Parker High School teacher, Huffman High student win NextGen competition

Parker High School teacher, Huffman High student win NextGen competition
Parker High teacher Kaleena Watts, right, with NextGen mentor Val Walton Cornner, won the competition with her vision of a systemwide student news outlet for Birmingham City Schools. (Frank Couch/The Birmingham Times)

Kaleena Watts, who teaches American literature in A.H. Parker High School’s English Department, and Jarvis Prewitt, a 16-year-old Huffman High School junior, won the teacher and student categories, respectively, in the NextGen Pitch Competition at the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama building in downtown Birmingham. Watts and Prewitt each won a $5,000 first prize.

Other winners in the competition were teachers Shauntae Lockett-Lewis, Minor Elementary, second place, $1,500; and Christina Sellers, Huffman Academy, third place, $1,000. In the student category, Kamil Goodman, Parker High, won a second-place prize of $1,500.

The winners were among dozens of students and teachers who earlier this year submitted application essays that incorporated the following statement: “Birmingham’s bright future depends on … .” A panel of judges narrowed the submissions to finalists who were then paired with mentors from partner companies to help perfect the ideas and possibly make them realities.

Huffman High School junior Jarvis Prewitt — pictured with his NextGen mentor, Forté — won the student category of the NextGen competition with his idea for a Makerspace virtual classroom for student innovation. (Frank Couch/The Birmingham Times)

Watts, partnered with Valeria Walton Cornner of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, proposed a district-wide student news outlet created for students by students.

The outlet is needed in today’s political, socioeconomic and educational climate, Watts said. In her proposal, she wrote, “With less than 20 percent of the students in our district reading at or above proficiency level, the student news will serve as a new resource to engage young readers, building better reading skills and habits. The platform … will allow students across the seven high schools … to collaborate in a way that models global business practices.”

Prewitt, partnered with Forté of the Ed Foundation, proposed a Makerspace collaborative learning environment “where students and its users utilize technology to invent, experiment and explore, while being challenged to be creative and think outside of the box while using STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). [It] … would serve as a virtual classroom where educators take the curriculum or a teacher-led project and utilize it in these labs. To further make the schools more inviting to parents, schools would partner with businesses that specialize in STEM to provide training in the parent-resource center.”

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This story originally appeared on The Birmingham Times’ website.

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