Sunday, September 27, 2015

Homecoming Highlights School Spirit

Viper Students Get Hyped about Fun, Memorable Activities of Homecoming Week

Academic excellence isn't the only thing Viper students take seriously.

Having fun gets it fair share of attention, especially during Homecoming Week.

The Agenda: Spirit week. Pep rally. Home football game. Formal dance to cap it off.

The Result: Fun. Fun. Fun. And more fun.

Spirit week included Hero vs. Villian Day, Into the Past/Into the Future Day, and Class Pride Day in which each grade level sported a different color to support the same school spirit. As the themes changed day-to-day, the common denominator once again was fun as students displayed creative and unique ways to express themselves as they displayed fervent and united school spirit.

"It was funny watching everyone dressing up in crazy costumes," said Corn Fulton, a senior. "I liked seeing everyone's creativity and to see what they can come up with."

During Spirit Week, seniors showed the rest of the school
their interpretation of what it means to "Dress to Impress."

The pep rally featured enthusiastic crowds of students sporting Viper purple and packing the gymnasium in bleacher sections representing each high school grade level. The crowd cheered wildly during a personalized introduction of each member of the cheerleading squad, the football team, and the Homecoming Court.

"It was the loudest pep rally I've been to," said Tyler Baker, a senior.

"It was super loud," said Colin White, a senior who plays drums for the band and also served on the Homecoming Court. "My ears were ringing when I got home. It was really cool to see everyone get so hyped."

The Spirit Stick is a traditional competition to test which class shows the most school spirit. Mr. Eusebio Solis, the Athletic Director/Activities Coordinator, takes turns hoisting the Spirit Stick in front of each class at the pep rally. The class with the most cacophonous cheers wins the Spirit Stick.

"The pep rally was fun," said Corn. "There is so much competition between classes. Everyone talking all day between classes, people talking about how they were going to win the Spirit Stick. I like competition. I like seeing how much spirit people have got."

"Everyone gets so hyped up at the pep rally," said Tayla Powers, a senior. "It was amazing winning the Spirit Stick. There's always a lot of competitive talk between classes, and it was nice winning the Spirit Stick. Especially being seniors, we want to be on top."

Members of every high school class gave it all they had,
but only one classthe Seniorscame away with the coveted 'Spirit Stick.' 

The pep rally also featured some entertaining Tug-of-War battles. The first one had members of the football team on both sides. 

The pep rally featured a number of entertaining activities, including Tug-of-War, Viper Style.

The second and even more entertaining Tug-of-War match featured five of the strongest football Varsity football players against the cheerleading squad. Pretty obvious which side would win, right?

"Tug-of-War was the funnest part of the pep rally," said Tamra Tillman, a sophomore cheerleader. "My favorite part was going against the football players. That was the highlight of the pep rally."

The Homecoming football game pitted the hard-hitting Vipers against district rival Merritt Island High School Mustangs. At halftime, couples of the glamorous Homecoming Court had the privilege of circling the track in some of the fanciest Corvettes students could dream about riding in. 

What were girls of the Homecoming Court talking about as they prepared to ride around the track? "We were asking each other how we should wave. Someone said, 'Do the princess wave!' and I was like, 'No!'" said Tayla with a smile.

The ladies of the Homecoming Court captivated a stadium full of spectators as they circled the track in fancy Corvettes during Halftime of the Homecoming football game.

Following their Corvette rides around the track, the magnificently dressed couples lined up at midfield as a stadium full of fans applauded the entire Homecoming Court for their outstanding representation of Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School throughout the week.

These members of the 2015-2016 Homecoming Court bring a great deal of pride to Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School. 

After the stadium full of fans applauded the entire Homecoming Court for their outstanding representation of Space Coast Junior Senior High School throughout the week, the announcement was made of the 2015-2016 Homecoming King and Queen.

Corn was honored as the Homecoming King. "I was surprised," said Corn. "Once I heard my name called, that's when it all really hit me. Just a happy moment. Knowing my Mom was there and hearing my friends cheer for me. I was really amazed."

"When they called Corn's name, we were really excited," said football team member Jordan Yount, a junior. "That's a brother on the field. Corn and I used to play Pop Warner together so I was happy for him."

Even more special was standing alongside the Homecoming Queen, long-time friend and fellow senior, Tayla. "Tayla has been my friend since 4th grade," said Corn. "We made jokes, laughed, took pictures, and enjoyed the moment."

"It's crazy to think I've been here since 7th grade and I wind up winning my senior year," said Tayla. who plans on studying sports medicine with the goal of becoming a sports doctor. "Almost everyone was telling me congratulations. It makes me proud and accomplished."

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School is proud to present:
Homecoming Queen, Tayla Powers, and Homecoming King, Corn Fulton.

Corn scored 3 touchdowns in a close, intense game but the Vipers fell just short of victory. "I wish we would have won but as hard as the team tried, it didn't work out how we wanted it to."

Around 500 students attended the Homecoming dance. The dreamy, extravagant decorations along with flashy, colorful strobe lights and popular, upbeat music delivered on the promise of making the dance "A Night to Remember."

"The dance was pretty cool," said Colin. "Got to hang out with people. Cut some rug. Stay up past bedtime."

"I loved the theme," said Tamra. "It was really original. It was organized. The music was good this year. I liked it a lot. Everybody was really friendly."

The Homecoming Queen and King display their crowns in front of the Viper Homecoming Express, part of the incredible decorations the SGA put together for the Homecoming Dance themed "A Night to Remember."

Homecoming activities come and go after a week, but the impact on the students lasts much longer. "During Homecoming the environment is nothing negative," said Corn. "Just positive vibes. I made a lot of new friends. You see people for the first time during Homecoming week, and after that, when you see them around school, you're a lot more comfortable talking and being friends. So Homecoming is a great way for people to get to know each other."

"A lot of school spirit," said Jordan. "I'll remember most seeing the effort given from everybody from the admin, the teachers, the custodiansnot just the studentsto show their school spirit during Homecoming week. That made it even better and more fun for the students."

