7th-grader gets ‘Most Likely to Become a Terrorist’ Award

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a real certificate that was typed up and presented to a 7th grader at Lance Cpl. Anthony Aguirre Junior High School in Houston.

“MOST LIKELY TO BECOME A TERRORIST,” it reads, inside a border of cheerful stars.

Lizeth Villanueva, who was bestowed the unwanted honor, told CNN affiliate KPRC her teacher gave out different “mock awards” to her advanced learning class. The teacher told them they were supposed to be funny but they “might hurt [students’] feelings.”

Lizeth and her family didn’t exactly see it that way.

“It was not a joke,” Lizeth said. “I do not feel comfortable with this… I do not feel comfortable being in the same classroom with [the teacher].”

“When she first showed me the paper, I’m like, ‘What is this?'” Lizeth’s mother, Ena Hernandez, told the affiliate. “I read it again, and I’m like, ‘What is this?’ That’s when my daughter told me it was supposed to be a joke.”

The school’s administration released a statement apologizing for the event and promising to launch an investigation.

“Aguirre Administration would like to first of all apologize for the insensitive and offensive fake mock award that were given to students…As principal, I want to assure all students, parents and community members that these ward statement and ideals are NOT representative of the Aguirre Vision, Mission, and educational goals for its students.”

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‘Moonlight’ actors perform with classmates in end-of-year performance

The end-of-year play at Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens included special highlights this year: award-winning actors.

Jaden Piner and Alex Hibbart starred in “Moonlight,” the Miami-based film that won an Oscar for Best Picture. 

On Thursday, they had roles in a mashup of performances that included vignettes from “Hamilton” and “Hairspray.”

The seventh graders told Local 10 they were thrilled Norland is getting attention for being a special school for performing arts. 

The head of the drama program, Tanisha Cidel, said there is a lot of untapped talent in Miami-Dade County. She will be running a workshop over the summer for anyone interested in the performing arts. 

For more information click here

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Young at Art Museum runs Sunland Park Academy’s art programs

The walls at Sunland Park Academy in Fort Lauderdale are bursting with color. Thanks to the school’s art program the students’ paintings will remain on display until the end of the school year. 

Mindy Shrago, the founder of the Young at Art Museum, said she and her team started to work at the school five years ago. 

“We know how important it is to teach through the arts,” Shrago said. 

The museum based in Davie established the school’s art program and continues to run it with Penny Phillips, the school’s art teacher.  

“Art makes no mistakes. You can’t fix art,” Phillips said.  “They have a good time. It’s fun. They can laugh.”

Aside from the day-time art program, the museum also hosts a night-school program for children who are homeless.


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How to make sense of school choice debate

During her time as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos has made it very clear she supports educational choice. This week, she even went as far as calling opponents of the movement “flat earthers” who are holding America’s children back.

Educational choice, or school choice, also has a friend in President Donald Trump, and it’s sure to be a huge part of the education conversation going forward. Supporters say it’s a chance for parents to have better control over the type of education their child gets, while detractors say it’s an attempt at privatizing education that funnels money away from already strapped public schools.

But let’s face it, if you don’t have kids in school — or haven’t for a while — you may not even be sure what school choice is.

CNN spoke with Tommy Schultz, the national communications director for the American Federation for Children, to nail down the basics of what, exactly, school choice is and why it’s such an emerging hot-button issue.

What is school choice?

Generally, in the public school system, where you live decides where you go to school. School choice, in a nutshell, adds more options into the mix.

“Educational choice is based on the idea that parents are in control of where their child goes to school,” Schultz says. This can be accomplished through a variety of programs that are typically carried out on the state and local levels. There are some options that apply to private schools, some that apply to public, and even more that apply to both.

What are some types of public school choice?

Public education choices are those that operate within the public school system.

