“If it is to be, it is up to me!”
When you walk in the doors at the Jerry L. White Center, you are immediately greeted with a smile, a handshake, a hug, and most importantly a personalized welcome that represents the theme of the school “If it is to be, it is up to me!”
Students and staff alike are treated as family members and constantly feel a sense of belonging and love. So in turn, when there are visitors at J.L. White, students welcome and treat their guests as they too are a part of their family.
As one of Detroit Public Schools’ premier special education high schools, Jerry L. White is a center-based special education program educating students ages 14-19 who are Hearing Impaired, Moderately Cognitively Impaired, Severely Cognitively Impaired, Severely Multiply Impaired, Visually Impaired or have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Principal Tia’Von Moore-Patton says that she prides her staff and curriculum on focusing on students’ abilities not their disabilities.
The name we honor…
In September 2005, DPS proudly opened the Jerry L. White Center. The building was named in honor of Jerry L. White, who was a dedicated Boy Scouts of America advocate. White brought scouting into the classroom for students with special needs. As a result of his outstanding work, he received many awards in the scouting community including several Chief Winners Circle awards. White’s untimely death in 1998 left the scouting community shocked and saddened, however his legacy continues as the Trailblazer Division provides scouting opportunities for many students with special needs.
White’s wife, a former Special Education Director of Highland Park Schools, Carolyn White continues to uphold his legacy by being heavily active within the center and participating in many school functions. Mrs. White is a member of the Greater Northeast Optimist Club, which has adopted J.L. White and contributes to the school by volunteering and making donations. Most recently the Optimist Club donated 30 winter coats to the school for students in need.
“My husband was an unassuming individual. He never talked about what he did; he just did it. This school is upholding a family mentality and Principal Patton, Ms. Vincent and the entire staff are doing a wonderful job at honoring my husband’s name,” White said.
With core values instilled from trailblazer Jerry L. White himself, the Trailblazers’—J.L. White’s school mascot— main goals are to create a continuum of services for students with disabilities, prepare students to transition into the appropriate post-secondary educational program, and to live as independently as possible.
“Data is where it’s at!”
Principal Patton believes in a data-driven curriculum in conjunction with a passionate teaching staff in order to obtain complete program success. Every classroom in the building is equipped with a data wall, which showcases each student’s work progress.
“I’m a tech-nerd, therefore technology and data are infused heavily throughout our curriculum,” Patton said.
J.L. White students have access to computer labs with brand new Apple computers, iPads, Netbooks, Smartboards and a variety of other devices, with adjustable settings and features so that the equipment is accommodating to all students.
“Just like it’s the teachers calling to be here, technology is my calling,” 18-year-old student Raphael Hardwick said. “I love technology and I love to help people, and my friends know that. A lot of people will bring me their phones and other technology when they are having problems instead of taking the devices into the shop.”
The students at J.L. White are not only tech-savvy, they are also efficient in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). J.L. White students were the 2012/13 Green Ribbon of Excellence Science Fair recipients. They were the only students from a special education center who presented their projects to the judges on the judging floor.
“The students conducted the research, formulated a hypothesis, tested and recorded their data. They explained their process to the judges as well as answered any questions the judges had without any hesitation. They performed excellently,” said Science Champion Representative Patricia Moore.
The J.L. White Center provides a learning environment that encourages all students to strive for independence by providing an individualized academic setting and pre-vocational work environment regardless of their challenges.
There is constant activity at J.L. White. Students are exposed to many diverse programs, a number of which take place in a room that has been deemed the “Multi-Tasking” room. This room is home to the Parent Advisory Council on Student Achievement (PACSA), where parents meet for PACSA meetings and trainings with food prepared by J.L. White students!
Principal Patton says that staff is working with students to become independent thinkers as well as doers. The Center has a Laundry Room equipped with a washer, dryer, cleaning products and a step-by-step chart that students follow to complete the laundry.
“When students are given a task, they take that task seriously and are passionate about what they are doing,” said Academic Engagement Administrator Ramona Vincent.
When Principal Patton asked the Recycling Center team how many sheets of paper are allowed in the shredders at a time, students confidently answer “ONE!”
“These students are responsible for collecting, sorting and shredding the paper that is delivered to the Center. They stay so on-task and focused, sometimes you will catch them reminding the teachers of procedure,” Patton said.
Jerry L. White also has a student-managed Postal Service Center that has been successfully running for seven years. The program is unique in that it gives students the opportunity to go through the job interviewing process, from selecting a position to patiently waiting to see if they get the job.
Students are responsible for selecting which position they are interested in and must interview for the position. J.L. White students are responsible for all in-house mail, including sorting and distribution. The Postal Service has a supervisor, assistant supervisor, mail carriers, sorters and even security.
Another thriving program at J.L. White is the Commercial Foods Program. The center works with the Office of School Nutrition to prepare delicious meals that are enjoyed by many.
J.L. White also hosts an annual Taste Fest that serves a healthy, appetizing array of menu items. Last year students cooked scrumptious fruit skewers, red-skinned potato salad, broccoli salad, shrimp appetizers, island-style fried rice, Hawaiian chicken kabobs and more.
Students aren’t just taught how to cook, they are taught the process of cooking, including vocabulary, the different types of food groups, and the varying utensils. The J.L. White kitchen has it all: stoves, ovens, walk-in refrigerators, freezers, and of course the students’ very own J.L. White aprons.
“My students are gaining hands-on experiences in these fields. I want them to look just as professional as they are performing,” Patton said.
Wait, there’s more?
J.L. White has a gymnasium, physical and occupational therapy center, and a therapeutic pool. These areas are perfect for students to take part in Adaptive Physical Education classes. Cheerleaders and dance team members also use the gym to practice their routines, and instructors work with students who need one-on-one strength training and stretching.
“Little things that we take for granted, these students do not. And it is our responsibility to continue to advocate for these children,” Patton said.
Principal Patton has a copy of the district’s Five Pillars of Student Achievement displayed right by the school’s office. This is a constant reminder to staff and students the importance of maintaining talent management; high quality teaching and learning; a rigorous, transparent and continuous improvement cycle; customer service approach to community and each other; and a secure, inclusive and dynamic culture.
“These pillars are really important to me and something I make sure is upheld in my curriculum. We need all of these concepts to have a good school-culture that works together,” Patton said.
Something you didn’t know…
One of the classes at Jerry L. White is a sewing course. Students indulge in top-notch sewing and can make anything from pillows and clothes, on to hats and holiday decorations. In the Spring, students will take part in their rendition of the hit play The Wiz where J.L. White students will be creating and making all of their own costumes!