"The fact we're a junior-senior makes our school a little different," continued Jordan. "It's easier to get to know more people. No matter what you do as far as your extracurricular activities go, we're kind of like a family, the whole school."

Mrs. Dana Michell (Teacher) and Mr. Robert Spinner (Principal) joined an entire team of administrators, teachers, and staff in supporting students and reminding the youngsters that adults know how to have fun, too. 

Months before everyone else had the time of their lives enjoying the Homecoming activities, a group of dedicated Student Government Association (SGA) members worked tirelessly behind the scenes to brainstorm, plan, organize, and implement the events.

Mrs. Maria "Pants" Pantloni, a ceramics teacher, is the sponsor of the SGA. She works many extra hours to help support extracurricular activities favoring high levels of student engagement. "I don't know what to say other than I work with a really great group of kids," said Mrs. Pantloni.

Led by Salud Martinez (President) and Danielle Adkins (Vice-President), the SGA far exceeded everyone's expectations during Homecoming week. Danny Bowen, a junior, is the Treasurer of the SGA. "The goal of SGA is to bring unity and spirit to the school, and to boost the morale of the students and teachers," said Danny. "I'm hoping in the future we can become even more efficient and improve our communication to continue creating a positive perception of our school."

Mrs. Maria Pantloni, pictured with many members of the SGA along with other Viper students, provided guidance for the SGA as they planned a Homecoming week that will always be remembered for its fun and community-building activities.

If Viper students took a Fun Test during Homecoming week, they would have passed with flying purple. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the SGA, students will remember this Homecoming for a lifetime.

Special thanks to Ms. April Daniels (Teacher) and the yearbook team for sharing many of the photos used in this story. Pre-order your yearbook by October 16th and save $20! 

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Olympic Caring Changes Lives

Viper Students Help Individuals 
with Disabilities Swim Through Barriers

Exactly one year before JFK's pioneering call to action culminated in Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in July 1969, another improbable mission launched by the former president's sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, resulted in an equally barrier-breaking advancement for the betterment of humanity.

In founding the Special Olympics, Mrs. Shriver brought worldwide attention to the importance of improving the quality of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In an opening speech at the first international Special Olympics Summer Games in July 1968, Mrs. Shriver encouraged participants by sharing a motto used by Roman gladiators: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Mrs. Shriver's legacy is alive in the actions of Viper Swim Team members Alexis Armstrong, Samantha Hurst, Drew Macon, and Megan Fehrenbach. Every Saturday, these students volunteer to help Special Olympians develop into stronger swimmers and become confident individuals as they swim events of 25 meters, 50 meters, or more.

"I love making connections with the swimmers, and seeing them improve," said Samantha, a junior.

"I just like to help people with special needs," said Drew, a home-schooled junior. "Not much more to it than that."

"I like the responsibility that comes with helping the other people who are less fortunate," said Megan, a sophomore.

"You get a really close connection with them," said Alexis, a junior. "You bond and learn different ways to react to different disabilities like autism or Asperger's syndrome or physical challenges like participants who are wheelchair-bound. We want them to know that even though they may have a disability, you can still do a lot of the things normal people can. It may be harder and you may have to overcome bigger obstacles, but you can do anything you put your mind to do. That's really my goal, to help every participant feel important and go far in life regardless of the challenges they face."

Samantha Hurst, a junior at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School and a member of the Viper Swim Team,
enjoys helping Special Olympians increase confidence as they improve their swimming skills, overcome challenges, and achieve life-changing successes.  

Throughout the entire event, volunteers help coach participants on proper swimming techniques, as well as motivate them to complete events.

"We get in the water and help the swimmers that need extra attention," said Samantha. "Learning the strokes and certain techniques helped me know what to look for while they're swimming, to know what they're doing right and wrong."

The desire to help individuals with unique challenges is personal for Alexis. "I personally have disabilities that I have overcome," she said. "I want to be able to show people with disabilities that they can overcome the problems they are facing. I've had this passion to help others since all of the experiences I've gone through personally and seeing how some kids with intellectual disabilities are sometimes mistreated or misunderstood."

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School teacher, Mrs. Sadie McKinnon, served as a guide to Alexis in preparing for the path she is pursuing. "Mrs. McKinnon helped me prepare," said Alexis. "Mostly, I have experience with special needs kids since I want to be special needs teacher."

"A lot of times with disability, you're told you won't succeed," Alexis continued. "When people have something like dyslexia or ADHD, some people think you're not going to go as far as others. Just because you've been diagnosed with something doesn't mean that you can't go far in life and reach toward your goals."

"I am always there to give them a 'Good job!' or a High Five to help encourage them to keep swimming and not give up," said Alexis. "I love that I can show them how to get better or just be able to get them to go farther than they thought they could. Sometimes I'll ask them, 'Do you need a break?' and they'll say, 'No! We're ready to go, again!'"

Drew sees similar levels of enthusiasm from participants as they build confidence and improve their swimming skills. "All I can think of is them all coming up and telling me, 'I'm gonna get that ribbon!'"

"I get sooo happy when they compete and try their hardest," said Samantha. "Watching their faces light up after receiving a ribbon fills me with joy."

Volunteering often has a reciprocally beneficial effect. "It is so cool how the participants get so excited and are so appreciative of everything we are doing at the event," said Alexis. "It makes me appreciate the little things in life."

Reflecting on who would make a good volunteer for the Special Olympics, Drew said, "I think it's more about just finding somebody with the heart and mind to help people."

The volunteer season concludes after the State Aquatics Championship in Sebastian, FL, on October 3rd and 4th.

These Viper Swim Team members deserve a special Thank You for the big impact they are making with the Special Olympics. Their efforts are helping brave Special Olympians swim through barriers and achieve successes they never knew were possible.

Special thanks to Doreen Erickson (parent volunteer) and Sadie McKinnon (teacher) for contributing to this story.

