gone off of a preconception rather than waited for an actual personal experience, that have ever been proven right, that have ever been proven wrong, and that have ever realized that learning doesn’t stop just because you’re no longer in school.

This is for you.

My name is Bradley Pennington, and I was raised in the south as a white student in a black majority junior high.

At the time, I’m not sure this particular experience stood out as extraordinary to me, but it has come to mean a great deal.

I had no way of knowing, but the two years I spent at this school would have a lasting impact on me for years to come.

You see; an education does not consist of only the things you learn in the classroom, but also of the things you learn in the hallway, out on the parking lot, and on your walk home.

I learned innumerable lessons at this school, but I will stick to recounting three of the most valuable lessons.

The first lesson I learned was how to communicate, not only with people and about topics I was comfortable with, but also with strangers about topics that would often push me outside of my narrow view of the world and into a space where I could better learn and grow.

There’s something tremendously valuable about the coming together of multiple cultures.

There’s something equally valuable, if not slightly more chaotic, about the the coming together of multiple 14 year olds.

In any given day, I would be prompted to explain the way my family did things and hear the stories of how my classmates’ families conducted themselves.

It wasn’t the differences that stood out, but rather, the similarities.

Photo Credit: Charlie/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

And within those similarities, I learned about universal truths; the want of a child to make their parents proud, the need for familial love regardless of whether the need is met, and the pursuit of fulfillment in life.

It is through these basic needs, that my communication skills began to blossom.

I went from being shy and nervous, to knowing exactly where I could find a commonality with a stranger.

I was now blessed with the skill of conversation. I could talk to friends, enemies, strangers, adults, kids, and anyone in between because I had finally had my eyes open to something different and realized, that at our core, differences fade and we all end up desperately seeking the same things.

The second lesson I learned was that passion is the secret ingredient in the recipe of happiness.

I’ll be honest and say that my junior high wasn’t always the easiest place to learn.

The school served the highest priced homes in the city and the homeless shelters simultaneously.

I fell in the middle of that group and never knew either extreme intimately.

With the vastly different background of the students came behavior problems.

There were students who had to be concerned more with where their next meal would come from than the Pythagorean theorem.

Likewise, there were students whose entitlement stood in the way of their ability to learn those valuable lessons outside of the classroom; the social and emotional lessons.

Neither of these groups were truly responsible for their hindrances, but the burden nonetheless fell to the same people; the teachers.

And as I watched many of the teachers deal with the 16 hours outside of the classroom just as much as the 8 hours within the walls of the school building, I learned about putting your passion into action.

True happiness can only come from finding what you want to do and seeking it with a reckless abandon.

The teachers were stakeholders; they mentored, they educated, they loved, and they sacrificed.

Every day that I wake up, I pray that I can be half as passionate as them.

The last lesson is one more spiritual in nature.

I learned that fate, or God in my belief, puts us right where we need to be at any given moment.

Had my parents had another option, they may not have placed me at this particular junior high.

There were other, more prestigious junior highs in the city, and I was a young man that had an affinity for learning.

But had I not been there, I don’t know that my eyes would have ever been fully opened to the world around me.

I was challenged at this school.

The teachers didn’t care that some of their students walked in the door having all the resources in the world at their disposal while others walked in without a single pencil; they expected our best, consistently.

I was made to give up on making excuses because mine weren’t as good as some and any excuse I could think of had surely already been told before.

And ultimately, I learned that is our shared responsibility on this earth to do right by each other.

No one is going to make it through this life alone.

There is no use in cutting ourselves off from new opportunity and new friendship.

I was destined to be at that school because it would play a major role in who I would become.

Would I have learned these lessons at any other school?

I have no way of knowing that.

But I do know this: Diversity breeds intuitiveness, and intuitiveness leads to understanding.

Often times our world leaves us wishing people had more understanding for their fellow man.

I wish everyone could have an experience like I did.

Being the minority, even if it’s only for 8 hours a day, opens your eyes and allows you to see the world for what it is.

I treasure my days in junior high because they ultimately taught me about humanity.

So my advice to you is to reach out to someone you would have never thought about talking to before.

Make time for personal growth and learning.

The world can be your classroom and every person you encounter has the chance to be your teacher.

