Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ronald McNair

Before Black History Month comes to a close, we wanted share a short story about the man for whom the McNair administration building was named. It's a reminder to always dream big.


I've never been good at math. Just hearing the word equations makes me anxious. Thankfully, my children didn't inherit their math gene from me. In fact, they excel at math and had the great opportunity to participate in the annual U. City Equations Open held every winter at UCHS.

The 2014 Equations teams hard at work

Equations is a board game played with dice that have numerical digits and arithmetic operators (+, -, X, etc.) that are used to make "goal" equations. Competitors improve mathematics skills while having fun in the process.

The start of an equations round
This year was the 17th annual U. City Equations Open. Tom and Mary Ellen Campbell started the tournament and coordinated the first 12 Opens. Judy Maffitt has been chairing the Equations Open since 2010 and is already planning for the 2015 event.

Judy, a Scrum Master for AT&T, and her husband Dave, a software engineer at the Electronic Radiology Lab at Wash U, moved to U. City in 1987. Both of their children attended Flynn Park, McNair, Brittany Woods and UCHS. Their son Kevin is now 23 and a Wash U graduate, and daughter Zoe is 20 and a Junior at Truman State University.

It is committed parents, volunteers and residents like Judy and Dave that make U. City the special community we all enjoy.

UCHS PTO moms run the concessions

The district also hosts a practice session for first-time teams to hone their skills a few weeks prior to the open. In addition to providing an opportunity for students to practice their math, logic and strategy skills, the Open hosts schools from across the region at UCHS and raises approximately $1,000 for the UCHS PTO.

Flynn Park Fifth Grade Team
Like the USFIRST robotic teams in the school district, equations allows kids who may not participate in sports teams to belong to a team. There is only one other Equations event in St. Louis and that is The Gifted Resource (GRC) Council's Academic Challenge. The U. City Open provides Equations teams the opportunity to prepare for that event and gives parents and coaches an opportunity to watch as no spectators are allowed at the GRC event.

For teams that want to get started there is good information on the GRC web site. There are also workshops held every October and November for parents and teachers interested in learning about Equations - and starting their own teams.

Flynn Park Third Grade Teams
Over 300 students attend the Open annually. For many students and their parents it is the first time stepping foot in the beautifully, historic UCHS building and gymnasium. If your school doesn't field a team there is plenty of time to get started. After all, who doesn't love kids playing a math-based game?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Life Plan

Those that know me might describe me with adjectives such as hard working, good parent, community volunteer, gainfully employed, or activist. Most of the time I live up to those labels, but earning those labels wasn't such an easy path.

My path to adulthood was a rocky one. My parents were transient and sometimes I'd attend 2-3 schools in one school year - if I was enrolled in school at all. There were foster homes, a group home and eventually I landed with an Aunt and Uncle for my last three years of high school. Those three years are the only reason I even made it to college, but my journey was just beginning.

At the age of 17, I found myself in college with no money, no real support system and without the maturity or established direction to be successful. Thankfully there was something in my gut that told me I needed that college degree, but I had to fight and claw for four years to be able to cross the podium on graduation day.

My story is just one reason why I find the Lifeplan program at University City High School so exciting. An outgrowth of the California Mentor Foundation and the Evelyn Freed Mentor Center, Lifeplan believes if you change the conversation with a young adult, you change their choices. With all the distractions our society offers young adults these days, conversations that focus on the future and get students discussing what they want out of life can only be beneficial.

UCHS happens to be the first and only Missouri high school to implement Lifeplan, a mentoring program for teens. The program helps teens maneuver through high school and on through young adulthood helping "participants discover for themselves how to navigate the path of life, avoid the common pitfalls, and become successful thriving adults."

UCHS launched Lifeplan in the fall of 2011 with an inaugural group of 25 freshman and now all incoming freshman go through the program each year. After hearing other area high school administrators talk about the UCHS Lifeplan program, KMOV Channel 4 news visited UCHS and ran a feature on the program.

Many UCHS Alumni support this program financially and as mentors. If you'd like to get involved contact Mr. Ernest Carter, Assistant Principal via email at ecarter@ucityschools.org or phone at 314-290-4128.
logo - California Mentor Foundation logo - Evenlyn Free Mentor Center

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pomp and Circumstance

In an earlier post we highlighted Brittany Wood students Ethan Braske, Selena Lewis, Torey Lowery, Alan Phillips, Daniel Pomerantz and Phoebe Thoroughman who were selected to play in the Desmond E. Lee Middle School Honor Band which performed Thursday, February 6 at the Touhill on the UMSL campus.

Below is a photo from the concert finale - what a thrill and an opportunity for our students to participant. Thanks to all of the students for representing University City and our schools wo well.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Pomerantz

Friday Night Lights

No, we're not talking football, but on Friday, January 24th the lights were on at many of the U. City schools this past Friday night. There was a basketball game at the high school, bingo night at Flynn Park, Cub Scout Chili Cookoff at Jackson Park, and the Winter Ball at Brittany Wood Middle School - what has become the social event of the season. Below are a few snapshots of all the fun.

Brittany Wood Winter Ball

Jackson Park Cub Scout Chili Cook-off
The U. City Fire Department chooses the winner of the "Judges Choice"

The JP Girl Scouts provide the home-baked desserts

It was a full house at the January 24 Chili Cook-off

The Road to Aerial Assist

The U. City High School Robolions robotics team is in the throes of building a robot to compete in the St. Louis regional First Robotics Competition (FRC) in March 13-15 at Chaifetz Arena. Winners will compete at the FIRST International Championship that will be held April at America's Center in St. Louis.

The Robolions have many new members this year and are rocking the six week build schedule - even with all the snow day delays. With new team members come new skill sets. Who says girls can't be electrical engineers?

Another team member created a new logo.

And another tech-savvy individual documented the team's progress to the Aerial Assist game with this video.

Did you notice the "Winner" banner hanging in the robotic lab? You've never seen anything like an FRC competition. Those kids rock the Chaifetz Arena. Come on out and join us in the Robolion cheering section in March and see if the Robolions bring home another banner.