To learn more about how local programs are transforming lives, visit Special Olympics Florida.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Small Bag, Big Difference

Viper Employee Selflessly Demonstrates 
Giving to the Poor Doesn't Require Being Rich

Bill Gates topped The Philanthropy 50 as America's top giver in 2014 with a sizable contribution of $1.5 billion in Microsoft stock. His donations through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been felt in a number of critical need areas around the world, including fighting hunger, providing vaccinations, and improving education.

Ms. Darlene Cross, a custodian at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School, proves that you don't have to be a billionaire to make a difference in the lives of others. Her giving is focused on providing people in need with basic necessities to function.

At Space Coast, she helps maintain a clean, healthy, and safe campus for students to thrive. "I love it here," she said. "Kids are great. Faculty is great. Everybody is nice. Everybody is good to each other. It's hard to find that."

In her free time, Ms. Cross has found a unique way to make life better for the less fortunate.

"The main purpose of Gap Bag is to try to help people in need," said Ms. Cross. "Not everybody can afford to go out and buy. I heard about Gap Bag on a website called FreeBeeez in Need on Facebook. It helps match up people who are in need of things with people who have certain items they are willing to give."

The way Gap Bag works is one person will fill a bag with items they no longer use and then hand the bag off to a person in need. The person in need will take from the bag what will help them and then add to the bag items they no longer need before handing the bag off to another person in need. And on and on the cycle of giving goes.

A Titusville resident, Ms. Cross did some research and realized there was not a Gap Bag program set up in the area. "So I started out with a collection of personal things I didn't need anymore like clothes, shoes, and other items around the house. I also collected some things my son wasn't using anymore. Then I put together a Gap Bag to give to someone in need."

"On the website, there are a list of people who need certain things. I instant-messaged the first person on the list and set up a meet with them. We met up at a local store and I gave them the bag. The recipient took what they needed from the bag I gave them, then they added to the bag items they didn't need anymore and contacted the next person on the list to give to them. It just keeps going."

Like a 'Need a Penny? Take a Penny. Have a Penny. Give a Penny' sign at a convenience store, the premise of Gap Bag is brightening someone else's life doesn't have to involve Microsoft stock; the only prerequisite to participate is the willingness to give whatever you can to help others.

Sometimes the impact Ms. Cross is making hits close to homeor close to work. "There was actually one woman who was on FreeBeeez in Need who needed a pair of shoes for her son. He attends school here. I had a pair to offer. So I messaged her and turned over four big bags of things I put together for her family. She took the bags home, went through them, took the things she needed, and then added some items of her own before passing on the bags to other people in need."

What is it like knowing she is making life better for the disadvantaged? "It feels good," said Ms. Cross. "It feels like I have a purpose. I know what it was like to need and not have. People helped me and I know how good that felt. I like being able to do something for people without them feeling like they have to do something in return."

The Gap Bag movement Ms. Cross started in Titusville is gaining momentum in Brevard with Gap Bags popping up in Merritt Island, Rockledge, Viera, and other local areas. With each Gap Bag that exchanges hands, life becomes a little easier for people in need.

Ms. Cross may not be as financially rich as Bill Gates, but she is certainly making life richer for people who need it the most.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Great Teachers Think Alike

Viper Teacher of the Year 
Candidates Exemplify Qualities that 
Propel Student Learning

A Teacher of the Year nomination is one of the highest compliments an educator can receive, as it can only come as a direct result of a substantial investment of time and effort focused on maximizing student achievement. Nominees also must earn the universal respect and admiration of students, teachers, and staff.

At Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School, among an outstanding staff of teachers that regularly go above and beyond to support student learning, an extraordinarily talented group of Teacher of the Year candidates share a driving force: teaching with passion and instilling students with a passion to learn.

Mrs. Jennifer Cotton teaches marine science, forensics, and biology. "My seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Stewart, changed the way I thought about science and school and teaching, and ever since being blessed with having her as a teacher, I knew I wanted to be THAT teacher for all the students out there who were struggling as much as I was to learn any subject and feel successful in school."

She is particularly passionate about marine science and ocean conservation efforts. Mrs. Cotton's passion is contagious with students. "By the end of the year, kids are so obsessed with sharks." Kids will tell me, "Oh my gosh, the shark I researched is on Shark Week!"

Working with the Guy Harvey Research Institute at NOVA Southeastern University, Mrs. Jennifer Cotton took her students on an unforgettable shark-tagging experience. Students pull sharks in with their bare hands, help collect DNA samples for genetics research, and apply tags used to track shark migration patterns as a way to help conservation efforts.

So what makes a great teacher? Mrs. Cotton's approach: "Finding what kids actually care about and using that to your advantage. Get to know them. You can pull just about anything into your lessons. Whatever it is they like, whether it is sports or video games or anything else, building relationships with students and keeping things relevant to them helps make it real and fun for the kids. For teachers who can do that, they'll find kids actually care about their class."

Responding to the interests of a wide variety of students, Mrs. Cotton also just formed a new fishing club called The Space Coast Anglers. The idea was so popular that more than 50 students showed up for the club's first meeting! Once again, Mrs. Cotton's passion has proven to be contagious around students.

Teaching reading has been a fulfilling endeavor Mrs. Lorie Marshall can trace back to a heart-to-heart she had with her father shortly after she graduated from college with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature. Seeing how his daughter always wound up in a trainer/leader role in a number of activities in which she was involved, her father told her, "Lorie, you have always been a teacher. Why don't you do some substitute teaching, see if you like it, and then maybe go back to school to get your teaching certificate." That conversation with her father started Mrs. Marshall on a journey to become the teacher she is today.

A passionate reader herself, Mrs. Marshall has inspired many students on campus to become fully engaged in the reading process and develop into lifetime avid readers. Last year, she held a Middle School Book Club to generate more enthusiasm about reading among students. She also co-wrote a grant to earn extra money to purchase books for both the Book Club and the Media Center. This school year, she is collaborating with middle school language arts teacher, Mrs. Susan Dugan, on creating a book club that is open to all students as a way to spread the love of reading school-wide.