You’ll never know until you are far enough removed from a situation whether it was one that can transform you forever.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: justine warrington/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

I Went To The Actual “Gossip Girl” School. Here’s What I Learned

Gossip Girl.

Not just a set of novels or a television series that shows an exaggerated interpretation of “Manhattan’s elite” at an all-girls’ independent school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Truth be told, the fictional Constance-Billard School for Girls is based on my real all-girls’ independent K-12 school on the Upper East Side (but its name is “a secret I’ll never tell” – unless you can figure out the clues I sprinkle throughout the piece).

While some of the women I called my classmates had been at the school since kindergarten and had mothers who attended the school as well, I entered in the 7th grade as a financial aid student through an academic program that targets high academically-achieving students of color in New York City public schools.

My dream school as a 12-year-old applying to these independent schools was co-ed and on a campus that housed huge fields for their sports team, exactly what you would see on Friday Night Lights.

However, the program required all students to apply to a single-sex school, something my father was truly ecstatic about and something I cried about (I was very boy crazy at 12).

Due to my birthday being in September and my mother signing me up for pre-kindergarten at the age of 3, most schools wanted me to repeat the 6th grade so that my age could align with my future classmates.

However, the all-girls’ school that I did not want to apply to was the only one that decided to take a chance on me and allowed me to continue onto the 7th grade.

The months leading up to my entrance through the blue doors of the famed school felt like a crash course: having to pick up books that I never imagined having access to, preparing for the academic differences between the public school I was so used to and the independent school that housed women whose worlds I would not understand at first (and at times still do not), and buying a uniform that was beyond any clothing budget I could imagine.

However, by the time I graduated from the school, I wore my plaid blue, white, and grey skirt that always would just make the length cut-off with my head held high (each all-girls’ school had their own unique skirt).

As the co-head of tour guides my senior year, I received many questions from admitted students regarding my experience, many of which oozed with confusion and concerns.

Well, now is as a good a time as ever to pass along the advice that came from these conversations.

Here’s what’s it really like to go to an all girls prep school:

1. Yes, you will interact with males.

You do not move to another planet.

I will admit that my heart did flutter whenever I saw someone of the opposite sex; however, I think that happens whenever you are going through your first set of crushes.
2. Going off of that, take advantage of the opportunities given to interact with your brother school(s).

It is nice to have friends from there when you are forced to do plays and community service together.

3. You will not feel uncomfortable if and when you decide to go to a co-ed college.

If anything, I felt more confident.

I had strengthened my voice during my 6 years at my school.

I knew how to speak up and to speak with confidence.

Just because some testosterone was added to the mix when I started college did not mean I forgot how to raise my hand and share my opinion.

4. You will get many questions asking if you are now an uber feminist.

Always say, “Hell yeah. We never shave our legs, burn bras, never wear make-up, and you don’t even want to know what happens at school.”

You won’t get the dumb question again. Only a face of mixed emotions.

5. Be grateful that you are in a place that knows the importance of women in this world.

Faculty and staff go above and beyond to ensure your success because they know how much you are needed.

6. Also be grateful that you can shout about needing a tampon or pad without the confused, horrified, or joking reaction of men.

Be free, and happily catch that tampon that is thrown across the room.

7. You will become attached to your uniform skirt.

You will never want to throw it out.

You will take it with you to college and most likely use it as part of a costume.

8. I graduated with a class of 38 other women, and with such a small group, you are bound to know A LOT about each other.

You all may be at very different stages of our personal lives.

Do not feel as though you are lagging or are way ahead.

Everyone goes at their own pace, and it just may intensified because you see the same small group every day.

9. Almost everyone at your school will become a familiar face.

Be happy about it, especially when the cute little kindergarten student waves every time she sees you.

10. There are many moments when you will feel a lot of love accompanied by hugs.

11. Remember the moment you enter the blue doors (or whatever color your school’s doors are) as well as the moment you leave them behind. The experience you gain at an all-girls’ school is a very unique one that can never be replicated.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: William Murphy/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)

The Teacher Who Changed My Life: Haitian Cai

I have met many teachers since I was a little child.

There are some who just taught me about subjects.

But there is one who taught me much more.

He was my electronic organ teacher during my extracurricular time on weekends when I was from 9 to 12 years old back in my home country of China.

His name is Haitian Cai.

When I first met him, he was already in his 50s.

