Learning outside the box

ByJoyeeta Biswas, Margot Kim via Localish logo
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
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At this alternative education high school in California, once-struggling students turn into confident and bright scholars as they are encouraged to think outside the box.

LINDSAY, Calif. -- "Many of the learners that we have here in Lindsay come from poverty. They dream of having things. They want to buy a house, they want to buy a car, they want to be able to do things in life," says Lana Russo-Jimenez.

Russo-Jimenez teaches math at John J Cairns High School, an alternative education school in Lindsay, California.

And it's her job, and the job of the other teachers known as 'learning facilitators' at the school, to help those students realize their dreams.

Often, the first step is working on their self-confidence and trust.

"I think so many of our kids are kind of beaten down because they come here and think, 'Oh my gosh, I'm a horrible student because I've been sent over here to alternative ed'. But what they find is that they just think a little bit differently and are a little out of the box, and we find that right place for them," says Russo-Jimenez.

When 17-year-old Angela Aguilera was first sent to John J Cairns, she thought she was being punished.

"They said it's for bad kids, and I thought, 'Oh I'm here because I'm bad'. But it wasn't like that... I didn't know I was this smart, I didn't know I was clever, till I actually started learning," she says.

It's the whole ethos of the school, principal Amalia Lopez explains.

"Our learners often have not had a history of academic success. But they are learners and they learn and they are capable of really bright futures, and we want to facilitate that and make sure they can achieve that.... What makes us so special is that we are going to make every child successful. There is no one left behind."