Students of Mrs. Lorie Marshall quickly discover her genuine desire to help them succeed in reading and in life.

What makes Mrs. Marshall tick in the classroom? "I am a teacher because I want to inspire my students to love learning as much as I do," she said. "I want them to see the importance of words, and how reading is relevant to all aspects of their lives. I feel like this is the year that my students will really appreciate the tools I have given them with the newly revised curriculum." Anyone who has visited her classroom knows Mrs. Marshall is achieving her goalher students are not only learning to read better but are wanting to read more and more every day!

In addition to her dedication to promoting literacy, Mrs. Marshall finds the time to make a positive impact on student achievement in many other ways. She attends as many in-service professional development opportunities as possible so she can continue to offer her students the very best of 21st century teaching skills and strategies. She is currently sponsoring the Middle School Student Government.

Mrs. Julia Bolognese entered into education as a second career. She worked in advertising and hospital human resources until she had her two sons that later became proud Space Coast graduates.  While her children were younger, Mrs. Bolognese volunteered at the elementary level and was so adept at helping students that she went on to become a substitute teacher and eventually worked as an Instructional Assistant at Enterprise Elementary, where she specialized in teaching autistic students.  Since attaining her teaching certificate, she has now served the students of Space Coast for over a decade as an exceptional math teacher.

With her expert knowledge and effective teaching strategies, Mrs. Bolognese has been able to help many students overcome challenges in grasping complex math concepts. "I have always taught Geometry and a sprinkling here and there of other math courses," she said. "I really enjoy the visual aspects of Geometry and am witness each year to students having success in this course where they may have struggled in previous courses."

Driven by her passion to help students grasp complex math concepts, Mrs. Julia Bolognese
has been serving the students of Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School for over a decade.

What is her secret to reaching students? "I am firm believer that it is important to show the students my support outside the classroom," said Mrs. Bolognese. "I try to attend as many of the Space Coast programs and events that my schedule will allow. Having three athletes in the house, I have to say that I really enjoy the sporting events. I have been the volunteer score keeper for all of the boys' home basketball games for the past 11 years."

Given how much effort these high-impact teachers give throughout the school year, it is also important for them to find time to wind down and recharge their batteries. "During breaks from school, I enjoy outdoor activitiesmainly boating and fishingand each summer we try to take a family trip to the Keys," said Mrs. Bolognese.

Mrs. Dana Michell teaches all of the foods and cooking classes offered at Space Coast. "Food is the basis of life," she said. "The classes I teach all boil down to teaching life skills. I'm teaching students survival skills. It's not just about food, it's about getting kids ready to live, thrive, and be successful on their own. Students need to know how to handle themselves when they move away from their parents and go off to college."

"It's also about teaching students simple things like how to sit down, share a meal together, and have meaningful discussions and conversations along the way. In today's fast-paced society, families don't always get a chance to sit down together and share a meal and take advantage of the opportunity to build deeper connections with each other's lives, and I aim to teach that lesson every day."

In Mrs. Dana Michell's classroom, by teaching students how to prepare food and share meals filled with meaningful conversations, students are learning survival skills they don't get the opportunity to cover in core content area classes.

Mrs. Michell founded Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School's annual welcome back party for students called Slam Jam, where students can enjoy free food, live music, interactive games, and fun times with friends. "We want Space Coast to be a place students want to come every day," said Mrs. Michell. "By starting out the year with this fun party filled with interactive games and interesting activities, we help show students we care about them and are pulling for them to have a great school year."

What does teaching mean to Mrs. Michell? "Teaching is reciprocal. I like to come to work. It fills my heart knowing I'm in a position where I can really and truly make a difference in the lives of these kids. I love seeing kids in the community and hear kids shout, 'I love you, Mrs. Michell!' I love the people I work with. Space Coast is a very special place."

While only one of these nominees will earn the official designation of Teacher of the Year, all of these teachersand so many others on a high-performing teaching staff at Space Coastwill continue to do whatever it takes to help propel every Viper student to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Outstanding Young Adult Award Recipients

Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce Honors Viper Seniors for Academic Excellence, Strong Leadership, and Exceptional Character

The future just got even brighter for six high-achieving Viper seniors. 

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School students Jonathan Guarine, Allison Hilton, Salud Martinez, Cassidy Michonski, Catie Prudhomme, and Nicole Reynolds were recently selected for the Outstanding Young Adult Award by the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce.

This program has a long history, having recognized exceptional students at our local high schools for more than 25 years.  Seniors are selected from each of the three North Brevard high schools:  Astronaut, Space Coast, and Titusville.  One student from each school will be recognized each month at a Chamber luncheon.  Student recognition will take place in October, November, January, February, March and April. 

“Selection for this award is not easy; there are many students that have exceptional scholastic and service records,” stated Marcia Gaedcke in the Outstanding Young Adult Application Form.  Ms. Gaedcke serves as President of the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce.  

While each student’s scholastic record weighs heavily in this application, the Chamber of Commerce looks for well-rounded individuals that have exhibited strong leadership skills during their high school career.  Community Credit Union will also recognize these students by displaying their senior portrait.

"It is a token of your success, and is very rewarding because you realize all of the hard work you've been doing is paying off," said Salud. "Thank you very much to the Chamber of Commerce for selecting me. I know a lot of applicants were considered and I'm grateful they saw something in me." 

"I received a letter and I was really nervous because it was from the Chamber of Commerce," said Cassidy. "When I opened it, it said, 'CONGRATULATIONS!' in giant blue letters. I started crying. It just feels so awesome to be able to be recognized for all of my years of hard work and dedication to school and the community."

"I feel like it has been something that you build up over the years," said Catie. "You don't even expect people to recognize you for the things you are doing. You are just trying to make the world a better place in whatever way you can." 

