Education feature: AP initiative celebrated at CHS
November 6, 2019
CLOVIS — Though they pick up textbooks instead of rifles, and head to new high schools every few years instead of new deployments, military children often take on great challenges for the sake of the country’s defense.
Last Wednesday, the Department of Defense showed a special way to pay them back at Clovis High School, while also offering a leg up to any other CHS student interested in taking a challenge.
The National Math and Science Initiative was celebrated at the CHS lecture hall with a ceremony topped off by a $336,802 check payable from the DoD to CHS. The grant payment, which covers this year and the next two, will help fund activities associated with taking advanced-placement classes.
The nearly packed lecture hall of more than 100 students represented the students taking AP classes. Clovis High Principal Jay Brady said those students represented about 350 total enrollments in AP courses, and the goal was to push enrollments to four-digit totals in the next year.
“This program is going to open doors and pathways that will lead you to very promising futures,” said Brady, who coaxed a celebratory “Woo” out of the students at the ceremony’s start. “We need your help in putting the word out so they’re not afraid of these classes.”
Advanced-placement classes are a series of 15 college-level classes created by the College Board and offered at high schools throughout the United States and Canada. Each class includes an optional end-of-year exam that can lead to college placement and scholarships at American colleges and universities. Clovis offers 11 of the classes, and plans to make it a dozen with the addition of environmental science in 2020-21.
The optional test includes a $94 fee, half of which will be paid through the grant monies. The grant also provides money for teacher training and cash incentives for students who place well on the end-of-year exams.
Clovis and Onate are the only two NMSI high schools in the state, and two of just over 250 schools receiving DoD funding. Ed Vega, senior director of growth and development for Dallas-based NMSI, credited Sen. Martin Heinrich for national work and Cannon Air Force Base school liaison Sara Williams for much of the local work.
The reason AP courses are beneficial to military children, Vega said, is their national standard assures an easier transition when the next permanent change of station comes. Vega asked the military children to stand, then asked them to sit down when he’d mentioned the number of times they moved. By the time he got to 11, three were still standing. The three students, two with 11 and one with 15, received challenge coins from Vega.
Vega noted that while NMSI was created to serve military children, any CHS student can receive its benefits.
“The fact we’re able to ride on the coattails of the grant ... is phenomenal,” Clovis Mayor David Lansford said. “Gratitude is the prevailing thought.”
Clovis Superintendent Renee Russ said it was a pleasure to be able to teach the children whose families serve at Cannon, and encouraged teachers to keep exuding brilliance and students to leverage the opportunity for all that is possible.
“We are so excited,” Russ said, “to see the trails you are about to blaze ... as part of this initiative.”
But nobody said the courses were easy. Col. Robert Masaitis, commander of Cannon’s 27th Special Operations Wing, said the base started work on NMSI before he arrived and he was excited to continue the effort. Masaitis said he’s volunteered at his children’s schools, and sees the frustration kids can have with math and science. Despite its value in the military and throughout the world, Masaitis said kids often “convince themselves it’s too difficult and that’s what other people did.”
He said the ceremony was one thing he told staff had to remain on his calendar, no matter what.
“Take it and run with it,” Masaitis said. “It’s important to me.”
Vega encouraged the students to go online and find what students at other NMSI schools have accomplished, and to look up information on scholarships and grants for students who succeeded at NMSI schools.
“I know as a military parent,” Vega said, “I did all of the digging, because I didn’t want to pay for college.”