I was very amazed to know that he would be my electronic organ teacher.

His hands were gigantic for me and on the keyboard, too.

How could he remember all those staves?

The first song I learned from him was the Song of Joy.

He taught me to practice with the right hand first then remember the chords on the left hand.

It was very exciting for me to use both hands to play a song, even it was the simplest one among all songs I would play.

Time and time again, I fell in love with playing songs since I learned more and more.

I enjoyed having classes with Mr. Cai, too.

Each time I knew it was time for the class I would beg my mom to take me to the class at least 20 minutes earlier.

During weekdays, I spent at least 1 hour every day to practice.

My parents even joked that I would be a genius to put the same amount of efforts into my regular classes at school.

Mr. Cai was very different from other teachers.

Most music teachers in China are gentle and young women.

But Mr. Cai was sedate, sincere and patient.

He had steps to teach us little children and told us about interesting stories about the people that he met in other musical schools.

There was a concert held by the institution and I got a chance to see my mates to perform on stage.

The first time I saw the beautiful song played by a girl and it just stimulated me to practice more and learn that song.

One day I would be able to shine on the stage.

I was 10 and I loved learning and playing so much that I didn’t stop during breaks.

I enjoyed interacting with Mr. Cai and listened to his feedback about my playing.

When he played I couldn’t stop looking at his hands.

He told us it was very important to know the principles first then to play.

There is one story that I remember the most.

He said us girls who played well would marry elegant boys because we would be matched.

At that time, all girls laughed and were shy but we all knew it was truth.

Mr. Cai once talked with my mom and got to know that I was so enchanted to playing the organ.

He expressed his compliments to me in front of all my mates.

I was shy and knew that I couldn’t be complacent.

I just needed to keep going and purse my shining dream.

As time went by, my skills grew better.

Mr. Cai invited me to join his “talented class “ in which are his most outstanding students.

I was so happy to be able to learn from other mates.

I kept learning more and grew faster than before.

Mr. Cai encouraged me.

For example, if I could finish a 4-page song in a week, he would say I can start to learn the next one.

However, it was not always good to grow too fast.

If he found some defects in my playing he would let me practice for a specific phase for one hour then play for him.

He also said playing songs is like eating the fruits that we bought before.

If we play old songs, we enjoyed the sweetness of fruits.

If we just forgot and let go of old songs, those fruits decayed over time.

Mr. Cai was not a strict teacher.

He would call us to go back to the room to practice when the break time was over.

But he never forced us to go.

He knew that everyone has his or her own pace to learn things.

There were other students who were taken by their parents to learn but not for their own interest.

Mr. Cai knew this deeply.

He encouraged every student in different ways.

To me, he had higher standards and was never mean to express his recognition towards me.

I liked the way the Mr. Cai taught me.

Not like other young teachers who just talked gently with children and lose temper easily, Mr. Cai was more sincere and calm.

I felt very comfortable to talk with him and learn from him.

He would find some beautiful songs to enable me to learn more than what I needed to pass the music level test.

Mr. Cai was versatile and he taught traditional Chinese painting, Erhu and flute, too.

By the time when I was preparing for the level 10 test (which is the highest level), he was ready to teach painting.

I decided to end my learning if I passed the test because I knew I would had enough knowledge and reached my goal.

So I didn’t accept the invitation to join his painting class a year before I took the test.

It turned out that after several months, another young teacher took over Mr. Cai’s classes.

It was said that Mr. Cai asked for a long leave.

I was only half of a year before the test.

I was sad but I didn’t know when he would be back.

I felt lost after he was not there.

I had a new teacher but she was young and didn’t give much feedback as Mr. Cai did.

I missed him but I had to keep going to pass the test.

Finally, I passed the test, which made me the only student who first passed level 10 among all his students.

I felt proud of myself.

It was a little sentimental that my mentor Mr. Cai was not there.

Even before I left, he never came back.

I don’t know what happen to him.

Maybe he was sick or he had something important to deal with.

I imagined that I wrote a letter to him to express my gratitude and appreciation towards him.

I thought about the words I wanted to say to him.

However, I never got the chance.

This experience opens my window towards the beauty of music.

My voice is deep and I was not considered as a good singer at school.

But learning the organ developed my talent in music and I started singing and playing.