The Titusville Chamber of Commerce recently honored six senior Vipers with the Outstanding Young Adult Award in recognition of their stellar character, academic achievements, and active community service.

"I'm proud to be recognized as a leader in the school and in the community," said Nicole. "I hope to continue to influence people in a meaningful way through community service and being a positive role model to others." 

"When I got the mail, I saw the letter from the Chamber of Commerce and noticed it was addressed to me," said Allison. "I flipped the envelope over and I could see it said 'CONGRATULATIONS' through the envelope and I started screaming and jumping with joy!" 

"It was a great honor to be recognized by the Titusville Chamber of Commerce," said Jonathan. "It was really amazing to be able to look back at all of my accomplishments and be proud of who I have become and knowing I have helped others. The award wasn't only about academics. It was also about personal character." 

Principal Robert Spinner stated, “We are so proud of their accomplishments and recognize that they are the leaders of tomorrow.  These students are an example of the outstanding leaders that we have at Space Coast, and we will continue to monitor their future successes.”  

One thing is for certain: The future has never been brighter for these award-winning Viper students.

Special thanks to Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School ATEPS/STEAM Academy Coordinator, Mrs. Judy Olson, for contributing to this story.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Developing Tomorrow's Leaders Today

JROTC Helps Viper Students 
Grow Wings and Develop into Leaders

To build leaders. 

That is exactly what Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School's Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) is focused on doing for more than 100 students each year. Leadership development is at the heart of the program's mission statement: To develop citizens of character, dedicated to serving their nation and community. 

"It is a cadet-run Corps," said Colonel Richard Kniseley. "Master Sergeant Hope Sanders and I give them some guidance, but the cadets run it."

Each class period is considered a Flight consisting of 15-25 cadets. According to class period, flights are identified by a name such as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. "They will have an identity with that name," said Colonel Kniseley. "That's their family. They work together. They struggle together. They succeed together."

A head student called a Flight Commander is in charge of each Flight. The second in command is a Flight Sergeant, followed by Element Leaders, and on down the chain of command. These young leaders share the responsibility for the development and success of each cadet in their Flight. "They run everything," said Colonel Kniseley. "Developing their leadership skills is the whole key to the program."

"Leadership development starts Day One," agreed Master Sergeant Sanders. There is a highly focused environment which is dependent on the leadership of more experienced cadets to serve as guides, models, and motivation to help newer cadets gain the skills, expertise, and confidence necessary to develop their own leadership potential. "You are only as strong as your weakest link," said Master Sergeant Sanders.

Senior Cadet Lt. Colonel Stephen Rivera is the Corps Commander in charge of all Flights at Space Coast. This is Stephen's third year. "I love it," he said. "I started out with nothing and made it up to Cadet Lt. Colonel with 19 ribbons. Anything is possible. You just have to have the motivation and drive to get it done."

To become a Corps Commander is one of the greatest achievements a cadet can reach, but there are also a number of other significant leadership positions such as Executive Officer, Honor Guard Commander, Drill Team Commander, Historian, Safety Officer, Rocket Club, Public Affairs, Personnel, Logistics, Webmaster, and others.

To pursue these and other positions, cadets must engage in a tenuous interview process which begins with crafting their resumes, preparing for questions, and interviewing with the Corps Commander, the Deputy Corps Commander, and the Executive Officer. Colonel Kniseley also sits in on interviews for cadets that apply for Corps Commander or Deputy Corps Commander. Along the way, cadets improve their communication skills, strengthen their leadership abilities, and expand career options following graduation. As a result, cadets are empowered with a strong foundation to succeed in various aspects of life after high school, including maximizing college and career opportunities.

A healthy, spirited, and competitive atmosphere which highlights both individual and collaborative performance is a trademark of JROTC, and is one of the many reasons the program is able to produce such exceptional results while simultaneously developing outstanding leaders. "Competition is important because that is the way it is in the real world," said Colonel Kniseley.

"In all the Flights, there is competition,” said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera. “There is competition with the uniform inspection, PT, field day, Flight chants, Relay for Life, and Pasta for Pennies. The competition really never ends. I'm very competitive in general. It keeps me on my toes and keeps me sharp so I can help others."

The competitive culture spans within and among Flights. Uniform and grooming inspections are as competitive as physical training (PT), with each cadet vying hard to be the best as an individual while serving their fellow cadets as part of a family-oriented unit. This competition helps crystallize the focus and drive the motivation necessary to continuously improve and hold one another to the highest possible standard of appearance and performance.

“Everything is inspected and graded,” said Master Sergeant Sanders. “Each cadet has an individual grade for themselves and an average grade for their Flights. Their individual grades go into Edline so their parents see that grade immediately. We give that grade every other day."

Learning how to march as a unit is another defining activity in JROTC. “Drill is an amazing way to build teamwork, self-confidence, camaraderie, leadership, and an overall sense of pride,” said Master Sergeant Sanders. “We’re going to get from point A to point B in cadence and rhythm. Returning cadets help new cadets follow instructions and movements. Everyone gets a chance to lead the Flight so they all have to learn it. The first time they do it, they will march them into the fence.”

March into a fence? "It happens to everybody," said Colonel Kniseley. "They don't know it but we’re behind them observing. With experience and practice the cadet leader masters leading a flight and is ready to lead and succeed in more difficult tasks. When they finish, the whole group claps for their leader."

Drill is a way of life for AFJROTC cadets as it helps develop
teamwork and build camaraderie as they march as a unit.

"It is harder than people think. When you are commanding a drill, you are standing in front of them," said Kitty Hawk Commander Joshua Taylor, a sophomore. "Your left is their right, so everything is opposite." 

"The thing about marching is you follow every command given by your commander,” said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera. “If your commander does not give you a command in time, you have to keep marching, even if it is into a fence."

"Marching in unison shows we are a unit," said Kitty Hawk Commander Taylor. Sophomore Squadron Commander Brianna Bauerlin agreed: “We move as one.”