Charter school: This is a school, run by a private group, that is able to operate independently of the school system in which it is located, even though it may receive some funding from them. “Charter schools don’t have the overregulations that regular schools have,” Schultz says, “so they can experiment with different teaching methods. Some children learn best in that environment.” However, some charter schools are so in-demand they attract thousands of applicants for just a few hundred spots, meaning there are often a sizable amount of students who need to be turned away.

Magnet school: A magnet school has specialized courses or academic focuses that draw in especially gifted or interested students. For instance, a school can be a math magnet or a performing arts magnet, or even an agricultural studies magnet. Since they are specialized, magnet schools are often selective and require certain admissions standards for prospective students.

Vocational school: Similar to a magnet school, a vocational or technical school specializes in teaching students certain skills: Farm work, auto mechanics, construction work and the like.

In the school choice model, these types of educational centers serve as alternatives to the typical set of schools prescribed by a student’s neighborhood.

What are some types of private school choice?

In general, private school choice is the more controversial set of education options because opponents claim they take funding away from public schools. These programs either re-direct government funds from a public to a private education, or use charitable contributions to form private school scholarships.

Voucher program: With a school voucher, the state essentially pays for the tuition of a private school using a portion of the funds that would have been spent educating the student at a public school. However, the vouchers are not a carte blanche to attend any school of the student’s choosing. “There will be restriction in most states on what types of schools can use it,” Schultz says, “Or there may be some kind of testing requirement.”

Tax credit scholarship program: In some states, businesses and individuals can get tax breaks for contributing to scholarship granting organizations, or SGOs. These SGOs then provide various types of scholarships to local students. The money doesn’t actually have to be used for private school, either — a family can choose to use the scholarship money to send a student to a public school outside of their district. Schultz says a lot of people conflate tax credit scholarships with voucher programs, and while they’re similar, they rely on a different source of funding.

Education savings account: This is a fairly new type of program. Basically, instead of paying for a private tuition, schools can give funds to a qualifying family on a debit card. This money can be used for any approved educational expenses, like tuition, textbooks, special needs tools or therapies, tutoring, and in some cases, even transportation costs.

What other options are there?

This list is not exhaustive, and some educational choice programs, like the tax credit scholarship program above, can apply to both private and public schools.

“There are a lot of blended models,” Schultz says. “There’s dual enrollment, home schooling, virtual schooling, online classes — just lots of iterations.

Not all of the programs are available in all states, and some states have specialized programs, like the Autism Scholarship Program in Ohio, that garner national attention.

So what’s the controversy?

Once relegated to a small niche of the education sphere, the concept of school choice has found the spotlight since DeVos became education secretary.

“Out of 74 million kids in the US, only 3.5 million are using a school choice program, along with 10 million in private schools,” Schultz says.

As mentioned before, supporters of school choice say it gives parents and students more options instead of being tied down to a single district. They also argue that programs such as the charter school and voucher programs especially benefit families in low-income communities.

There are distinct criticisms of school choice programs: Some argue that siphoning money away from struggling schools is a bad gamble in the long run and is degrading public education, especially in low-income areas that may see an exodus of students due to school choice programs.

Teachers’ Unions are typically not fond of charter schools because they are not unionized. Others worry that school choice is a way for the government to subsidize religious education (which is a no-no) since vouchers and other funding can sometimes be used towards religious schools.

Though she has been a champion of charter schools for decades, In February DeVos made a comment claiming historically black colleges and universities were an example of “school choice.” In fact, HBCUs were founded as a response to ingrained racism and segregation in the country’s public school system. Her most recent comments drew ire as well when she called school choice opponents “flat earthers” who have “chilled creativity” in schools.

Like so many political positions to ponder, future debate over the place of school choice may pivot on DeVos herself. That means it’s even more important to do your homework and know what the issues are.

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Notre Dame grads walk out to protest Pence

A group of Notre Dame graduates walked out of their graduation ceremony Sunday in protest against Vice President Mike Pence and his policies.

Pence was delivering the commencement speech after receiving an honorary degree from the Catholic university, located in his home state of Indiana.

Videos showed some students standing as Pence took the podium, then walking out of the ceremony and gathering outside Notre Dame Stadium, where they held a short alternative “graduation ceremony.”

