Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

Making a difference at a STEM school for young scholars

RECOMMENDED READING


TEMPLE TERRACE

The scholars hung on every word spoken by the tour guide.

Moments after arriving in Washington, D.C., in May, the Harmon STEM School scholars — founder and principal Ayesha Hackman refuses to call them students — took a tour of the Capitol. As they stood in the rotunda, the guide quizzed the grade-schoolers. They responded with remarkable intelligence.

"They were knocking it out of the park," Hackman said. "It was really incredible."

Not just one child shouted out answers. The whole contingent responded and asked questions that reflected a depth of knowledge.

The parents on the trip as chaperones beamed with pride, amazed at the display of information by their kids — children once deemed difficult to teach.

For Hackman, the moment validated her decision to step away from a school administration job three years ago.

"I almost got teary-eyed when I realized they get it," Hackman said. "You have that, 'a-ha moment' that what you're doing is actually making a difference."

Harmon has spent 15 years as an educator in New Orleans, Tampa and her native Massachusetts. She could have easily wrapped herself in the comfort and security of her previous job, but she chose instead to make a leap of faith.

The mission went beyond instilling educational philosophies. She truly wanted to make a difference and provide another avenue of success — especially for children of color.

The beginning proved challenging at an Ybor City location in much need of fixing up. She had no donors, no sponsors, no contributors and few students. But she persevered.

From there, she found another site on Busch Boulevard. In between, she endured sleepless nights, wondering if the courage to step out on her own might betray her.

But now the school has found a home in the Temple Terrace Community Church that's nestled between the city's historic golf course and its country club.

"It's serene. The grass is lush, it's beautiful," Hackman said. "It fits who we are."

By design, the Harmon school is small. Hackman said she won't allow an enrollment of more than 50 students so teachers and staff can get to the heart of each scholar's academic needs.

Previous schools directed some of her scholars into exceptional student services (ESE) programs, but the smaller classes allow the school to meet the challenge.

The students are expected to score at least 80 percent on exams 100 percent of the time. It's a demand some find daunting, but the accountability approach breeds greater success.

"When scholars reach the 80 percent mark for the first time, they come see me and we have a celebration," Hackman said. "It's awesome."

The school's STEM aspect revolves around providing each child with skills that eventually can translate to college or the workplace. Too often, Hackman said, students focus only on the dream of athletics.

Learning to code, however, will help some students go from high school straight into the workplace. Others will be better prepared for college and a career.

As the school's success grows, Hackman said she hopes for more support from the community, including STEM resources. Meanwhile, she continues to marvel at how it's all working out.

Ask her about the joy one of the kids displayed after seeing a statue of Rosa Parks in the Capitol and she can't hold back her smile.

That's all I'm saying.

Comments
Safety Harbor family, under attack from its pit bull, stabs the dog to death

Safety Harbor family, under attack from its pit bull, stabs the dog to death

SAFETY HARBOR — A pregnant 22-year-old had to stab her family dog to death after it "turned" on his owners Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Sierra Willson stabbed the dog after it began viciously attacking two other dogs and...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Hillsborough Democrats have everything going for them except history

Hillsborough Democrats have everything going for them except history

TAMPA — For 15 years, Republicans have held a majority of seats on the Hillsborough County Commission.It’s the longest stretch one party has controlled the board since a corruption scandal expanded the body to seven members in 1985.But all five Repub...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

VALRICO — A large hole that opened in Valrico’s Bloomingdale neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day was caused by a broken water pipe, not a sinkhole, county officials said. The hole swallowed a Mini Cooper-sized chunk of Natures Way Boulevard, at the Elm ...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Jones: Thriller doesn’t diminish what might have been for USF

Jones: Thriller doesn’t diminish what might have been for USF

ORLANDO — It has been a heck of a season. It really has.And Friday was a heck of a game. It really was. It was as good as any game in the nation this season.USF has lots to be proud of. A 9-2 regular season. A knock-down, drag-out, dogfight against u...
Updated: 8 minutes ago

Woman, 51, robbed in Tyrone Square Mall parking lot, police say

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman was robbed after a man followed her to her car in a mall parking lot Thursday night and shot once at her, police said. The 51-year-old woman, whose identity St. Petersburg police are withholding, was not injured. She was walk...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Tampa providing emergency medical service at MacDill, including new ambulance

Tampa providing emergency medical service at MacDill, including new ambulance

TAMPA — Sick and injured people at MacDill Air Force Base now rely on crews from Tampa Fire Rescue for help, and soon, they’ll have their own dedicated ambulance.Last month, the Tampa City Council approved the purchase of a $323,000 Braun Super Chief...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
USF QB Quinton Flowers shines in 49-42 loss to rival UCF

USF QB Quinton Flowers shines in 49-42 loss to rival UCF

ORLANDO — The de facto American Athletic Conference East Division title game commenced on a damp, cool afternoon beneath gray skies. Meteorologically, it was a bleak Friday.For USF, it ultimately faded to black, but not before USF quarterback Quinton...
Updated: 16 minutes ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Fri., Nov. 24, midday:51 608 3983e_SRit59811Fri., Nov. 24, evening:83 989 3300e_SRit08685Fantasy 5Fri., Nov. 24...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Hernando deputies identify woman killed in Brooksville home

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Friday identified the woman killed on Old Stage Coach Road earlier this week as 32-year-old Janet J. Carroll.Deputies announced earlier this week that Joshua Carroll, 32, had been arrested and cha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Neighborhood watched

Neighborhood watched

MONICA HERNDON | TimesTampa Police Department mounted patrol Officer William Wagner-Hart rides Pike near Osceola Place and E Henry Avenue in Seminole Heights on Friday. The mounted patrol units join other officers already patrolling the area in t...
Updated: 1 hour ago