Feature Photo By: Izzy Honey – Manual High School is a large school with a small student body in the Denver Public Schools district. Manual students walk the halls sporting school colors and merchandise; school pride is very important.
Editor’s Note: On February 8th, two of our Review staff members spent a day at Manual High School in the DPS school district. Below are two articles explaining the Manual experience and a comparison of our two schools.
By: Mya Johnson, Review Staff
Being in the same school district for my entire educational career and following the same students all the way from kindergarten to graduation, it has been really easy to dwell on the negative things: crowded hallways, underfunding, the food, class sizes. These are all things I have no control over but there are some things I do have control over and can change – that’s something I need to remember.
The entire time Izzy and I walked around Manual High School, I was constantly thinking about the wonderful things they have that we don’t. I gawked at the sight of sunlight coming through windows in every single room; I was floored by the size of the classrooms – some being as little as ten students, and I couldn’t believe the sight of nearly empty hallways, even during passing periods.
Tay Anderson, student body president and senior at Manual, and Luis Delgado, student body vice president and senior, were our guides. At the beginning of the day, we were greeted by the twenty smiling faces of Student Congress (five representatives from each class). Anderson and Delgado then gave us a tour of the school. We had the chance to see the auditorium that holds roughly 1500 students where Bill Clinton stood during Obama’s campaigning four years ago, the football field where the Broncos have practiced, the choir where any student including those with special needs could join, and so much more. Manual was a school out of the movies.
We had the opportunity to sit in on a congress meeting where they discussed the school dance, feeding the homeless, and issues across the school. They begin each meeting with a formal roll call where each person is addressed as “congressman” or “congresswoman”. It is completely student run with no adults present.
Anderson commented, “Every student has a voice and they matter.” This is why Student Congress is so important to the school. Students represent students.
Feeding the Homeless
Congress and other students in leadership positions hand out food to the homeless every weekend. Also, a Krispy Kreme donut shop near the school donates leftover donuts that were not sold that day to the students for them to give away.
“We donated over 2,000 donuts in January,” Anderson proudly told us. They hoped to hand out even more in February.
Anderson informed us that a few years ago, a transgender student was bullied for using the bathroom. “The girls didn’t want her because she was still legally a boy, and the guys didn’t want her because she wasn’t a man.”
The transgender student then complained to administration that they were not comfortable using the bathroom at the school and they took action. Two bathrooms labeled “unisex” are now located in the main office where any student is able to use them at any time of day.
Manual tries to be as inclusive as possible. Anderson stated that there was no GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) or any other club to support these students because “we don’t need one.”
Mini Med School
There are several classrooms dedicated to a mini med school where students learn basic anatomy, to draw blood, and more. This program even allows students to take nursing, veterinary, or forensics classes and graduate with the ability to get a job as a CNA – a certified nursing assistant.
The school did not have to pay anything except the teachers as they got a grant from Kaiser Permanente to build and supply the classrooms.
It’s a great way for students to get real life experiences while they are still in high school.
Students are able to participate in paid internships where they can experience the fast pace of emergency rooms and ambulance rides. Med school students can earn up to $300 a month for doing as little as twenty hours during their internships.
“They try to make it as real as possible so students know what they’re getting into,” Anderson informed.
The students and staff are really what make this school so amazing. The students have so much respect for themselves, their peers, and their administrators.
When we met principal Nick Dawkins, he seemed optimistic and invested in his students. One thing he said that really stuck with me, “The students are the light here and without them, there is no light.”
The only negative thing I could think about their school was their performing arts program. There is no band or orchestra, only a choir class; the school is changing this soon though. They plan to implement a band class that is available for all students.
The things that make this school so great are the things the students have done. Yes, the med school is great, but the community of Manual is what allows them to feed the homeless, voice their opinions, and advocate for students’ rights.
By: Izzy Honey, Review Staff
So what is the point in us telling you all of the great things about Manual High School?
Coming from a person who has been to six different schools in different districts and different states, I know that each school varies in their administration, student body, pride, and priorities. Manual is an incredible school that has many things I would love to see here at Rangeview, but many of these things are simply unrealistic for us. Despite the differences in our schools, there are lessons that we can learn from our Manual hosts.
Manual High School is much smaller than Rangeview. With only about 300 students compared to our 2,200, it’s easier for students to avoid ‘cliques’ and easier for administrators to form more intimate bonds with each student. All students seem to be better represented by their Student Congress for this reason as well. Perhaps a student congress made up of groups of regular students from each grade could work for our school. Then, students could vote on issues that affect the school and the leadership class could get a better idea of what the student body wants and prefers.
One thing I noticed at Manual High School was an apparent lack of dress code policy. I saw female students wearing crop tops and skirts, without receiving any sorts of demeaning comments. When I asked student body secretary, Ani Vazquez, about their dress code, she said that students have freedom to wear what they want, as long as there is no obvious indecency. Respect between teachers, administrators, and students allowed this freedom to exist. Instead of placing more value the ability of a girl to cover up an not be a distraction, Manual High School respects education and girls respect their school in the outfits they choose.
Another practice at Manual that caught me by surprise was their fondness for sit-ins. After the presidential election, students at Manual decided to have a write-in — students stayed at the school to write slam poems and essays, and this helped many students cope with the results. Students at Manual have had sit-ins before to bring attention to issues they have with administration or changes they want to see in the school. I personally think that sit-ins would be much more effective than walkouts to protest or raise awareness. For example, with the recent Day Without Immigrants (which I fully supported), imagine the response the demonstration would have gotten had people showed up to work and
school and refused to leave. Instead of demonstrating what it would be like without a group of people or leaving to show our anger, refuse to leave and refuse to move as a reminder that we are here.
Manual High School was also complete with two transgender bathrooms located in the office.When confronted about the transgender bathroom idea, our Principal Ron Fay said that he had not given it much thought since it had never been
brought to his attention that Rangeview students wanted one. Although, he seemed completely open to the idea of finding a place for a transgender bathroom here at Rangeview.
“I don’t want anyone to check who they are at the door to feel comfortable here,” remarked Fay.
If any student at Rangeview feels uncomfortable using the bathrooms throughout the day, they need only bring the issue to any administrator. Our administrators are ultimately concerned with the safety and comfort of students.
While on our tour, Mya and I observed Manual’s Future Center, which was a big room with lots of windows. This room was complete with a TV that plays CNN, and two college success counselors that are available to help with college issues, such as writing essays. We also saw a room with writing coaches that are available to help students write papers for any of their classes and we saw tutors from Metro State who are there some days to help students with homework. Manual seems to pay extra attention to managing the stress of students. We were later shown a small student break-room that had an interesting surprise for us: an air-hockey table. The air-hockey table is set up for any student to use and enjoy in their free time.
As student body president Tay Anderson put it, there are things that Rangeview can take away from Manual, but there are also things that Manual can take away from Rangeview. Everyone knows we have the biggest homecoming, we have a diverse selection of sports, and we have a performing arts program that includes opportunities for students to play in an orchestra, marching band and other ensembles. Manual, being a smaller school, seems much more intimate; everyone knows each other, respects each other, and the students are very involved in their school.
Attending a different school is always a refreshing experience, even if it is only a day. Our visit to Manual left us inspired to try and bring about change in our own school. Manual students reminded us that we have a voice and that we have the power to improve our high school experience.