21st Century Charter School at Gary has created an innovative program, with the help of Ivy Tech Community College.  21c High School students have the opportunity to take college classes on-site at Ivy Tech’s local campus, completely free of charge.  As a result of this program, two 21c High School graduates of the Class of 2014 finished the year with both a high school diploma, and Associate’s Degree in hand!

For those high school students who are ready to take hold of their future, 21c is the gateway to an accelerated track on the road to success, where teenagers are supported and challenged as both high school and college students.  Because of this pioneering partnership, 21c administration is able to offer its student body a wide range of electives available through Ivy Tech’s resources, while permitting the High School to maintain a small school feel, where 21c teachers are not asked to shoulder an overly taxing curriculum.  As a result of this partnership, 21c does not offer foreign language classes during the regular school day in the school building – instead, students can enroll in foreign language classes at Ivy Tech Community College. For those students who are passionate about honing their proficiency in Chinese or Spanish language, however, our own Mr. Velasco has gone the extra mile by teaching Saturday foreign language classes in the 21c building.

A polymath, polyglot, and Chicago native, Mr. Velasco graduated from Princeton University in 2013, before joining the 21st Century Charter School at Gary team through Teach for America’s teacher placement program.  For the last two years, Mr. Velasco has taught a range of standard and AP High School classes at 21c, including World History, US History, Government, and Economics.  In the coming year, Mr. Velasco will continue his outstanding work in the classroom at the helm of AP History and Government classes, in addition to taking on the leadership role of Mentor Teacher through 21c’s Teach Like a Champion classroom innovation and professional development system.  

Teachers like Mr. Velasco define 21c as a great place to teach and learn.  Reflecting on the Saturday Language Lab program in the 2014-2015 year, Mr. Velasco says, “Students have been working relentlessly to earn their foreign language credits, and I am very proud of their dedication.  It takes a special kind of student to dedicate their Saturday mornings to academics.” Students were recently challenged to use the vocabulary and sentence structures they learned in Spanish and Chinese Saturday Language Lab classes to create a video project.  Two of these videos can be found here:

Chinese: https://youtu.be/G_cpCUtJr8I

Spanish: https://youtu.be/dMOXoMClR8s 

In celebration of the end of the 2014-2015 school year and of Saturday Language Lab (for now!), Mr. Velasco and his students took a field trip, travelling to Chicago by train to explore art and cuisine from countries around the world at the city’s Festival of Nations event.  A big thank you to Mr. Velasco for consistently going above and beyond in his post at 21c, and congratulations to the hardworking 21c students of the Saturday Language Lab!