Lt. Governor talks innovation with Warhill High students

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam spent Wednesday morning with Warhill freshmen, fielding questions and listening to issues they would like to see the state to focus on.

The students are part of Warhill High School’s Pathways Project, aimed at collaborative and project-based learning. The unique curriculum, piloted this year, was designed and implemented with two $25,000 Virginia Department of Education innovation grants.

“I know we’re proud to have had Warhill be a recipient of one of our grants, it looks like you’ve put it to great use,” Northam said. “It’s really the taxpayers’ money so we want to make sure it’s used responsibly. I’m just so impressed.”

Students are on the Pathways track from freshmen through senior year as an alternative to traditional high school study. The project will start its second year of students this September.

Principal Jeffery Carroll said having Northam visit with the students was powerful.

“These are the types of experiences we wanted to embed in the curriculum to change the experience for our high school students,” Carroll said. “Having the Lieutenant Governor here this morning is exactly it.”

Northam visited after students in the humanities and English Pathways course made video letters to the governor’s office, highlighting issues they’re passionate about.

“(The visit) was powerful, it gave them a voice and gave them meaning to their work,” Warhill principal Jeffery Carroll said. “That was the intent of this project, to engage with civic leaders and engage with the community.”

Northam watched two of the videos Wednesday; they are all available online at deargov.wmcild.org.

The first centered on climate change. Northam reaffirmed Governor Terry McAuliffe’s promise that the Commonwealth would stand by Paris Agreement commitments to reduce emissions, despite President Donald Trump pulling the U.S. out of the deal June 1.

The second video tackled cyberbullying, trailing a teenage actor through the halls of Warhill, showing hateful messages sliding across her cellphone screen. The students in the video advocated for stricter rules and punishments for bullying.

“I am very aware of what’s going on in schools with cyberbullying, and there’s no room for that,” Northam said. “It’s very, very important for people your age to realize that and to take the lead and to stop some of the hatred and the bigotry and the discrimination that we see in our world, say that that’s just not acceptable.”

Northam also asked the students what they would do if they were governor of Virginia, a position Northam is vying to be on the ballot for this November. Answers ranged from tighter gun control to affordable college.

Before posing for photos with students outside the auditorium, Northam wrapped up by talking about why the Warhill program fits into preparing people for careers of the future.  

“The 21st century jobs are STEAM related — science, technology, engineering, the arts, math and as a doctor I’ll include health care,” Northam said. “Next is how do we prepare individuals for those 21st century jobs? You do that through workforce development, i.e. a world-class education system.”

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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