Last week was National Police Appreciation Week, and students at Royal Palm Beach High School held a special event on the morning of Thursday, May 16 to support the school’s police officers.
The project sprung out of the classroom of teacher Wanda Malave.
Malave teaches something perhaps even more important than math, science, history or language arts. In her “learning strategies” class for new high schoolers, she teaches students highly effective habits and strategies that will enable them to succeed in all areas of endeavor.
The class teaches not only how to take great notes or study for tests, it also prepares students to collaboratively work together on projects, a skill necessary no matter where the students eventually work, whether as members of a football team or of a team of scientists.
So as their end-of-the-year project, the ninth-grade learning strategies class was required to come together as a team, decide on a group project, plan it and execute it. The class decided to create an event honoring the four officers who protect and serve the student body at Royal Palm Beach High School.
School Police Officer James Wilkerson was thankful that the students thought to honor them.
“We were pretty shocked when the kids came to us and said they wanted to stage an event that would serve as a ‘thank you’ to our school police force while also marking National Police Appreciation Week, when the nation traditionally pauses to honor fallen men and women in law enforcement.”
Honored at the event aside from Wilkerson were Police Assistant William Blackmon, School Police Officer Ricquel Lyles and School Police Officer Majorie Thomas.
When tasked with the class project, the first thing the students did was to organize themselves into a team. They elected Betniesha Allen and Beberly Culajay as team leaders.
“Our police officers are always kind and helpful, so the class decided to create an event to give them a sort of high five to let them know that their efforts are appreciated by students,” Culajay said.
Malave believes that the project fits in well with the purpose of her course.
“Lots of bright ninth graders arrive in high school each year only to be overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer volume of all the course materials they are expected to learn, from conjugating languages to solving for ‘x’ in algebraic equations,” she said. “Our class teaches students learning strategies and tactics. We teach tactics like note taking and the best ways to study for tests. We use concepts from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers that can serve students well for a lifetime.”
When asked to describe effective habits and learning strategies, freshman Max Moscariello was enthusiastic in his explanation.
“What we are learning here is almost identical to scientific methodology. Our class embraced the hypothesis that creating an event to honor school police was doable. So, we brainstormed it, researched it and designed the event just as if we were designing a science experiment,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Moscariello plans a scientific and engineering career.
Team co-captain Betniesha Allen wants to be an auto mechanic like her father. “The concepts that I am learning in this class apply to all areas of my life,” Allen said. “I am sure they will help me not only be a successful mechanic, but a successful person.”
Fellow ninth grader Jasmine Gutierrez wants to eventually become a firefighter and EMT.
“The best part of this project is how the class came together. Everyone really came together to pull off this really wonderful event,” she said. “Instead of just going through the motions, everyone’s creative juices got flowing, and we decided to make the occasion even more special by providing food, entertainment, a formal program and we even put out a news release inviting the media.”
Janiya Preston noted that the concepts and habits she developed in the class will help her in her future career as a forensic scientist.
“This class teaches so many valuable skills,” Preston said. “For example, in addition to studying and notetaking tips, this end-of-the-year project has helped me with my people skills. As a team, we learned how to compromise and collaborate with each other — skills that will serve us for life.”
The members of the class reached out to other campus organizations and created teaming arrangements. The RPBHS Emerald & Onyx Dance Group provided lively entertainment, including an originally choreographed piece marking Police Appreciation Week and dedicated in honor of the four members of the school police unit. Food was provided via a community partnership with McDonalds. The local chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), working in solidarity with the class, created a banner advertising the event.
Devonte Lewis sat back satisfied after the event. “I am not sure as a ninth grader whether I want to be a dentist or a Realtor,” he said. “But I know this: I want to succeed. This class is preparing me for college and my future life. I am grateful for the skills I am learning here.”