Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Westchester Academy students present Personal Projects

Twenty sophomores at Westchester Academy for International Studies (WAIS) presented personal projects in learning recently ranging from a fundraiser for youth autism to a video project showing how one student taught herself Korean. Soon, many more WAIS students will be presenting projects as part of this school's expanding International Baccalaureate program.

Tenth-graders at WAIS pursued these special projects even though they earned no final grades for their work. In future years, students at this district charter middle and high school will select personal projects like these as graded independent study works under the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP).

 WAIS has applied for official recognition as an IB Middle Years Programme school. This fall, an international accreditation board will visit Westchester Academy and review work done by WAIS teachers and administrators to meet this lofty goal. Only a few schools in the Houston region offer the middle and high school IB programs in a combined campus setting.

 Many juniors and seniors at WAIS currently pursue the highly regarded IB Diploma. If authorized, students in grades six through 10 will pursue this highly academic program as part of a 6-12 continuum. Colleges and universities worldwide recognize the IB Diploma and its’ supporting curriculums.

 Juniors Jordyn Stevenson and Sophia Huq chose personal projects and pursued independent research and study with the help of the Personal Project Committee, their Personal Project Supervisor, and Cheryl Wegscheid, the WAIS Middle Years Program Coordinator. Students met with experts in their fields, peers and school staff.

The yearlong projects began during the last six weeks of ninth grade and were completed by the end of 10th grade. To guide students, a series of workshops were held on process development, overcoming challenges and report writing. WAIS 10th-graders presented final projects to ninth-graders at the school last May.

Jordyn Stevenson learned how much work is involved in charity fund raising as she organized an April golf tournament at Cinco Ranch Golf Club that raised about $10,000 for FEAT-Houston, a nonprofit parent group that supports home treatment programs for autistic students.

 Jordyn’s Golfing for Autism Awareness fund-raising event was born out of personal experiences around autistic young people. Her mother, Cathy Stevenson, teaches autistic elementary students. Jordyn set extremely high fund-raising goals for herself, and then learned how difficult such high goals might be as she dealt with the sudden loss of a fund-raising coordinator and related issues.

 She recruited 10 student volunteers and several school choir members also joined her cause. The charity golfing event was supported by brochures and other publicity materials, as well as donor information.

 “I learned how much work charity really is,” Jordyn says. “I feel like I learned a lot about what does happen inside the real world. You have to do so much – you work real hard – just to move forward one step at a time. It was real life. You had to sacrifice for the project.”

 Coordinator Cheryl Wegscheid gives Jordyn strong marks for perseverance despite potential setbacks. “I was impressed with her resiliency and with her determination,” she said.

 A Nottingham Elementary graduate, Jordyn is an avid soccer player. She is pursuing the IB Diploma plan at WAIS. Her career goal is to be a plastic surgeon. She’s already found a seven-year program in surgery at Australia’s University of New South Wales that meets her goal.

 Sophia Huq, a junior this fall at WAIS, started out with a project on Hungary. Awhile later, she switched focus to Korean oral language, which she had been teaching herself for some time. Her interest in the language was sparked by her musical interests and local friends who are Korean-American.

 She taught herself to understand and to speak Korean, in part, by following online soap operas in that language. As a part of her personal project, Sophia created a YouTube video that documents and presents what she learned in less than a year.

 “I learned a new language! I know how to speak Korean now, but don’t know how to read or to write in Korean. That would be the next step for me to take,” Sophia says.

 She displayed her new language skill at a family dinner hosted by a friend. “Her mom was really surprised when I spoke Korean. We had a family dinner in Korean!”

 A Frostwood Elementary graduate, Sophia enjoys drawing, art and baking cupcakes when not in IB program classes. Her career goal is to be a dentist, an orthodontist or a pediatrician.

To learn more about WAIS and the IB Diploma Program, please visit the school website:


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