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Natural Awakenings Tucson

The Western Institute for Leadership Development

Jan 30, 2012 03:10PM ● By Jeremy Clark

The Western Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) is a unique new, tuition-free college prep high school opening in Tucson this August, with grades 9 and 10. The Western Institute grew out of the Every Voice in Action Foundation (EViA) mission to ignite and support youth voice and leadership projects in local schools and nonprofit organizations. For more than 15 years, EViA has awarded grants to Voices: Community Stories, Pima Partnership’s Teen Court, Ben’s Bells, the YWCA’s Youth Forum on Racism, the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam and many other exemplary projects. To maximize its impact, work with more youth, and work holistically to develop students’ academic strengths while they contribute to their community, EViA became the founding donor for the Western Institute in 2010.The Western Institute is currently enrolling up to 100 ninth-graders and 100 10th-graders. Intentionally a small school, it will add grades 11 and 12 during the next two years and reach capacity at 400 to 450 students. To meet students’ developmental needs, a safe school climate is paramount. Research has shown that students feel safer to ask questions, exert intellectual effort and express themselves with peers and supportive adults in small schools like the Western Institute.

The Western Institute offers motivated students interested in a creative, empowering education a program that is unique among high schools in Tucson

The Western Institute prepares students for four-year colleges, careers and leadership in the community by creating real-world projects with realworld impact. To become an artist, one learns to create art. To become an athlete, one learns how to best prepare and compete. To become a leader, one learns how to bring positive change into the world—change that would not have happened without individuals stepping
forward and accepting the responsibility to act. The project-based curriculum at the Western Institute honors the taking of action as an essential part of educating the whole person.

Students at the Western Institute will learn how to effect change via a leadership cycle of research and reflection, planning, action and finally, evaluation and celebration of results. Well-designed, student-led projects provide teens with opportunities to develop their own talents and values, work effectively in teams and collaborate with other leaders in their communities. In the process, they develop the higher order skills needed for the 21st century: communication, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and innovation. Further, the Western Institute itself will be a laboratory for innovating, testing and sharing the best practices in education, youth development and community development, thereby acting as a model for our students.

The Western Institute prepares students for four-year colleges, careers and leadership in the community by creating real-world projects with realworld impact.

To prepare for the rapid changes and demands for continuous learning they will experience as adults, all students at the Western Institute will take the coursework required to meet Arizona standards and entry into four-year colleges and universities. All students will both conduct original research and apply their newly gained knowledge and skills in real-world projects with community partners. There is no more stimulating, and no more challenging, environment than that which exists outside the classroom. Expectations are set very high for WILD students,with plentiful opportunities existing for honors courses and dual enrollment in local college courses, as well as potential to give and receive tutoring, take on academic coaching, youth mentoring, and senior internships. Students will be expected to want to learn and want to work hard to achieve their goals.

The Western Institute offers motivated students interested in a creative, empowering education a program that is unique among high schools in Tucson, with a new, state-ofthe-art facility on the 10-acre campus; an individualized learning plan for every student; a school endowment
that provides resources for student-led projects; creative leadership experience designing and building their own school community: gardens, riparian corridors, sculptures and murals, as well as building design for Phase II of the school itself; a laptop computer, provided for every student in good standing; participation in school governance – two students will sit as full voting members on the school board, helping shape the school’s policy; projects and internships that connect students with business and community leaders who can provide role models and career opportunities; twice-yearly public exhibitions that provide authentic recognition of student work; and yoga, dance team, arts, and other electives and after-school programs that round out development of the whole person.

Open house opportunities will be held at the Eckstrom-Columbus Library, at 6 p.m., February 1 and 29, March 21 and April 18. For more information, call Lupita or Jeremy at 520-615- 2200 or visit TheWesternInstitute.org.

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