Rising juniors seek to bring The Cambridge Program to Independence

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As their peers wrapped up their last exams and looked forward to summer break, rising juniors Yamila Sami-Geng and Elizabeth Andrews had their sights set on the future.

The two Independence students are working to bring The Cambridge Program to Independence High School.  The Cambridge Program is a globally-focused, academically challenging program of studies that prides itself on helping students become confident, responsible, respectful, innovative and engaged learners.

Sami-Geng and Andrews are both enrolled in Independence High School’s Academy of International Studies, a “school-within-a-school” funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which focuses on helping students develop a globally-informed sense of personal identity.  AIS capitalizes on the 2012 findings of the Program for International Student Assessment, which studied data from 34 countries and ranked the US 27th in mathematics, 17th in reading, and 20th in science.

One of the key deficits the study identified amongst American students was the ability to take information learned in the classroom and apply it to real world examples, a skill in which almost every country assessed performed better than the United States.  Accordingly, AIS’s program encourages students to apply skills learned in the classroom to real-world situations whenever possible. AIS recognizes that students must be prepared to live and work in a global society, so it’s lessons are aligned with a set of eleven global competencies that include principles like collaborating and communicating effectively, developing multiple perspectives, understanding the complexity of global issues, and making ethical decisions.

On paper, The Cambridge Program appears quite similar to the Academy of International Studies.  “The Cambridge Program, similar to AIS, is a program that pushes students to have a global perspective and be involved in community,” says Sami-Geng.  “It is an inquiry-based program, allowing students to become trained independent researchers who not only collect information, but analyze and apply it.”

The key difference between The Cambridge Program and the academically rigorous programs Independence already offers like the Academy of International Studies and Advanced Placement classes for college credit, is international recognition.  “Cambridge is well known around the world with a reputation for producing top scholars,” says Sami-Geng. “The program allows students to work towards an International Diploma, which is a big deal.”

Since attending an interest meeting about The Cambridge Program last month, Sami-Geng and Andrews have been working tirelessly to bring the program to Independence.  The pair worked together to research how they could bring the program to their school and contacted CMS board members to set up a meeting. Ultimately, they will need the approval of CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox.  So far, over 150 individuals have signed a change.org petition to bring The Cambridge Program to Independence.

Interestingly, Sami-Geng and Andrews would not be able to reap many of the benefits of their work bringing The Cambridge Program to Independence.  Although it’s possible that the program could be implemented as early as next fall, the 2019-2020 school year is a more reasonable goal. In the fall of 2019, Sami-Geng and Andrews will be entering their senior year, and while they’d be able to take Cambridge courses, one year would not leave them time to take sufficient courses to earn a diploma.  

“This program would benefit our futures, but we are mostly doing it for the following generations,” says Sami-Geng.  “We are hoping this program will be implemented soon, to benefit as many students as possible, most of all, the incoming freshmen from our middle schools. I, personally, have younger siblings at Bain Elementary and Mint Hill Middle and would love to see them thrive in high school with this program.”

To make this opportunity possible for future Independence students, Sami-Geng and Andrews need the community’s support.  Read more about The Cambridge Program, including its previous implementation in CMS, at https://cambridgeatcms.weebly.com/.  To sign the petition to bring The Cambridge Program to Independence, visit https://www.change.org/p/bring-the-cambridge-program-to-independence-high-school.  

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: marybeth@minthilltimes.com