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JCCS Students Showcase Talents, Share Passions at Design Jam

JCCS Students Showcase Talents, Share Passions at Design Jam
Photo collage with three types of cactus

For students and staff alike, the semi-annual exhibitions of student learning known as Design Jams are something to look forward to. 

“The Jams are my favorite, and I was not disappointed,” said 37ECB Principal Gretchen Rhoads. “When we provide learning environments and opportunities to share what is learned, our students shine.”

Students at 37ECB and at Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) across the region showcased their learning through writing, math, art, photography, and more. 

“Our students wrote essays, poems, made Nicho boxes on identity, recorded their essays and poems, and had students performing their beats with the DJ,” Rhoads said.  
This season’s Design Jam, with the theme Our Passion, Our Innovation, was a cross-curricular effort designed to engage students at JCCS in relevant learning. With the focus on researching and informing, students and teachers can choose how they want to participate and exhibit their final product. 

The main objective is to create projects utilizing multiple subjects and answering the essential questions, which this time were: What inspires me? What makes me unique?

About a dozen SOUL Academy students presented in a seminar room at the Malcolm X Branch Library in Encanto, sharing photos and thoughts of three different locations they had taken field trips to – Encanto, Chollas Lake Park, and Balboa Park. 

The students collaborated to pick emcees and put together the presentation. 

“It gives the kids a purpose and they take the project so much more seriously knowing that they will have the opportunity to present it,” Principal Theresa Fox said. 

The project was facilitated by Outside the Lens, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth to use digital media to create change within themselves, their community, and their world. Through the project, the students focused on the things they’re proud of in their community and the ways they may be able to take action to improve things. 

“It feels nice having people hear what you have to say,” said Cesar, a senior at the school who participated. “And it feels really good knowing you took a really good picture and you’re proud to share it.”

Multiple classrooms at Monarch School were set up with a variety of projects and presentations. Students in Jeffra Becknell’s class presented problem/solution essays on topics ranging from climate change to domestic violence.

Even, who presented issues and solutions around the fentanyl crisis, said he’s participated in previous Design Jams and enjoys presenting to his peers and guests. 

“It’s fun doing the research. It increased my awareness about the topic and for my classmates,” he explained. 

Students in Silvia Estrada’s math class shared through art how absolute value functions exist in our everyday lives. One student used a dinner table plate, another used her cat to calculate absolute values.

Estrada says that creating art using math helps students “see that math is all over the world.”

At La Mesa Community School, students also worked with artists from Outside the Lens, focusing on what makes them unique as part of a project called Pieces of Me. As part of the Design Jam, they shared pictures, poems, and artist statements with visitors. 

“It’s pretty cool showing people your art,” said Adrian, a student at the school. “It makes you proud of yourself, and you get to show other people what’s on your mind.”

Students worked twice a week with artists from Outside the Lens for the last month as part of the project. 

“They really pushed themselves to talk about what they like about themselves,” said Han Wiles, a media educator with the nonprofit group. 

The experience presenting their art pushes the students out of their comfort zone and helps build self-confidence, said Aimee Trevino, a teacher at La Mesa Community School.

“They can shine while presenting,” she explained. “They don’t always get that opportunity, and they are learning lifelong skills that are going to help them with whatever pathway they choose.”

Photo looking from bottom up of tree with large thorns taken by student at SOUL Academy.

Photo taken by SOUL Academy student of tree at Balboa Park.



Four art pieces with swirls of color

Monarch School students used numbers to create these drawings.


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