From a young age, Cynthia Mose-Trevino knew she wanted to dedicate her life to giving back to her community. But it wasn’t until studying African-American history and culture at Indiana University at Bloomington that she realized she wanted to give back by ensuring all Americans have equal access to a quality education.
Throughout her education career, all of which has been at Gary’s struggling Calumet High School, Mose-Trevino has left her mark on students—first as a guidance counselor, then as a teacher, and now as an administrator. Although no longer working in classrooms, there’s no doubt that the 36-year-old Gary native and Calumet high graduate is dramatically impacting Calumet students’ future.
That’s because as Director of New Tech at Calumet—one of 23 schools statewide that have been on academic probation for six straight years and could face state takeover next year—Mose-Trevino is leading the charge to fundamentally remake the school and redefine how students learn there. “We took things and shook it upside down,” she says. “We want students to be prepared for positions in a 21st century society.”
The New Tech school reform method stresses learning through projects developed with area businesses, policymakers and community members. The projects integrate state standards and new technologies, and the system stresses student empowerment and professionalism.
Students are evaluated on academic and “21st century skills” like technology, collaboration, work ethic and creative problem-solving.
“Not only is there a different form of teaching methodology, but the culture is different,” says Mose-Trevino. “We stress professionalism.”
Director of New Tech
Calumet High School New Tech
3900 Calhoun Street, Gary, Ind.
To prepare for the New Tech system, Calumet underwent $2 million in renovations to build new classrooms and offer every New Tech student a computer. The improvements were completed just before classes began on August 19. Students are “very excited. They’ve never experienced anything like this before,” Mose-Trevino says. “It looks like a professional environment.”
Businesses are a crucial component of the New Tech model, which was created in 1996 in Napa, California. During the last two years, Trevino helped prepare Calumet for transformation by approaching area businesses, and asking them to support the start-up school. It wasn’t until this year that businesses began responding with support, in the form of dollars or a willingness to be part of the New Tech curriculum.
One company that has responded is the grocery chain Strack and Van Til. New Tech students at Calumet will be working with company employees to create videos and power point presentations for training new employees. (Full disclosure: The Times of Northwest Indiana is also partnering with New Tech.) “We have businesses, corporate partners, experts in the field, who come in and offer real world problems to solve,” she says.
Dori Downing, who teaches the integrated English Language Arts and World History class to New Tech sophomores, says Mose-Trevino has been essential to Calumet entering the New Tech Network.
As New Tech Director, she has been “really getting the community involved with what’s going on here. If we’re going to turn this place around, the community has to have a vested interest,” says Downing. “There’s no way I could ever put in words her work ethic.”
What keeps her going, Mose-Trevino says, is her faith, which underpins her belief that one must give back to your community. “I truly believe that everyone has some kind of difference to make,” she says. “It’s very important to me.”
While mindful that a good school alone can’t guarantee student success, Mose-Trevino believes that a high-quality education has to be part of creating better lives. The stakes are high. “Education is going to be your only way out of poverty,” she says, noting that 85 percent of Calumet students receive free or reduced-price lunches. “This is life and death. Education is our cure to the cancer of poverty. If we truly believe that education needs to change, we need to put our money where our mouth is,” she says. “If we don’t do this, then what are we going to have to look forward to?”