We also experienced a setback during the last month when our adviser/teacher was unexpectedly out of school for a week due to injuries escaping from a middle of the night fire in her home. This gave some of us a true leadership test as we had to take a stronger leadership role in the project during the days when a substitute teacher managed the classes.
Another barrier we had to overcome is the lack of local expertise in the area of telecommunication. We had few community mentors to help us in implementing telecommunication technology. We relied heavily on Internet resources as well as resources that our teacher-Ms. DeLaBruere brought in for us. Our teacher was a facilitator, more than a expert in this area. There are many techniques we wanted to implement that she has not mastered yet. We might have an idea of what we wanted something to look like, and she would lead us in the right direction by suggesting a possible technique or book. We learned how to learn, and we are also getting much recognition for being technology leaders in our community.
Probably one of the most exciting things to come out of this project, was all the numerous contacts with the community. Almost 100 community leaders were interviewed and in this exchange became more aware of the types of skills students are getting at North Country Union High School and Career Center. School board members, school administrators, business leaders not only learned about the skills we are learning in school, but have had an opportunity to contribute to our learning by sharing their leadership experience. Each of these leaders is being invited to a CyberFair celebration activity which is schedule for later this spring when we will unveil our project to any community members who do not have Internet access and students will make a presentation about their Leadership Journey. Certificates of Appreciation will be presented to our local members and Certificates of participation for all students who participated. Parents, administrators, school board members, students, the press, and community members are being invited.
The partnership we have created with the Vermont Leadership Center has also been an opportunity to spread the word about CyberFair to leadership trainers who work extensively with schools and can spread the word about this wonderful opportunity for students. We invited a reporter from our local newspaper to attend our CyberFair Training at the Vermont Leadership Center which resulted in a feature article about CyberFair, our school, and our students in The Newport Daily Express.
Our project also reached thousands of community members due to a partnership we developed with the local newspaper who worked with us to produce an 8 page spread (totally student written and student produced) on local leaders that would be inserted in every issue of our local newspaper--The Newport Daily Express. The editor has been very supportive our project and using this medium allows us to reach an audience that does not have Internet access.
We also increased awareness about CyberFair by selling ads to our print and online version of this leadership showcase. Advertisers we talked to became interested about CyberFair and our project. Since this is our 4th year participating in CyberFair, it is becoming a "household" word in our community.
Due to the positive experiences we have experienced as CyberFair participants, we have looked for ways to share this experience with others outside our community. Students have looked for opportunities to practice their leadership skills and be ambassadors to CyberFair at numerous conferences. Eight students spent two days as student ambassadors for Global School Net at the annual Vermont Educational Technology Conference by manning a vendor booth showcasing their CyberFair experience. Last spring a group of students traveled to New York City to present at the New York Tech Expo about their CyberFair experience using their CyberFair project to raise funds for the trip. Our successful CyberFair projects have also been the topics of several presentations by our teachers, Nancy Starr and Lucie deLaBruere at conferences across the United States. Students are part of these presentations whenever possible.
CyberFair has put our community on the map. For the past several years, our students have used CyberFair to develop their leadership skills. Their successful experience with CyberFair has led to the development of a full year web design class as well as the implementation of a pilot program called Student Technology Leadership Teams. Not only has this program been recognized for its innovative approach to combining learning about leadership with learning about technology, it has made incredible strides in getting women involved with technology. MS-NBC NEWS and Technology and Learning Magazine have both featured our students leaders during the past year. We therefore thought that it was time to not only practice our leadership skills, but to also study leadership. It was time to take an indepth look at leadership past, present, and future.
We also feel that CyberFair is a great way to help girls get more involved with technology. Girls enjoy the experience of being project leaders; they enjoy seeing a project through from beginning to end; they enjoy making things look pretty. Our CyberFair not only gives girls an opportunity to do what they love and enjoy, but also throws them into a technical arena to make it happen. They gain confidence in their ability to use technology. Many of our CyberFair participants have enjoyed the project so much, that they have signed up for further technology courses. Consequently, we have one of the highest female/male ratios in technology classes in the country. Consequently we find ourselves in a position of leading the way to integrating women in technology. We believe that our CyberFair experience contributes significantly to this.
