Take a look at the article written by Carol Kinsley of the Seaford Star in Seaford, DE about the GREAT things students have been doing from Delaware to Mexico!
By Carol Kinsley
Where in the world is Harry Brake, who taught English at Seaford High School from 2005 to 2011? He has gone to Mexico to work as upper school librarian and media specialist at the American School Foundation in Mexico City, the oldest American school in Mexico. He plans to stay in Mexico to maximize his experiences of developing technology in a different environment, but it is evident that he maintains strong ties to the Seaford community and to his former students.
Brake flew to Washington, D.C., late last month to lobby for The National Writing Project as well as funding for education for Delaware. He also participated in the Cherry Blossom Festival and Blossom Kite Festival with students from Seaford, as they have done for the past three years. The students raise money to stay overnight in D.C. and help make wind socks and kites with young visitors as volunteers for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
Duties done, Brake returned to Seaford for a visit with friends before heading back to Mexico. He will be back in June to work at the Summer Academy at Blades Elementary School. “I love coming back!” he said.
He also loves grant writing, working with environmental issues and, of course, as an English instructor, he loves world literature.
He loves his new job where he fulfills the role of 21st century librarian. “I’m the person who helps the teachers, relieves their role, and teaches technology a little bit.” Today’s librarians don’t fit the profile of the little old lady who tells patrons to be quiet. “I am always willing to work with teachers to help them with their lessons…. The librarian is the one person who can jump around to all the teachers and help coordinate stuff.”
Now that he has his foot in library science, he continued, “I’m afraid to go back to the teaching part because I’d be unable to go to teachers and help them.”
While teaching in Seaford, Brake started a club to teach students how to write and create grants that fund community projects. The effort continues, now connected to the students in Mexico, who collaborate online. “The kids in Seaford teach those in Mexico how to write grants,” he said. “When I look at all the projects we did in Delaware, I hope to do some in Mexico, too.”
Brake said he loved Seaford because of the energy o the kids. “They help recharge me all the time. They would get to the point where they came up with the ideas.”
Students have written a minimum of 10 grants per year since 2006 with more than $15,000 accepted to date. In its five years of existence, the club has had four winners of the State Governor’s Service Award.
“I didn’t want to drop it because I left Seaford, so I empowered the kids here. It has worked out well.”
The kids in Seaford and Mexico are in constant contact, Brake said. “There’s a forum online where the kids meet, describe a project and the kids in Delaware help. They mentor each other. It’s a good push for the writing project.”
Some of the projects include providing books for local libraries in Mexico by collecting or buying used books from multiple sources; helping the Make-A-Wish foundation in Mexico through fundraising efforts; creating a recreational park in a poor community in Mexico where parents will receive pamphlets on nutrition; an expanded battle of the bands (and choirs and orchestra) that would raise money for facilities that teach the art of music; providing water fountains and school supplies for a public school; and providing laptops or iPads to hard-working students in public schools.
Brake explained that every state has a writing project, but Delaware’s is also national — and now international. The project takes writing beyond the classroom.
He noted that the state test in 2014 will incorporate writing. “These kids will be really prepared,” he said.
The writing project had gone on for quite some time before it got a formal name. Christina Stevenson, now a student at the University of Delaware, suggest it be called PAVE, for Peers Actively Volunteering and Educating.
Brake tied the Key Club and PAVE together for volunteering opportunities. PAVE is doing the PR work for the Battle of the Bands on April 20 which will benefit The Seaford School District Family Resource Center and Seaford Cultural Center.
Unfortunately, the students Brake worked with directly while in Seaford are graduating soon. He hopes PAVE will spread to lower grades. Helping in that effort is Melinda Duryea at Blades Elementary. Her own group, KKids, which is affiliated with Kiwanis Club, has a garden behind the school. She has been co-sponsoring events in Brake’s absence.
Among the projects benefitting from PAVE was the garden in Soroptimist Park, which got help from KKids and other volunteers.
Brake said KKids and PAVE, as well as Key Club members, are planning to work at the Soroptomist Garden during Earth Week, April 19 and 20, and the public is welcome to help.
Another project begun by PAVE has been picked up by students in Mexico and carried to completion. Seaford students, on an annual trip to New York over six years, interview people in the streets, bringing back recordings of personal reactions to 911. This year Brake was able to take students from Mexico to New York to attend a conference at Columbia on how to do a literary magazine. When they got to New York City, the counselor said he knew the architect of the 911 Memorial Center, Michael Arad, Brake explained. There was a bet as to whether an interview could be set up, and one was.
“They interviewed him for a half hour,” Brake said. “The kids were fascinated. It was a lifetime experience.”
As a result, the Mexican students are going to mesh their interview and the collections of interviews from the Seaford students into one collaborative project to be published and contributed to the 911 Tribute Center.
“My head is swimming, trying to keep up,” Brake said. The kids have a sense of urgency, of “what can I do next with it?” Brake said, “It sounds like busy-ness, but these things bring meaning to their education.”
Brake said he did not want to speak for Seaford, but he is excited about the possibilities with New Tech at the high school. “The goal of New Tech was to present a new way of looking at education — how do I take this out of the classroom. Everywhere I’ve been, (I’ve seen it’s) how you take what’s in front of you and make it something that’s not just textbook but something you do something with.”
Brake likes the idea of an international connection, of kids knowing there are people across the world who care about them. “I’m really proud of the kids in Seaford. They’ve taken on a lot without me being there, because they wanted to…. The kids just need someone to say ‘I’m here, let’s do this project.'”
To keep up with Harry Brake, as though one could, subscribe to https://harrybrake.wordpress.com.
I have to say, in a world where adults spend alot of time criticizing and being sideline critics, we can take many lessons from the get up and go attitudes of some of our best youth !