Perhaps more than any other profession, teaching shapes the future of our country. Unfortunately, though, the number of teachers leaving classrooms for different career paths continues to increase. Teacher and staff shortages packed headlines at the beginning of the school year and while some leniency was offered to fill those roles, no permanent solution has yet been implemented.
However, one non-profit organization has shined a positive light on the difficulties facing parents, students, and teachers. In 2020, during the pandemic, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay introduced their 3DE instructional model to four Bay Area schools, including St. Petersburg High School and Dunedin High School in Pinellas County, and Chamberlain High School and Hillsborough High School in Hillsborough County.
Junior Achievement first launched 3DE in Atlanta in 2015 The program is designed as a school within an already-established school, bringing students together to solve problems in a workplace environment. Funding and curriculum involvement from local businesses and community partners (such as ReliaQuest and Raymond James), offer relevance to students’ experiences. Junior Achievement’s educational initiative states that 3DE is “aimed to re-engineer public high school education to be more relevant, experiential, and authentically connected to real world challenges so that students are prepared for our future economy.”
In a video interview on YouTube, St. Petersburg High School’s Assistant Principal Jennifer Vragovic shares her excitement about the 3DE program. “One of our concerns honestly, when it was coming here, was that we did not have a tight-knit community. Our students weren’t super connected to our school. Bringing 3DE in has made a huge change in that. It has given them this commonality that they are attached to. And now you see our students highly engaged. Our sports teams are full of 3DE students, our clubs are full of 3DE students and it has really made St. Pete High their home.”
Teacher Nicole Jones states: “3DE has allowed students to have a family atmosphere here at St. Pete High School. Because of that family atmosphere, everyone can find a place where they can belong and that for me has been the best experience yet.”
There aren’t many—if any—other programs available to high school students that prepare them for challenges not only in the workplace, but also in life. What students are learning in this program is that solutions are possible if you work with others to solve whatever problems arise before an end-goal is met. Students learn to continue through problems and to bring their individual ideas and experiences together to create positive results, as a team.
Data from Junior Achievement’s inaugural year of the program proved it is helping students exponentially with 88.9% of 3DE students outperforming on state assessments versus their non-3DE peers. Data also showed 17.5% fewer cases of chronic absenteeism, indicating an increase in student engagement and learning.
St. Petersburg High School student Angel Oak says, “Now that I understand the ‘why’ behind what I’m learning, I’m even more determined. I strive to reach the goals I never thought possible, like going to college. If that dream comes true, I’ll be part of the first generation in my family to go.”
Young people are seeing themselves beyond their high school experience and maybe that’s the solution we all need—a new look at our own lives, our own approach to resolving problems we have never had to face before and collaborating with others to figure it all out.
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