We feel that one of the main outcomes of this project, was not so much in the web site itself, but the process that occurred to prepare for creating the web sites. The community members got a chance to "YOUTH IN ACTION". They got a chance to see young people making a difference. They got a chance to see a student-produced products that showcased the skills our young people were learning in our schools. The person to person contacts made by students by conducting almost 100 interviews and by soliciting advertisers for our site made people more aware of the types of skills students are learning in school today. The student produced 8 page tabloid, the online leadership showcase, the leadership celebration with community members, the student presentations, all featured the students in action and gave the community a chance to see youth at its best.
Some of the students used their CyberFair experience to help them secure jobs and internships. Kristal Davis, one of the lead players in our CyberFair project for the past 2 years used her work with CyberFair in an portfolio that helped her land a job at a local publishing bureau. And of course, this project increases our community's awareness about the Internet and its power. We have had several community members inquire about how to publish information on the Internet and look to our students for assistance. Our students are receiving the opportunity to put their leadership skills into action as they develop partnerships with community members who want web sites designed. In return, these community members have sponsored our students by providing the funds for them to attend leadership conferences sponsored by Future Business Leaders of America and technical conferences such as the New York Tech Expo.
Our CyberFair Project would not have been possible without cooperation from our local community. They let us take the time to interview them, and they encouraged up in our efforts.
Mr. Dick Rivard, editor of the Newport Daily Express, has been instrumental in helping us reach an audience besides our on-line audience. His support by allowing us to publish an 8 page print version of our project has helped make this project a success.
Mr. Hal Colleran, a local leader, volunteered numerous hours as he served as a writing mentor for the students as they conducted their interviews into final form.
Mr. John Wagner, network specialist, proved to be a valuable resource and came into help students debug and troubleshoot Java code for their site. He took a special interest in the work of the student technology leadership team and provided both face to face and online support to our advanced students.
Students also used the expertise of online members such as Mr. Mike Mora from Missouri, and Mr. Jarome Wilson, graphic artist from San Diego to assist them in their endeavors.
We also learned alot about leadership. One of the most interesting thing we learned about leadership, is that Leadership is not just a skill found in the most visible and outspoken members of our school and community. Many of us thought it would be difficult to find a local leader to interview. But we found that leadership traits can be found in the most unexpected places. We learned that many of the leaders we interviewed unexpectedly found themselves in leadership positions and developed the skills along the way. We found leadership in people that we have contact in everyday; people that touch our lives like teachers and grandparents as well as school board members and civic leaders. We learned that there was much more than meets the eye to many of the people who touch our lives. We discovered that the people who played a ONE role in our lives, were often leaders in many other parts of their lives--they played parts in society that we didn't know about before the interview. It was interesting to let the world know about our discoveries.
An unexpected surprise was how little we knew about the famous leaders that had influenced the lives of our local leaders. At first it started off with just a question on our interviews--"Name a famous leader you respect." Then we realized that we had never heard of some of these people and didn't know why they were famous leaders. We soon found ourselves doing research and adding a whole section on famous leaders which was not planned in the original site. One student was overhead saying "Gee, this Kennedy guy's life is pretty dry except for the part where he got shot." We feel this part of the project definitely helped us be more aware of a generation of leaders we knew little about.
Another important discovery that we made was that many of us also had leadership potential. Our trip to the Vermont Leadership Center was one way we discovered this. As their trainers led us through games and activities that allowed us discover our leadership strengths and practice leadership skills, we discovered new things about ourselves and each other. The ropes course activities brought out the best in us and forced us to tap deep inside us for solutions to what seemed like impossible tasks. But by working as a team, we experienced success not only tightroping across ropes of the Northern Forest, but on our CyberFair Project as well.
This whole experience was one of discoveries, lessons, and even a few surprises. We learned things about ourselves, about working as a group, about technology, and about our community, past and present.