Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

Making a difference at a STEM school for young scholars

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
Kevin Knox brushes off crowd reaction to take center stage

Kevin Knox brushes off crowd reaction to take center stage

New York Knicks fans are a boisterous bunch. They voice their displeasure at just about everything. Four years ago, the fans booed the team's first-round selection of Kristaps Porzingis, who became an all-star this past season.So it was widely assume...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls basketball team

Hillsborough Player of the year: Kaliah Henderson, Jr., RobinsonWhy we picked her: Henderson is the type of player opponents know they have to stop. That has proven easier said than done. The Knights went 22-3 and that record would be much worse with...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended by the NFL for three games according to reports, and that number could go up if he doesn't meet certain criteria.Rick Stroud explains that the suspension is not for a failure to report the 2016 i...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
At a Mexican shelter, migrants who fled death threats prepare for ‘zero tolerance’ at the border

At a Mexican shelter, migrants who fled death threats prepare for ‘zero tolerance’ at the border

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico — In Honduras, their lives were surrounded by death.Lourdes Cruz had just started a new job when the maras, the deadly gangs plaguing Central America, demanded half of her paycheck. She quit her job, but they found her number a...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Forecast: Muggy and hot with a chance of rain for Pride festivities

As the first weekend of summer swings in, it appears Tampa Bay should expect more heat, humidity and a chance of afternoon showers.Increased moisture in the Gulf of Mexico will result in scattered showers and isolated storms for coastal areas of Tamp...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The Daystarter: The Jameis Winston fallout; from CIA agents to minivan drivers; Pride comes back together in 2018

The Daystarter: The Jameis Winston fallout; from CIA agents to minivan drivers; Pride comes back together in 2018

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.   • Get ready for a wet morning as the forecast calls for scattered showers and storms to start the day. There could even be thundershowers and lightning out there, according to...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

It’ll still be June when Boy George arrives in Florida this week to kick off a summer U.S. tour with Culture Club. But the LGBTQ icon says it won’t feel quite like a Pride parade. "I also bake cakes for straight people," he laughed. "Tha...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

OMAHA, Neb. — JJ Schwarz hit a two-run homer and Florida built enough cushion to survive Texas Tech's six-run outburst over the seventh and eighth innings to eliminate the Red Raiders from the College World Series with a 9-6 win Thursday night....
Updated: 10 hours ago
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18