School of the Week: Henderson Academy


This is the number of male mentors that Principal Deborah Manciel is determined to secure for the 443 young men of Henderson Academy. Through programs such as My Brother’s Keeper launched in January 2015, roughly 40 male students have been introduced to positive, career-driven male role models who help the students prepare for high school, college and career readiness. Seeing the impact that the program is having on her students, Manciel is putting out a call to action for more male mentors at Henderson.

Located on the city’s west side in the Cody Rouge neighborhood, the community surrounding Henderson is known to be tough, Manciel says. But programs like My Brother’s Keeper, DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program), STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) programs, the 2015 Future City Competition, and the Michigan Department of Education’s TRAC Program – coupled with educators who treat each student as their own children – help Henderson students realize their success isn’t defined by their zip code.

“Every day, I try to remind my students that in spite of life’s challenges, they can live out their dreams,” says Manciel, a 35-year veteran educator. “In spite of their plight, circumstances, or social status, they can overcome all of those obstacles and achieve whatever they want by obtaining a high-quality education. And we give them that here at Henderson.”

Positive Role Models
Serving roughly 800 students, Henderson offers grades Pre-K-8. Although just as many mentoring programs are in place for girls, Manciel said she feels a special need to secure one-on-one mentorships for the boys.

The men of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, Xi Beta Sigma Chapter, announced a partnership with Detroit Public Schools in January to provide the My Brother’s Keeper mentoring program at Henderson, the first school in the district to adopt the nation-wide program. Launched by President Barack Obama, My Brother’s Keeper aims to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

Through this initiative, the Administration is joining with cities, towns, businesses, and foundations who are taking important steps to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and the skills needed to enter college and gain successful careers.

“They are really starting to turn our students around,” Manciel says. “I see a lot of character building and leadership molding. It’s only the beginning, but I see a difference. Our young men need these types of relationships to succeed in life.”

On the right “TRAC”
Efforts to ensure students prosper at Henderson go far beyond mentoring programs.

Educators like 7th grade science and DAPCEP teacher Wanda Bryant and Dianna Chapple, who teaches cognitively impaired 6th through 8th grade special education students, are constantly looking for new programs to provide their students with exposure to various careers.

Bryant’s students participate in a program titled TRAC (Transportation and Civil Engineering) sponsored by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). The students have been charged with building different transportation modules including a bridge module where the students utilize engineering software to design a bridge. Once the design is complete, they have to build a 12-inch bridge made of wood. The bridge that holds the most weight will win the MDOT TRAC competition. All program proposals were due on February 20, 2015. If Henderson’s bridge module is selected, the students will travel to Grand Rapids to stay overnight and compete against schools across the state.

Having such life-changing opportunities is the type of education that Henderson provides to its students, Bryant says.

“I have found that knowledge is power. And for many of our students, if they are made aware of the programs that are out there, that will give them more opportunities to make decisions regarding their career choices.”

Building Future Leaders
Both Bryant and Chapple coordinated separate groups of students to participate in the 2015 Future City Competition presented by the Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD) on January 26 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. Students from Bates Academy, Blackwell Institute, Clippert Academy, Durfee Elementary-Middle School and Henderson Academy participated in the annual Future City Competition. Henderson students took home awards for “Best Use of Materials” and “Most Healthy Community.”

According to ESD, Future City is a cross-curricular educational program where students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades imagine, design, and build cities of the future. Over a four-month period, students work as a team with an educator and volunteer mentor to design a virtual city using SimCity software; research and write an essay addressing the contest theme; build a model of their city using recycled materials; write a brief narrative promoting their city; and present their city before a panel of judges at the Regional Competition.

Bryant’s students created a city with white streets that better reflect energy to keep the climate cooler, vertical rooftop farms, and buildings with LED Lighting.

Chapple’s special education students built a city with lots of parks, clean air, and places where they can ride bikes. The group won the award for the healthiest city from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

“I noticed that when my kids competed in the Future City Competition – where they were the only special education class that competed, and they came back with a trophy – a lot of kids began to realize, ‘They’re just as smart as us,’” says Chapple. “Just because they may have trouble with reading, they may be pretty good in another subject.”

Chapple said she was most proud of her students’ social interaction and developing new friends.

“When they first got there, they had a hard time talking,” she recalls. “But after about two hours, a few engineers came up to talk with them to describe their city, and they began to open up.

“Building communication skills and confidence were my main objectives. Of course they can learn what kinds of careers are out there for engineers, but for my kids, they learned how to work as a team and share their thoughts with others.”

Chapple’s students have a few more bragging rights outside of winning the Future City Competition Healthiest City Award. Five students recently competed in the Special Winter Olympics and all earned medals in snowshoeing. They also participated in the Special Olympics: Project UNIFY where special education students are paired with traditional education students to help build respect toward everyone’s differences.

More offerings at Henderson: Creative Writing, Computer Labs, Netbooks, Robotics, Conflict Resolution, Mobile Library, Cheerleading, Basketball, Physical Education, Project Seed, Glory Math, Response to Intervention, Tutoring/Extended Day Program, Accelerated Reading/Math Program, Arts, DAPCEP, Go Green Environmental Program.

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