Since I was 9, music has been my best friend.

It changed the way I look at the world.

It enriches me with the opportunities to find more beauty in life.

Those four years of learning music and playing was the most precious time in my life.

I didn’t get much happiness from study at school.

I paid all my attention and efforts into one thing I enjoyed and loved.

I got such a great teacher to guide me and motivate me.

Mr. Cai kept encouraging me to learn, practice and grow.

Now whenever I meet challenges, my memory will bring me back to the girl who was so hard-working and persistent.

It is always lucky to do what I like to and grow.

I hope Mr. Cai is still well and I will always make wishes for him in my heart.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Kris McGuire/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What’s Really Wrong With Hong Kong’s Education System?

By Raphael Blet

Last week, the Education Bureau (EDB) announced that the controversial Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) might be resumed following public consultations.

Parent and teacher groups threatened to “boycott” the TSA, citing an unnecessary pressure given to the students.

Figures showed that out of 112 people surveyed, 86 per cent expressed their concern.

Meanwhile, EDB officials called on members of the public to better understand the TSA, they also said that they received “positive feedback”.

The TSA was temporarily suspended for consultation following a strong opposition from both parents and teachers.

However, public consultations have long been regarded as paper tiger.

So what’s really wrong with Hong Kong’s education system?

Administration, administrators and bureaucracy: a lifelong problem

As we all know, teachers, students and parents are rarely those in charge of deciding for the future of education, the job being given to “officials”.

Presuming that the people in charge of overseeing the education system are “professionals” in the matter, it would be acceptable for us to give them the commands.

After all, when we board an aircraft, we likely trust our pilots.

READ MORE: Joshua Wong’s Visit To The US Will Do More Harm Than Good, Thanks To His Political Immaturity

Well, the reason why we trust our pilots is due to the fact that they know what aviation is all about, thanks to their extensive training.

But, in spite of their passion and extensive knowledge, pilots do not guarantee our journey to be safe.

Why? Well… air traffic controllers also play a huge part in the process.

Only by having air traffic controllers who are professionals of aviation can we guarantee a safe journey. Otherwise, accidents would occur more often.

This analogy is applicable to the education sector.

While teachers are professionals in their field of research, it isn’t sufficient to provide a quality education to students as it is necessary for those in charge of administering it to be professionals of the sector.

Photo Credit: Pat B/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Pat B/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Unfortunately, whether it is in Hong Kong or elsewhere, education ministers are rarely issued from the field.

Those who are have usually no teaching experience.

This is indeed the problem currently faced by Hong Kong.

In addition, the territory’s small size makes the problem even more visible.

What we need is administrators who are knowledgeable in the field.

READ MORE: This Online Platform Is Revolutionizing Hong Kong Sex Education

Only then will the problem improve.

When will these administrators understand that they are doing more harm than good to education?

When will they understand that all their policies, reviews and implementations only had counter-effects on students?

It might seem illogical, but the separation of powers should be extended to education. In other words, education should be independent from the administration, so as the judiciary.

Education: a business?

Sadly but truly, education (especially in Hong Kong) has turned into a profit making institution or in other words: a merchandise.

Simply look at the number of education “fairs” held in Hong Kong every year and you will understand.

Education should be treasured, not merchandised.

As we would commonly say for a masterpiece: it is “inestimable”, the only difference being that education should be accessible to all.

In addition to this, many trends have seen the light of day, one of them being pre-school interview preparations for two year olds!

Yes, we are not even talking about interviews, we talk about interview preparation for pre-school entrances.

Is it really the new selling point we want for our education?

The population’s role: we are all responsible

Criticizing the “system is an easy task given the subjectivity of the term. What about self-reflection?

While a significant number of parents and students stand for education (therefore against the current system), another portion seems to accept it as it is while at the same time, briefly complaining about the “system”.

First off, we should remember that there is no offer without demand and the current system only prevails due to the morally inactive state of some people.

It might be harsh for us to reflect on the reality, but we need to assume that some parents care more about prestige than they do about their child’s development and happiness.

Look at tiger mothers: this isn’t due to the so called “system”, it’s all about one’s mentality and greed.

A research conducted by Almudena Sevilla, professor of economics at Queen Mary University of London, revealed that some tiger mums suffered from psychological disorders linked to unhappiness.

