A sense of community is in the air from the moment the day starts. At 7:15 am and the doors open to IMSA-North for students to enter the school. They are immediately greeted by a variety of staff members, all with smiles on their faces, and a hello in their voice; a warm, welcoming environment. Our school is smaller than some but because of that we have the opportunity to have smaller class sizes throughout most of the school. When you walk through the halls, you see students working in their classrooms in groups, or walking through the halls talking to their friends and teachers. This also allows our high school students to work with our Kindergarten through 5th grade students. You will see the K-2 classrooms playing together on the playground or working with Ms. Brown or Ms. Edwards in their classrooms; while high school students give support during their study halls. Students in the 3-5 hallway sitting out in the hallway with a high school student working on Math or working in Ms. Roger’s room getting extra support and review in Math and English. You will see middle schoolers and high schoolers alike working with Mr. Knox, our Assistant Principal of Culture, on a problem they are trying to resolve. Or, one of the students-of any age-might be having a one-on-one with Ms. Mancher, or Mr. Collins, our Assistant Principals of Academics. There are always little kids getting high-fives from our older students throughout the day. You feel and see a sense of belonging down each hallway.
A SAFE SPACE
IMSA-North has become a safe space, a home away from home for our students. A space where all are welcome, and parents and students are welcome to be part of our school culture; and encouraged to do so. We as educators try and take a serious interest in our student’s everyday life, making sure that they have all that they need. We do this by working with our parent and family communication and keeping them in, not only the educational loop, but the social emotional loop of their students. Without the family portion of our community, IMSA-North would not be complete. We strive to make real personal connections with our students, by utilizing those smaller class sizes and deep diving into the students as people and not numbers, we are able to accomplish this goal. There is an entire team dedicated to culture and support of our students. We use a Recovery Room versus an In-School Suspension room, along with making sure we do team check-ins with our teachers to make sure that we are finding and getting help for our students that might be progressively struggling a bit more than others.
IMSA-North encourages diversity and exposure to diverse cultures. One of the many ways that we have been able to do this, has been through our Concept Young Scholar Program (CYSP). CYSP is a mentoring program that partners groups of students with staff throughout the school. The students have to meet goals that are not only academic, but include physical fitness, diversity education, character education, allow for the students to go on college visits, and other outdoor enriching outings. Our students participate in the International Fair at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and at least one camping trip a year.
All of our students are able to be exposed to diverse cultures by going on sponsored trips to different countries during school breaks, as well as being taught by faculty of different races and cultures. During the 2018-2019 school year, students, their families, staff were invited to experience Columbia and the culture there during their firsthand experiences. We also offer Turkish as a foreign language to our students, alongside our Spanish foreign language elective. Along with having amazing extracurriculars that fit our STEM based curriculum, such as Robotics for grades 3-12 and Rocketry for our high schoolers.
FROM IN-PERSON LEARNING TO ELEARNING
As we have had to turn our community from an in-person environment to an online one, because of COVID-19, we have taken strides to keep that sense of community alive. With eLearning becoming the norm for most of Indianapolis, IMSA-North has been going above and beyond for our students during these trying times. Because we are a Math and Science Academy, our ability to get technology to our parents has become a primary motivation. Our administration has worked to make a weekly pickup for students to obtain Chromebook for our students to be able to have technology at home. And for families who cannot come and pick up those materials, we are also doing contactless delivery to their homes. Thus, allowing for and helping support academic success for our students. Because of this, we are able to keep up the rigor and high quality of curriculum we have for our students in all of their classes.
IMSA-North’s sense of community, our closeness with our students and their families has helped push past the new boundaries of eLearning and allowed our school to feel as it once had. Even if we cannot be together physically, we can mentally, and in spirit–that brave Knight spirit. In the words of our incredibly involved Principal Mr. Secen, Goooooo Kniggghhhhtttttsssssss!!!
Middle School Technology Teacher