The Honor Guard is the competitive drill team guided by Master Sergeant Sanders. While all cadets practice drills on Mondays and Wednesdays during school, Honor Guard engages in additional drills on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. The Honor Guard competes at drill competitions around the state of Florida. “We've won trophies over the years," said Master Sergeant Sanders. "We placed 1st and 2nd place last year at the state competition Air Force Association (AFA) competition at UCF.”

As evidenced by these and many other trophies lining the walls of the classroom, the Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School AFJROTC program has a long-standing tradition of successful performances in state-wide drill competitions. 

"For Honor Guard, marching is our life,” said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera. “We go to competitions. We do community service projects such as the Massing of the Colors and Military Appreciation Day. We are held to a high standard. Our motto is 'The Best of the Best.'" 

"Honor Guard is the elite of the Corps," said Kitty Hawk Commander Taylor. “It’s also the most fun.”

“Honor Guard helped me a lot with self-discipline and work ethic,” said Awareness Presentation Team (APT) Commander Alex Turman, a junior.

Last school year at the Sears Town Mall in Titusville, the AFJROTC cadets performed a special
Color Guard presentation in honor of a Congressional Medal of Honor Award recipient.  

Color Guard is an arm of the Honor Guard, typically represented by a four-person team that presents the colors at various events, including the local football games. “The Color Guard also leads the 'world famous' Port St. John Christmas parade followed by 80 to 100 cadets marching in cadence,” said Colonel Kniseley. “All of the families cheer them on and take pictures of them. It's really great.”

In the JROTC, students quickly find themselves part of a cohesive unit; a group which they soon think of as a family. "I think the program gives them a sense of belonging, and an opportunity to be a part of something greater than themselves," said Master Sergeant Sanders.

"You come in as an individual and you leave as a family," said APT Commander Turman. "When you graduate, you'll know that Corps will always be your family."

"Because we do so many things together, we develop more of a family relationship than a classroom relationships," said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera.

"The entire Corps is like a family to me,” said Squadron Commander Bauerlin. “We work together. We collaborate together. We accomplish things together. We get a lot done."

"You really have to work as a team. If you focus on being an individual, you don't get anything done," said Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Ian Moore, a sophomore in charge of Ambassadors in Blue, which is the unit responsible for things like parking duty during home football games, as well participating in fundraisers.

Developing Flight chants is another unique aspect of the program. "They have to develop the chants themselves," said Colonel Kniseley. "Every Flight's chant is different. This is another way they develop their teamwork. They try to come up with a chant that is inspirational. They say it every day and it reflects who they are as a unit."

"I love Flight chants," said Cadet Senior Airman Thomas Sabo, a junior. "You and a Flight get to come up with a song, and it describes how you and your Flight are one. For me, my Flight chant gets me hyped up for class and for anything we do." 

To raise money for Relay for Life, AFJROTC held a fun competition within all Flights to see which Corps leader would get a pie in the face. Master Sergeant Sanders graciously accepted the 'prize' that came with raising the most money of all the participating leaders. "It seems like every year, I win somehow," she said with a smile.
"Really? Really!" 

Citizenship, character development, and community service are all critical components of the JROTC. "We go to all of the elementary schools in the area—Challenger 7, Atlantis, and Enterprise," said APT Commander Turman. "We talk about different topics and how they affect the generation. For example, how bullying or drugs could negatively impact them later in life."

"One time, we were talking about what we learn in ROTC and Mrs. Jobie Woltman, a parent volunteer we consider 'Mom of ROTC' called on a 5th or 6th grade student and asked, 'What are the Air Force core values?' and it was very shocking to hear the young kid's response. He said, 'Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do.' I was shocked. I was like, 'Wow!' Seeing stuff like that is what I aim for."

Cadet Senior Airman Sabo reflects on a time he helped teach others after building his leadership skills through the Corps. "Last year, Mrs. Christine Neilson asked if we would be willing to teach her class proper flag etiquette in terms of taking it down and folding it. I led a small unit of cadets from the classroom to the flag pole, and we showed the students how to properly take the flag down and fold it to standard. A lot of the students enjoyed the experience, and it helped my flag partner and I develop more confidence doing it in front of a small group of people knowing that two months later we had to do it in front of the whole Corps for the Distinguished Unit Award." 

"We do a lot of community service,” said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera. “If you want to do Bright Futures (scholarship program), ROTC is really the best way to go. Ambassadors in Blue gets involved every home football game and also extends out to a number of service projects in the community." Some projects involve collaboration with local JROTC units. "We are planning a joint community service project with Satellite High School called Flagnormous. At the Space Coast versus Satellite football game on October 23rd, their cadets and our cadets will work together to display a football field-sized American flag."

Giving back is paramount to the JROTC way of living. “On Veteran's day at Eastern Florida State College, all of the ROTC programs in the county hold a ceremony to honor all of the veterans—anyone in the Brevard area who has worn a uniform,” said Colonel Kniseley. “The military groups have their group flags and our cadets carry flags for the older veterans.” Moments like these help cadets develop deeper levels of respect for all members of the community.

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School Principal Robert Spinner joined Colonel Richard Kniseley and last year's Cadet Lt. Colonel Erin Billings to receive a check and service award from J.B. Kump, the Chairman of the Titusville Military Appreciation Committee. The ceremony recognized the JROTC's community service efforts and support of local veterans.

Feeding the less fortunate is another focus of the Corps. “For Thanksgiving, we do a canned food drive for the Brevard Caring and Sharing Center. We use competition between the Flights who bring the most cans. Last year, we collected 7,800 cans of food.”

The Corps places a strong value on recognizing excellence. Cadets earn ribbons for a variety of accomplishments and contributions. For example, ribbons can be offered for good grades, attendance, dress and appearance, and participation in community activities. Each month, Colonel Kniseley and Master Sergeant Sanders also evaluate the activities of all of the cadets in the Corps. In each Flight, they award an Outstanding Cadet of the Month. These honorees get to wear a gold cord on their shoulder.