READ MORE: Does The American Fulbright Program Have Too Much Control Over Hong Kong Universities?

On the other hand, some of the students (of all ages) who are currently complaining about the so called “system” of today might be the tiger parents of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, as human beings, we have an instinct of wanting our children to go through the same nonsense that we went through. Some might say: “I’ve gone through this, there is no reason why you can’t”.

That’s the main problem.

We need to be willing to change our own mentality before changing the system. Only by doing so will the system change.

For the time being, those fighting to improve the education of the next generation should continue to raise awareness on the issue and push for changes.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Pat B/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Does The American Fulbright Program Have Too Much Control Over Hong Kong Universities?

By Raphael Blet

HONG KONG- While primary and secondary schools are under the Education Bureau’s (EDB) authority, tertiary institutions are autonomously operated.

Despite being detached from the government’s authority, higher institutions are publicly funded and validated by the University Grants Committee (UGC).

Following the education reforms in 2012, universities around the territory went through major changes given that the previous three years curriculum was changed to a four years one.

In order to renew their structure, some universities partnered with the Fulbright Program so as to implement the general education reform.

Many academics and students are opposed to this system as they say it deviates them from their fields of research.

According to The Standard, Victor Sit Fung-shuen — who in 2012 was heading the Advanced Institute for Contemporary China Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) — was removed from office after the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) issued a statement in which it accused Mr. Sit of providing ‘irresponsible and fictitious’ claims in his publication.

Read More: What The Walk21 Conference Taught Me About The Future Of Hong Kong

Mr. Sit claimed that the Fulbright Scholar Program, which he referred to as the ‘American fund’ was ‘directing the setting up of general education programs’.

The panel handling the case stated that Fulbright was instead providing ‘support and advice’ to universities.

Despite hitting back, Mr. Sit’s Blue Book of Hong Kong was called back and the ‘falsified information’ amended.

The allegations made in the publication were considered as academic misconduct mainly because Mr. Sit did not provide any evidence supporting his claims.

Furthermore, he was believed to have ignored the numerous warnings from the university which offered him the ‘opportunity’ to correct his ‘mistakes’.

Mr. Sit’s acquaintances were only to give his claims even less credibility due to their political background, thus justifying the board’s decision to dismiss him for harming the university’s integrity.

This issue was controversial as the university found itself in a complicated position after Mr. Sit claimed that he was victim of ‘literary persecution’.

Nevertheless, the panel decided to revoke Mr. Sit’s contract given the result of the report.

How can a qualified academic make such false claims if they were all to be wrong? Were those allegations only unfair, biased and politically motivated? What role does Fulbright (that he refers as the ‘American fund’) truly plays in Hong Kong?

The Fulbright Program was named after the US Senator J. William Fulbright and established in 1946.

This program is sponsored by the US Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, meaning that it is a governmental organization. According to the US Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, Fulbright is an exchange program aimed at ‘increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries’.

It offers both students and scholars exchange and scholarship opportunities in different countries while non-Americans are also given the same possibility.

As previously mentioned, Fulbright also acts as an adviser especially in Hong Kong where it has an important role in setting the general education curricula.

Read More: Ethnic Minorities Need To Be Embraced As Fellow Hong Kongers

In addition, Fulbright is locally represented by the Hong Kong America Centre (HKAC) which is based at CUHK.

It is reasonable to claim that those labelling themselves as ‘advisers’ will at one point occupy a directorial position and therefore ‘direct the setting up of the general education curricula’.

HKBU is a good example. Professor A. Reza Hoshmand, who is now the Director of General Education arrived in 2008 as a Fulbright scholar, in other words as an ‘adviser’.

Now — in addition to being an adviser — Prof. Hoshmand has a managerial role.

In numerous journals and other reports from CUHK and HKEC, the term ‘reward’ is mentioned: ‘Institutions will provide rewards for faculty who are effective teachers in general education, ideally by embracing what one called “a broader definition of scholarship.”

If rewards are translated into scholarships, Mr. Sit’s claims of an external funding are justified.

In her report, Mixed Marriages and the Fulbright Hong Kong General Education Program, HKEC’s program Director Ms. Ginny Tam gives an important number of elements that would be in favor of Mr. Sit claims.