The protest action was planned ahead of the ceremony, with activist group We Stand For saying Pence’s policies as vice president and as former Indiana governor targeted marginalized people on the basis of their religion, skin color or sexual orientation.

In a news item on its website, the university said that approximately 100 students participated in the walkout. According to the walkout’s Facebook event, 146 people were involved.

‘Political leaders are necessary’

Introducing Pence, University President Rev. John I. Jenkins said “political leaders are necessary for society, and we must strive with them to serve the common good.”

Referring to “a fractured nation, with deep divisions and raw political feelings,” Jenkins said injustice must be challenged; “But we must also listen to those who disagree, care for the bonds that join us together and find ways to build a society where all can flourish — even the people who don’t look like us, think like us, or vote with us.”

Pence told the assembled graduates that Notre Dame was a “vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas.”

“While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe spaces, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to the suppression of free speech,” Pence said. “These practices are destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge.”

He tweeted that he had been honored to speak at the ceremony.

Invitation to speak ‘an egregious insult’

Speaking on Sunday ahead of his graduation, Bryan Ricketts told CNN he would be walking out after learning solidarity during his time at Notre Dame.

“Personally, I know Mike Pence’s policies from his time as governor, when he tried to implement RFRA (The Religious Freedom Restoration Act) without civil rights protections for LGBTQ people. As a gay man, this directly impacted me. However, many graduates here have been directly targeted by other policies — for example, those students and their families who are undocumented and who risk deportation to celebrate this milestone in their lives,” Ricketts said.

Fellow protester Jenn Cha said there needed to be space for dialogue between people of different beliefs. “However, it is an egregious insult to invite Pence to speak at the celebration of the accomplishments of university graduates, many of whom are LGBTQ, first-generation, low-income, and people of color he has actively supported legislation against,” she said.

Liz Hynes said that Pence represented the kind of intolerance Notre Dame had sought to eliminate. “His anti-LGBT, anti-refugee, and anti-health care policies have harmed people in ways for which no religious justification can be made.”

Other opposition

A number of prominent Republicans have faced student opposition at commencement speeches this graduation season. Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced raucous booing at a speech at historically black Bethune-Cookman University.

Pence is the first vice president to deliver a commencement speech at Notre Dame, according to the university.

Six presidents from both sides of the aisle have given commencement speeches at Notre Dame, including Barack Obama in 2009 and George W. Bush in 2001.

“It is fitting that in the 175th year of our founding on Indiana soil that Notre Dame recognize a native son who served our state and now the nation with quiet earnestness, moral conviction and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen,” Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins said in a statement.

Pence received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana’s Hanover College and attended Indiana University School of Law.

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My Future My Choice: Big Book Drive delivers

The My Future My Choice Big Book Drive began with a bang at Charles R. Drew K-8 Center in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood.

With the help of A1A Transportation, Local 10 News delivered more than 400 books to students at the school with Ram pride. Tracie Abner, the school’s principal, said her students love to read. 

“Our reading scores are up because our kids are absolutely fantastic,” Abner said. 

Local 10 News also delivered some 500 books to the students at Dr. Henry W. Mack/West Little River Elementary School. Kimula Oce, the school’s principal, said the visit was a good way for the children to end the school year.

“I read chapter books all the time,” Tavares Brown, a student, said. 

At Larkdale Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, Local 10 News delivered about 500 more books. Carla Hart, the school’s principal, said a lot of her students don’t have books at home. 

“What a great way to put books in students hands,” Hart said. 

Walker Elementary School students in Fort Lauderdale welcomed the bus with a pep rally and a marching band. Local 10 News delivered about  700 books.

 Vera Motors in Pembroke Pines was the school bus’ last stop.  Louis Vera and his team at Vera Motors had about 130 books to donate.College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving team loaded the books up, so Local 10 News can continue to deliver them.

The Big Book Drive continues: For more information on how to donate, click on this link.

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