Despite all the hard work, cadets regularly share laughs, enjoy fun times, and build friendships that will last a lifetime. They also look forward to an annual Military Ball where cadets celebrate all of their accomplishments throughout the year, and just focus on having fun and making memories. "The Military Ball is a place where you go to have a classic dining experience," said Squadron Commander Bauerlin. “Girls wear long dresses and ball gowns and men wear their uniforms. It usually is held at The Tides Club by Patrick Air Force Base. It is a lot of fun." 

"The Military Ball is kind of like a prom, but it is just for JROTC," said Deputy Corps Commander Dylan Suttle, a senior. "There is great food, a ceremony, a guest speaker, and at the end we usually end up dancing and having fun."

The Annual Military Ball gives cadets a chance to celebrate all of their accomplishments throughout the school year and enjoy an unforgettable evening of formal dining, fun dancing, and good times with friends.

With all of the benefits that go along with the program, why may some students still be hesitant to join JROTC? “Fear plays a role but it is more about intimidation," said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera. "They hear things about how it is and it's really not that way. If you do the job you're supposed to do, you'll go through the year having fun.”

Educating students about the JROTC can help curb some of the myths and misperceptions others may have about the program.

Maybe some students are worried about keeping up with the physical activities? "A lot of people are scared away by the physical training but it is nothing to be scared of,” said Squadron Commander Bauerlin. “We do a bunch of our own style physical activities that are fun like volleyball, baseball, soccer, flag football, and field days." Cadet Senior Airman Sabo said, "We also help boost each other up. If a cadet is falling behind during PT, we stick with them and help them through it. We don’t leave anyone behind."

Perhaps some students are weary about how the instructors or cadets will treat them? "The instructors may seem stern and serious in the hallways but in the classroom, they can be fun and friendly, and that makes it more fun for us,” said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera. Cadet Senior Airman Sabo added, “When you join ROTC, you feel like you are a part of something. We accept you for who you are, and we try to help you raise the bar to help you achieve your full potential."


Or some students could be unaware of what the program can do to help them prepare for life after graduation? “Colleges look for candidates with strong leadership skills,” said Cadet Senior Airman Sabo. "If you want to aim for those higher-level jobs like management jobs, this helps build your resume,” added Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera.

"ROTC gives us some military-based skills but it is not a requirement to join after graduation," said Squadron Commander Bauerlin. If cadets do decide to join the military, having JROTC experience can result in higher pay and a faster track to becoming an officer.

Experienced cadets know what they put into the program is worth what they get out of it. “So many kids are either too afraid to join or not sure what the program is about, but once you join, you really start to experience all the great things about the program, and suddenly it starts a chain reaction and you start telling all of your friends about it,” said Kitty Hawk Commander Taylor.

“Before joining, I was scared to step and take charge,” said Cadet Senior Airman Sabo. “It taught me how to be a leader.”

APT Commander Turman said, "I remember going from the shy kid that was always in the corner to getting out there and being an outstanding cadet and doing well in school.” 

"By far, this is my favorite class of the day," said Deputy Corps Commander Suttle.

During field days, cadets engage in a wide range of activities
which highlight the importance of teamwork and determination.

For JROTC cadets, pride for country and service for community is as powerful as relationships formed with people who would do anything to support them both as a cadet and as a person. "When I'm wearing the uniform,” said Cadet Lt. Colonel Rivera, “I feel more connected with others around me, and I feel a level of pride I wouldn't have felt if I wasn't in the program. I suggest trying it for a year to see how they like it."

"It helps them focus," said Colonel Kniseley. "It's something they can use in all of their classes. They are developing themselves for whatever they want to do in the future. Go to college. Go to work. Start a family. Join the military. Whatever it is, even if they do JROTC for just one year, they benefit from it."

Through the National Honor Society, cadets earning a 3.0 GPA can also get involved in the Kitty Hawk Air Society, which provides tutoring for young children and offers other service projects focused on giving back to the community. "It has matured me,” said Kitty Hawk Commander Taylor. “When I joined ROTC, I was a kid. After joining, I learned more about how to lead others and control what I do for the sake and betterment of others.”

This motivational display in the JROTC classroom represents cadets past and present that have utilized their leadership skills to serve others. "Enter to Learn, Depart to Lead" reminds cadets why they need to give their best efforts every day.

Seeing graduates go on to experience personal and professional growth long after graduation makes the work that much more rewarding. "We have cadets who have enlisted in the military. Our students have gone on to serve in the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. They've been in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and other parts of the world. Nic Woltman is flying on an Air Force RC-135, which is an intelligence-gathering aircraft, and he only graduated two years ago. His sister Mikayla is in the program now. Gabriel Chrum is doing maintenance for nuclear weapons. His brother Jonah is in the program now. We're starting to see a lot of brothers and sisters coming through." 

"Every once in a while you get a superstar," said Colonel Kniseley. "Brittany Flanagan is now a first-year Cadet at the Air Force Academy and she just made the softball team. It's been great watching students like Brittany grow over the course of four years."

With more than 70 units in Florida and roughly 900 around the nation, the JROTC program reaches over 100,000 participating cadets in high schools across the nation. Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School's program has consistently ranked among the top-performing units in the nation, earning a prestigious designation as a JROTC Distinguished Unit eight times over the last decade! To achieve this honor each year requires the unit to set goals, monitor progress, make adjustments, and work together to accomplish the goals.

Students must be in grades 9-12 to inquire about joining JROTC. It is offered as an elective course, and fulfills the HOPE requirement for graduation. Interested students are encouraged to speak with any cadet in the Corps. "In reality, they are the ones who do the recruiting," said Master Sergeant Sanders. 

Potential recruits and parents or community members with questions can also make an appointment to speak with Colonel Kniseley ( or Master Sergeant Sanders ( in Building 12 Room 118. They can be reached by phone at 321-638-0750 ext. 4225. Guidance counselors can also answer basic questions about the program.