Here are a few of them:
‘Faculty resistance and apathy were evident’ (Page 1): The term ‘resistance’ is defensive and would let us believe that the ‘advisers’ did have an executive function.

‘This outside presence is very important especially in the early years because they acted as stimulants and catalysts’ (Page 1)

‘This tone of aversion to America originated from the interpretation of the function of the Program as a kind of U.S. interference, with America presuming that it has been sending experts in the role of consultants to help Hong Kong to build its own GE. Not few local colleagues found the idea of the Program patronizing, hence their sentiment, annoyance.’ (Page 3).

There seems to be sufficient evidence to accept the claims made by Mr. Sit.

Read More: Does The Government Even Want To Save Cantonese From Going Extinct In Hong Kong?

It is true to say that external organizations such as Fulbright and HKAC are indirectly controlling some universities.

As proven by those documents, there has been an undeniable pressure on academics as well as a strong opposition from local scholars.

Yet, it is still impossible to officially claim that there is an external funding but the probabilities of an indirect funding are high. In any case, this reform has been truly profitable to the Fulbright Program.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Gonzalo Pineda Zuniga/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Archbishop Curley Notre Dame To Merge With Monsignor Edward Pace High School

The Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski announced in a press release on Monday the merger of Archbishop Curley Notre Dame (ACND) high school in Miami with Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens.

As a result of the merger, ACND will close for the first time since 1953.

Wenski also made the announcement via a letter sent home to parents at both schools.

The merger will happen at the start of the 2017/2018 school year and current students at ACND will receive automatic admission to Pace if they meet certain academic standards.

“This decision to consolidate the two schools was made by the Archdiocese of Miami in order to provide the students with a continued experience of the presence of Jesus Christ, an enhanced educational experience and additional extracurricular opportunities,” Wenski said in the statement. “With your child attending a larger school, he/she will experience signature academies, new technology, fine arts programs, seventy clubs and activities, and enjoy award-winning sports teams.”

Curley seems to have broken the news to its students and alumni on Facebook by sharing the release from the Archdiocese.

“It is with great sorrow that we share this news with our ACND family and friends,” the school wrote on its Facebook page. “Today is a tough day for our school, teachers, alums, and all others who care about ACND.”

Judging by Facebook comments left on the ACND page, it is clear that not everyone agrees with the decision.

But it seems to be final.

“The Archdiocese of Miami is grateful for the many priests, religious brothers and sisters, lay faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, parents, donors, and board members who have generously donated and dedicated years, time, and expertise for each student at ACND to become a successful graduate,” Wenski said in the statement.

According to the school, ACND was the first predominantly white high school in Florida to admit an African-American students.

That happened in 1960.

Are you a ACND alum and want to write about your positive times at Curley? Email us at [email protected] We are interested in hearing from you. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

This Lady Has Been Dressing Like The Statue Of Liberty For A Year To Teach Kids About America

By Ana Cedeno

For most people their daily job consist of a day at the office, losing vision in front of a computer monitor and telling jokes amongs coworkers during lunch, all for the a salary that allows them to life a comfortable and sensible life with limited to minimal free time or breaks in routine.

That’s the reality of work for many of us.

For Kristen Sharp however, the routine is a little different. Her workday starts when she puts on body paint and dresses up as the Statue Of Liberty.

Sharp is part of the The Liberty Learning Foundation, which provides civic education to children by taking a theatrical approach.

According to their website the Libby Liberty Foundation aims to tackle the financial situation and aims to get kids college-ready and job-ready by bringing back Civics into the classroom.

They do this by training volunteers and teachers to “teach beyond the test” and giving students lessons that supplement what they learn in the classroom.

This is where the person Libby Liberty comes in.

Having a love for acting, and a practice in it since age 14 Sharp, has been putting those talents toward teaching children about the importance of civic duties for a little over a year.

“It is a bit of a whirlwind being thrust into a costume and green paint on a first interview so I was pretty terrified,” Sharp said adding that that first performance she did on that interview didn’t actually go so well.

In spite of that early hiccup, Sharp and the staff at the foundation sat down to exchange ideas and got to know one another.

“We became a family,” Sharp said. “A family with a common vision and goal and that changed things. That’s when I decided to be a part of the team.”

Kristen from then on became part of the Libby Liberty team, dressing up as the Statue Of Liberty and taking on the moniker to help children learn about civics and patriotism in a more interactive way.

