McNair High and DeKalb Academy of Technology & Environment (DATE) compete in regionals
Students from two DeKalb County School District (DCSD) schools recently demonstrated their leadership, problem solving skills and critical thinking skills for a regional audience, earning seven awards in the process.
Students from McNair High School and DeKalb Academy of Technology & Environment (DATE) charter school competed in a regional Beta Club competition in Jekyll Island, Ga., on March 29-30.
Over the course of two days, 15 students from DATE and three students from McNair High earned seven total awards in the categories of “Leadership Outside the Box,” “Service Snapshot,” “Leadership Snapshot,” and “Outstanding Leadership School.”
Maronda Hastie, mathematics teacher and Beta Club sponsor at McNair High, said it was great to see the rewards of hard work conducted by students Shantaja Harrell, Jaylin Simmons and Tymia Hill.
“It feels awesome to actually see a finished product,” Hastie said. “As a teacher, we sometimes feel that we’re spinning our wheels trying to get students to understand what’s going on in the classroom, and trying to get them to apply it outside the classroom. It’s very rewarding to see that they have won a competition, that they have the ability to take it to the next level.”
To earn the “Service Snapshot” award, Hill discussed her human trafficking awareness campaign, which she has been working on for more than a year. Hill’s campaign was so effective that it garnered her airtime on CNN this school year and moved one judge to tears.
Another effort by the McNair Beta Club that was recognized by judges is an ongoing beautification project at the school courtyard. The courtyard has been transformed from overgrowth and weeds to a mulched, manicured area complete with gazebos, painted rocks as well as a garden area.
Judges also recognized the club’s effort to collect shoes during Winter Break, which were sent to people in need overseas.
Hill and Simmons said judges told them how wonderful it is to see young women active not just in the community, but the world at large.
In the “Leadership Outside the Box” award, McNair was recognized for coming up with a quick solution to local homelessness. Ideas developed by the team included organizing temporary housing, building a safety kit and providing job training.
“Even though this was a fake scenario, people should know how important it is,” Harrell said. “You never know when someone might hear your presentation and say, ‘You know what? We should actually do this.’”
Hastie said she is proud her students’ creativity earned them regional distinction.
“They utilized technology, each other and turned it into a finished product in a timely manner,” Hastie said. “These activities add that little extra to our students. It’s one thing to be good inside the classroom, but what are you doing outside the classroom? How are you putting that intelligence to good use?”
DATE admissions counselor, registrar, parent liaison and co-founder, Sonya Armstrong, said the awards are indicative of the education being taught day-in, day-out at the school. She, along with co-sponsor Frances Leaphart, help advise the club and direct its efforts.
“The wonderful things that our children are doing—representing our school, parents, and themselves very well in a diverse world—it validates what we’re doing here at not only at DATE, but in DeKalb County,” Armstrong said.
For “Leadership Outside the Box,” DATE created a 3D model demonstrating the dangers and repercussions of lead poisoning. A team of four middle school DATE students had one night to complete the task. Even though they were competing against high school students, they claimed first place.
For “Service Snapshot,” which details a club or schoolwide partnership effort to address local problems, DATE established a community garden. DATE’s school garden mirrors its diverse community, featuring vegetation from the international community.
In the “Leadership Snapshot” category, students collaborated with one another on a timed schedule to build yet another project on campus.
Students Derwin Hodge, Terry Sewell, Nyla Baxter, Dasia Brown—four of the 15 students who attended the conference—said the awards validate the day-to-day efforts by the club.
“To win these awards is just so fulfilling,” Brown said. “We’re like a big family. This shows that, together, we can accomplish anything.”
Sewell said the competition puts DATE on the map and that great things are going on in DeKalb County.
Each student seems to have charity in mind when thinking about DATE’s Beta Club. Hodge said he enjoys how the club helps people in need in the community, such as a Christmas event with Hosea Feeds the Hungry. Baxter mentioned an instance where students visited a nursing home with blankets.
“We do a lot,” Brown said. “We show model behavior.”
The students said leaders throughout history have aided their communities in some way, and that they strive to be the same. They do this by not only volunteering, but interacting with other student leaders at competitions and conferences.
“We meet from different people from different states,” Baxter said. “This will help us in the future, as no matter what job we have, we’ll have to learn how to work with different people from different states, countries—everywhere!”
Hodge said Beta Club allows students to gain different perspectives to solve a problem.
“Everyone plays a role,” Hodge said. “It gives you more help.”
Both Armstrong and Hastie acknowledged that Beta Club participation and competition fosters student growth not just in academics, but in the world at large.
Armstrong attributes this growth to the club’s core expectations: honesty, justice, service, cooperation, responsibility, industriousness and charity. She said this encourages “whole” development of character.
“These students are an example of how, when we look beyond each other’s natural differences, we find commonality in any effort,” Armstrong said. “When leaders from the National Beta Club come to us and tell us how well-spoken and intelligent our students are, it is humbling and awesome. Other students look up to them. They are the natural leaders in our school.”
Both schools earned “Outstanding Leadership School” designation for their participation in various conference events throughout the weekend.
“These events motivate our students. I hear them going out and telling other students about what we do in Beta Club, and a lot more kids are becoming interested. They want their school to be better and their community environment to be better—and now they know they can make a difference,” Hastie said.
Both McNair and DATE Beta Clubs will be competing in the National Beta Club Competition taking place in Savannah, Ga., in June 2018.