With four bus tours under his belt and hundreds of school visits, one thing Secretary Arne Duncan is sure of, is that there is no lack of inspiration in America’s schools. Yesterday’s stops on Duncan’s Strong Start, Bright Future Back-to-School Bus Tour through the Southwest took the Secretary right to the border.
The day got a bright start just miles from the U.S./Mexico border at the El Paso Transmountain Early College High School (TECHS), in El Paso, Texas. There isn’t a lack of inspiration at this school that participates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and has teamed up with El Paso Community College to allow students to take courses and receive an Associate degree before they graduate high school.
Following a classroom visit where Duncan got a hands-on science lesson from students, Duncan participated in a STEM town hall to talk about the school’s successes. Duncan sought answers from the group on how to make STEM more hands-on and listened to emotional stories of hope from the school’s students who are now on their way to college and careers, armed with the power of a quality education.
Dr. Diana Natalicio, president of the University of Texas-El Paso said during the town hall that it takes an entire community to prevent barriers to student progress, and we saw that in action at TECHS.
With our stop in Texas complete, the back-to-school bus headed west with a stop at Columbus Elementary in Columbus, N.M. This rural school not far from the U.S./Mexico border, has a very unique student body. Seventy-five percent of its students live in Mexico and cross the border each day for school. All are U.S. citizens and many rise as early as 4:30a.m. in order to make it to the border in time to present their laminated birth certificate before boarding a bus for Columbus.
Secretary Duncan participated in a discussion with the principal and teachers, listening to the challenges faced by the faculty. Teachers told stories of students who had never read a book or used indoor plumbing, and explained how difficult it is to coordinate with parents who are unable to visit their child’s school for parent-teacher conferences.
Following the discussion, Duncan altered his agenda and boarded one of the final buses to leave Columbus for the border. During the short drive, Duncan sat with two students, talking about their schoolwork and taking at look at one student’s recent poster project. Day two of the tour ended as we watched the students walk back across the border into Mexico. Columbus Principal Armando Chavez said that each day they send them back hoping that a parent is there to greet them on the other side.
Day three of the tour takes the bus to Tucson and Tempe, AZ.
Watch the video below to hear Secretary Duncan recap day two:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and is blogging and tweeting his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.