Fostering relationships, connecting, understanding and building community are the foundation of Northshore’s Secondary Academy for Success (SAS). Through the school’s unique schedule, civic engagement requirements and focus on sustainability, students and staff connect in unconventional ways to achieve success for each and every student. “SAS is really unique and very caring,” said Counselor Laurie Broulette. “Our essence is connecting with kids. That’s what we do above and beyond anything else and then we go from there.”
Civic Engagement & Friday Opportunities
At SAS, all students are required to complete 15 hours of civic engagement annually - a practice that has been in place for nearly 25 years. Civic engagement allows students to connect with their peers and teachers, as well as explore and try new things. The school helps students complete these hours in a variety of ways from knitting for those in need to volunteering in classrooms at other Northshore schools.
Monday thru Thursday students attend traditional classes to meet state requirements, but on Fridays students have a block schedule with three sessions of time allotted for what the school deems “Friday Opportunities.” Students sign up during the week for what they’ll participate in on Friday and all Fridays are different. If staff hear about a new idea that would be both beneficial and interesting to students they can act quickly and put it in an upcoming Friday Opportunity. The sessions are student-driven. English and Social Studies Teacher Dawn McArthur said, “The civic engagement component of the school is a cool opportunity for every one of our students to be involved in the community or just to be more connected at school. The idea is that they’re giving back.”
McArthur noted that the civic engagement also shows students that they are connected to their local or even global communities. As a history teacher, she talks with students about being responsible citizens and the importance of being plugged in and engaged, whether you volunteer or are just aware of what’s going on in your community. Some students discover they love the work they volunteer to do and even go on to pursue a career in an area related to their civic engagement such as teaching. In addition to helping serve the community, there are added benefits to the work students put in around civic engagement. For example, knitting, which is held nearly every Friday afternoon, has become a mental health strategy explained SAS teacher Barbara Wilson. “Many students have told me how much calmer they feel while they knit,” she said. “They all seem to enjoy conversing with one another while sitting around a table without cell phones.” These knitted creations are often donated to those in need.
“Watching our students realize how they can create beautiful scarves and hats -- all while serving the purpose of feeling part of a community of knitters, who are helping those living in their car or on the streets, is most rewarding,” said Wilson. Another aspect of Friday Opportunities are field trips to enrich learning. The Northshore Schools Foundation generously helps support the field trips through their Innovative Classroom: No Desks Allowed grant. The donations received support transportation, admissions costs and more for full day field trips to places like Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, or the Museum of History and Industry.
“Kids love our no desks allows program because they get to go off campus and some kids really don’t leave Bothell,” said Broulette. “It’s their opportunity to go somewhere and do something different.” The outside experiences come back to enhance the learning in the classroom too. McArthur shared how field trips to Seattle’s International District and Gold Rush Museum will then lend themselves to lessons in Washington State history. Because students experienced hands on learning they are then more engaged and excited to have conversations about the topics in the classroom. They are able to make the bigger connections with the field trip and coursework. Similarly she shared that in her Contemporary World Issues class she can connect field trips to Downtown Seattle to discussions around what it means for Seattle to be a port city and what that looks like. Students are more engaged in class because they had a real life experience to relate to.
With a commitment to connecting with the community, SAS also has an eye on the environment and embraces a green attitude. The school is recognized as a Level Three Green School through King County’s Green School Program. “At our core we always said we’re about getting students to graduation,” said McArthur. “We’re not just making sure our students are graduating on time - we’re also building them as lifelong learners and we’re teaching them social and emotional skills.” These skills include teaching students environmental awareness. The school composts, recycles, collects aluminum cans for crushing, is intentional with water reduction efforts, has a greenhouse, solar panels, wind turbines and more. There are even bikes in the weight room that produce energy when someone pedals. “We’re always trying to put energy back into SAS,” said Broulette.
21 Acres Farm
Aligned with both civic engagement and green thinking, at the end of each year SAS students in grades 9 through 11 volunteer at 21 Acres farm to give back and be stewards of the Earth. This past spring when students volunteered, one of the project leads at the farm shared that over the course of the time that SAS students have been volunteering, they have contributed more than two years worth of work to the farm. These contributions include help with weeding, mulching, pruning and more. Ivy Landry, who is a senior at SAS this school year enjoyed her time at 21 Acres. Admittedly, she said she’d rather be at 21 Acres than in the classroom. “It’s calming” she said as she talked about the experience of gardening and the satisfaction of taking out a long root. Classmate Jayden Herbst echoed Landry and said, “I love being outside - it gets my brain going. Being in a class, not as much, but at SAS I like class there, but I’d rather be here. It definitely beats that.” The two also recognize the importance of volunteering at 21 Acres. “We’re helping our community - we’re helping 21 Acres,” said Herbst. Landry explained that “We usually just come to volunteer to give back to the community because that is a big thing in our school, community service and working as a group to help better the Earth.”