By Andy Demster, Principal of Maxine Smith STEAM Academy

As we plan our 2019-20 school year, I find myself filled with gratitude and excitement. Our students are achieving at high levels, our teachers and staff are implementing a KnightsCARE culture and a rigorous curriculum, and our superintendent is investing in community partnerships, schools, and students’ social emotional learning like never before.

It is a special time for Shelby County Schools, Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, and the Cooper-Young community. Nearly 80 percent of our students this year live within two miles of our school and/or have a sibling in the building. Maxine Smith STEAM Academy is Midtown’s middle school, and we are proud to announce our new partnership with Cooper-Young Community Association. Cooper-Young and Maxine Smith STEAM Academy will be partnering to enhance our STEAMbassador and mentor-student leadership programs, which will engage nearly 75 students in servant leadership tasks, activities, and learning opportunities in hopes of expanding to our entire school next year.

As we have learned in our STEM experiments, the triangle is the single strongest structure. Our team has created three pillars that are the foundations of our beliefs and systems that will drive our school into the future: Academic achievement, a KnightsCARE culture, and leadership. We believe that you have to CARE to lead and those doing the work must lead the work. Building the capacity of everyone in our community is vital to the success of everyone in our community. 

With the help of CYCA, we will engage students in community learning projects, create a shadow/internship program along with a CYCA youth bommittee led by CYCA scholarship recipient and Central High School student Jackson Danley, and build positive relationships in order for our students to become highly successful community members. We will spread our KnightsCARE values as we develop this partnership and create access, opportunities, and equity for students. We say KnightsCARE because we collaborate to solve problems, we have a positive attitude when we are discouraged or frustrated, we are responsible for ourselves and our community, and we display effort by never giving up, no matter the challenge. 

This collaboration has the potential to have a huge impact on our community and the students involved. We are developing our plan and service projects now and will publish upcoming meetings and plans soon. Thank you to Candice Pollan, Optional Coordinator at STEAM and Sheree Stubblefield, Community Engagement Director for CYCA for your hard work, time, and love of our city, the midtown community, and the Cooper Young neighborhood. This is going to be a great year!

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