As Libby Liberty, Sharp travels around the country delivering to students a message of hope and liberty.

The students themselves take part in the Super Citizenship program, a ten-week long course intended to teach civic duty, leadership and entrepreneurship.

Kristen, or rather Libby, usually surprises the students by jumping off her pedestal and ‘coming to life’.

She then tells them her history-America’s history- and explains to the young citizens how even young students can someday have an effect on the country they live in and make a difference.

This is something that Kristen, along with the Libby Liberty foundation, feel is truly missing from a lot of the kids in the country.

“It is important because most, if not all, of these students haven’t heard this message,” Sharp said. “I am not standing up delivering a fluffy message for the students to clap and cheer to, I am empowering them to break out of the mold and to not be oppressed by what they may or may not have been born into. I am showing and telling them that because of what Lady Liberty stands for, they can make a tremendous impact in their lives and the lives of people around them.”

The impact this message has on the children is according to Sharp, palpable and invigorating all at once.

“The best part of what Libby does is to light a fire of hope and excitement in the eyes of these children,” Sharp said. “They go on to do incredible things in the Super Citizen Program, in their schools, homes and communities. I get to see first hand what a difference Libby makes in the lives of these students.”

This feeling of making an impact is what really cemented her commitment to the Libby Liberty foundation.

“I did not choose to truly love Libby until I watched my first Super Citizen Kickoff,” Sharp said. “Hundreds of children in crowns, waving flags and singing ‘YOU in the USA’ at the top of their lungs. I sat surrounded by them and cried.”

Sharp has a long history of performing, and has been acting since the age of 12.

She did her first musical theater role in high school and started touring with Broadway shows at the age of 16.

She then proceeded to act professionally for many years.

She traveled back south 9 (she’s originally from Alabama) after 9/11 saying the attack made her “refocused to what was truly important to me “

While the theater is her first love and passion, and she still performs from time to time Sharp states that she doesn’t consider Libby Liberty to be a performance.

“Acting is not really a part of Libby for me,” Sharp said. “While I may have to muster up some energy backstage, once I see the faces of the students, it is just my heart to tell the story and see the change happen in their lives.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

A Lower Voting Age Wouldn’t Be The Solution To Youth Apathy

It’s no secret that young people in the U.S. are less involved in politics than other age groups.

More accurately, it is clear that young people between the ages 18 to 25 vote at a lower rate than the rest of the population.

There have been so many theories as to why our generation is the most inactive demographic, but instead of jumping to conclusions, rather, let’s refer to statistics around the world.

The U.S., among many other countries has a voting age of 18.

An article in The Guardian made a list of the various countries around the world with a lower voting age.

They found that “The voting age is 16 and above in Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina […] Austria is the only country in the EU where 16 years olds can vote in general elections. Turnout is roughly the same as in other age groups.”


Photo Credit: Thereasa Thompson /Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Austria presents an interesting example.

This suggests that lowering the voting age might cause younger individuals to be more or in this case, equally involved in politics as the rest of the country.

So the ultimate question is whether or not 16 year olds understand politics well enough to vote?

The answer is, they could.

Countries with a lower voting age have a greater amount of civic education in schools. In an interview with Bill Maher, Michael Moore argues, “It’s like drivers ed., at 16 they should be learning about how the government really works”.

Civics has never been any high school student’s favorite class, and that is because it serves to satisfy a required curriculum rather than to actually teach students how politics work.

In this same interview with Bill Maher, Bob Graham explains that we need to “reintroduce serious study of what it means to be a citizen in this country”.

He also suggests that our lack of civic education might be why “Donald Trump thinks he is going to be elected to be George III rather than president of the United States”. Graham is a very witty man.

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If the U.S. decided to lower the voting age, there would be some valid initial concerns. released information that compared the reasons for and against a voting age of 16. One of the reasons against the change is that “18-25 year olds are the least likely to cast a vote at election time. […] Lowering the voting age still further is therefore likely to reduce turnout even more”.

Though this concern is valid, it focuses less on the voting age and more on the true underlying issues with youth voting in general.

Many young people who are eligible to vote claim that they do not want to participate in an election either because they do not like or understand politics, or they feel that the system is corrupt.

