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XQ: The Super School project tour comes to ASU

XQ: The Super School project bus is pictured outside of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus on Monday, April 25, 2016, to advocate for high school education reform.

XQ: The Super School project bus is pictured outside of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus on Monday, April 25, 2016, to advocate for high school education reform.

Although the MU plaza is prone to many interesting scenes throughout the course of the year, students might have seen something quite different outside Starbucks Monday and Tuesday: a big yellow school bus.

However, the school bus wasn’t carrying a load of kids from a nearby high school, but rather an interactive exhibit changing the dialogue about high schools in America.

XQ: The Super School project is a campaign that aims to start a conversation among students, educators and community members about how high schools can change their current policies to help future generations succeed.

At every stop, people will give their ideas on various topics from school diversity to funding and finances. Various project teams have formed across the country, and they will use the proposed ideas to submit a full plan that will change how schools work.

The winning five teams will receive funding to make their idea come to life at an American high school.

Marlene Castro, XQ manager of student organization and community relations, said the need for high school revamps are long overdue.

“If we rethink this top-down system, and how these decisions are made, and how high schools get made and shaped — what if we flipped that and said how communities conserve their students?” Castro said.

Castro said the nationwide tour receives input from various people across the country because not all high schools in the U.S. are the same.

“We do know that a high school in Oakland will look very different than a high school in Jackson, Mississippi,” Castro said. “They both can be achieving towards the same great academic goals and achievements for students, but their communities themselves know what the students need.”

Castro said her experience throughout the tour and working with the organization has been a learning experience.

“We learned that communities have already come together in many ways to rethink high school and rethink education for all students in K-12 public education,” Castro said. “We want to listen to what your ideas are, and what your experiences from high school.”

Brandon Santiago is the 'social imangineer' for the XQ tour, and was a high school dropout before pursuing higher education later in life. Santiago stressed the importance of mentors in his life, and what impact they had on him.

“I praise God I had mentors," Santiago said. "I had mentors we called ‘dream directors’ who came and showed me the ropes and invest in my life and let me know: ‘Yo, you have a passion, and you can use that passion to do what you love.'"

Santiago said the ideas from #ReThinkHighSchool are great, but it's implementing those ideas which is more important to him.

“We can rethink it, but do folks care?" Santiago said. "Are they invested in the idea of rethinking high school? That’s kind of our role.”

Although this is Santiago’s second stop on the tour, he already looks back fondly on his experience.

“Interacting with the community, and seeing all of the innovation that has taken place and everything that has transpired in communities,” Santiago said. “Hearing folks talk about the agency, and the power that already lies, and us being able to capture that and sharing that with folks in New York or Grand Rapids or Detroit.”

Community member Jose Fernandez said he heard of the tour through Facebook, and decided to visit the bus on campus to see what it was about. Both of Fernandez’s parents were educators, and he said he thinks conversations about education need to be opened and reconstructed.

“I think (the conversation) needs to be had,” Fernandez said. “Academically, I’m grateful that my parents always emphasized that, but as far as truly doing what I wanted to do, it didn’t serve too much.”

In his eyes, Fernandez believes education needs to promote independent thinking and creativity in order to produce students who are well equipped for the future.

“Instead of regurgitating information, being able to think for yourself and saying ‘do I really believe in that? ‘Is this the truth or am I just believing it because I was told to believe it?'” Fernandez said.

Related links:

It's time for ASU students to stand up for K-12 education

Arizona education system in trouble... yet again

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