The second reason can be chalked up as normal, historical evidence of youth rebellion against “the man”, but the first reason is very concerning.

When asked, some eligible voters between the ages of 18-25 claimed they don’t like politics because it is so divided.

They said that they didn’t like the process of an election in general, or that candidates never seem genuine.

Every one can agree that these complaints come from a long history of politicians and/or candidates tap dancing around controversial questions, catering to a particular political party, or reiterating the same ideologies over and over again.

But everyone feels that way about politics to some degree. So while this is a turnoff for any intelligent voter, it does not get right down to the reasons why young people just don’t vote.

Young people’s complaints that they do not understand politics should be at the forefront of these low voting rate theories.

A polling website called, The Top Tens, did a polling to rate school subjects from best to worst according to anyone who visits the site.

Best, being the subject of the most value and importance, and worst being the least useful.

Their ranking is as follows:

  1. Science
  2. Math
  3. English
  4. History
  5. Gym

Photo Credit: Dlyl86 /Flickr (CC By 2.0)

And social studies, (i.e. politics) is not even in the top ten. Schools stress the importance of math and science to students starting at a very young age.

Perhaps, it is why our generation is so concerned about the environment.

The evidence clearly demonstrates that when students are given more opportunity to focus on a subject, (like millennials have been with environmental sciences), they carry that subject’s importance with them throughout their lives.

If social studies are so low on this poll, it is clear that the subject did not ensure the same kind of interest or importance as much as other subjects.

With inadequate curriculum for civic studies, it is no wonder that when asked why young people do not like politics they reply that they do not understand how it works!

It is even worse in college.

By this point in time, individuals have developed an understanding of their interests and aspirations for the most part.

Politics becomes this arduous and tedious practice of American culture that students feel apathetic towards.

Emory College’s newspaper, “Southern Changes” wrote an article about why the youth don’t vote.

They interviewed different students to get their opinions. One student explains, “Being a young person myself, I understand both the importance of being an active citizen of the United States, and the overwhelming, “it doesn’t affect me” syndrome”.

Topics like social security and welfare reform are things that young people have never needed to learn about, nor are they very interested in how these issues are dealt with by the government.

It becomes much easier to focus on their individual lives and studies than to be an active voice in the debate of social security benefits.

However, this way of thinking caters towards the stereotypical belief that millennials have a short attention span and lack of interest for things that do not affect their personal lives. But wait, these things really do.

In a recent New York Times article, Tamar Lewin explains that millennials are more likely to move back in with their parents than any other generation before them due to a decline in marriages and a terrible job market.

The economy has affected new graduates in a very bad way. Jobs are scarce and pay is poor, therefore, all of that student loan debt seems a bit problematic to pay back when one barely can find a minimum wage job.

These are things that come up in elections; these are things young people should be at the forefront of in politics.

Young people have to decide as a whole to actively participate in local and national reform that lessens the amount of acquired debt from school, and opens up more jobs with better wages.

This is not to say that young people turn a blind eye to these kinds of issues, this election has been an especially noisy one from this demographic due to candidate Bernie Sanders.

And yet, even with a candidate such as him, it is difficult to rely on 18 to 25 years old to participate in politics past the presidential election.

Young people initially were active supporters of President Obama, but quickly ceased any political action and barely voted in the most recent midterm elections.

The scary part is that if Sanders is not the Democratic candidate, many young people and their disdain for Hilary Clinton have declared that they will not participate in this election.


Photo Credit: Denali National Park and Preserver /Flickr (CC By 2.0)

So do we blame millennials for being the things they are so often accused of being, or do we look at other countries and their youth voter participation, and decide that this is a systematic issue?

Reflecting back on the initial question of whether or not 16 year olds understand politics well enough to vote, the answer as of now is definitely not because our 18 to 25 year olds even claim to be uninformed and uneducated in politics.

But this does not have to be the case.

Evidence confirms that when you include citizens in civic endeavors at a young age, and you provide them adequate means of education for the subject, they do participate as much as other age groups.

For the U.S. it might not be the time to discuss lowering the voting age if we still do not have a more effective curriculum to educate and motivate young people in politics.

That should be the priority and then perhaps we can follow in other countries footsteps and lower our voting age.

Photo Credit: Denali National Park and Preserver /Flickr (CC By 2.0)

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

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