"We love teaching cadets," Colonel Kniseley. "I love seeing them display leadership, in which they take charge."

Clearly, the program provides a plethora of benefits to the students and their families, the school, the community, and the nation. The mission is being met. In Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School’s JROTC, the leaders of tomorrow are being built today.

To learn more about the nation-wide program, visit AFJROTC.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Educators Must Live the Why

Every Child has a Champion at Space Coast

In May 2013, long-time educator and anti-poverty activist Rita Pierson filmed one of the most inspirational TED Talks ever seen. In a course of 7 short minutes, she imparted a lifetime of wisdom as she encouraged educators everywhere to stay focused on the compelling reasons why they must unequivocally support and inspire every student entrusted to their care.

Mrs. Pierson didn't imply it would be easy. She spoke candidly about the daunting challenges teachers face in classrooms across the country. For example, she posed a question some teachers find themselves asking at the beginning of a school year: "How am I going to take this group (of students), in nine months, from where they are to where they need to be?" Yet, for every towering inquiry, her solution-oriented approach to educating children balanced a unique perspective of understanding the strenuous truth behind the task at hand with a personal mission to instill vigorous hope to make the impossible happen.

Relationships stand at the forefront of Mrs. Pierson's philosophy of educating children. Lose focus on developing meaningful relationships, and education suffers. Foster relationships that emphasize the unique strengths and talents of people, and education soars. Data-driven decision making is a paramount operational approach in today's standards-based, accountability-rich educational climate, but leveraging data alone will not inspire greatness or result in optimal student achievement; supporting and empowering people closely followed by leading and achieving with data will.  Simply put, data matters, but people matter more.

In her thought-provoking book, Daring Greatly, researcher, author, and popular TED alum Brené Brown implored, "If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to rehumanize work." When it comes to humanizing a child's educational experience, building authentic relationships is a mandatory start.

Founder of Communities in Schools and author of The Last Dropout, Bill Milliken has worked tirelessly to promote graduation rates among disenfranchised youth. About the role of relationships in education, Milliken said: "It's relationships, not programs, that change children. A great program simply creates the environment for healthy relationships to form between adults and children. Young people thrive when adults care about them on a one-to-one level, and when they also have a sense of belonging to a caring community."

Teachers and staff at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School were moved by Mrs. Pierson's passionate way of communicating how critical it is for teachers to care for the children in their classrooms.

"Who knew that much intensity could be jam-packed into 7 minutes?" reacted Asa McKeown, a speech and language pathology teacher.

"I teared up a little bit," said Lauren Daubs, who teaches middle school language arts and math. "I feel like it puts things into perspective. There's more to it than teaching from the book. You have to teach from the heart, too. I was inspired."

"We are more than just a presenter of material," said Junior Class sponsor Jennifer Cotton, who teaches high school forensics, marine science and biology. "We are someone that is all some kids have. We are here to help them grow as students and future adults. We are here to inspire them to want to be better. We are here to plant seeds of interest and guide them on how to make that seed flourish."

Of course, dealing with a frequently misbehaved child can test any teacher's patience; however, as Mrs. Pierson's teachings affirm, there is a way to get through to even the most reluctant student. The path? Making a commitment to be their champion. "Sometimes our worst behavior issue just need you to reach out and show them you care," said Mrs. Cotton. "Be the role model they need."

Reading coach Lori Cantaloupe also felt a deep connection with Mrs. Pierson's message. "Someone may never remember the thing you taught them, but they will remember that you loved them."

Led by a supportive administration, teachers and staff at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School place a special emphasis on the
value of making meaningful connections, building trusting relationships, and serving as each child's champion.

"Make the relationship and the kids will follow," said Science Department Chair Christina Sage, who teaches high school biology and zoology in addition to sponsoring the Environmental Club.

"People need to feel that they're important," said Patricia Smith, a high school language arts teacher. "It's true that you don't learn from someone you don't like, so it's important for students to feel that you enjoy what you do. I really liked the way Mrs. Pierson explained writing +2 on a student's paper instead of -18. It's crucial to give positive feedback and encouragement to students."

Teachers were not the only ones enlightened by Mrs. Pierson's speech; students also drew wisdom and encouragement from her words.

"Rita Pierson solidifies my views on education. She stresses the importance of relationships when it comes to bringing education back to its core," said senior Jonathan Guarin. "Teachers are the crucial link between students and education. The extent to which they relate to students on a personal level determines whether education succeeds."

"(Mrs. Pierson) brings powerful words to the minds of everyone," said Sebastian Osario, a senior. "She brings realization and inspiration to not only adults but kids, as well, to connect. She struck a newfound goal (within me) to do what I may do with a kind, excited, and loving heart. To enjoy my life while helping others enjoy it, as well. We can all be teachers, but few inspire like she does."

Research proves what common sense suggests. When students recognize their teachers care about them, a whole new world of opportunities opens up to them. Around education, fingers are often pointed at backgrounds, beliefs, attitudes, socioeconomic status, academic readiness, and other factors outside of an educator's control upon the arrival of a child into their classroom. The reality is every child has the capacity to learn and grow when they are in the presence of a teacher who is committed to serving as their champion.

For over 40 years, Mrs. Pierson taught, encouraged, and empowered countless children in her classroom. Just two months following her heartfelt TED Talk, Mrs. Pierson passed away. While her departure is a tremendous loss to the field of education, the legacy she leaves behind equates to a paradigm-shifting movement powerful enough to carry educators forward with renewed vigor and reaffirmed reasons for reaching, teaching, and championing students.

Considering roughly 5 million people have watched her infectious outlook on the value and importance of teaching with passion and purpose, it is obvious her profound message has spread far beyond the classroom and will continue to live on for many generations to come in communities around the world. Paraphrasing Henry Adams: teachers affect eternity because they can never tell where their influence stops. Given that her teachings have made champions of an abundance of educators, Mrs. Pierson's influence won't be stopping any time soon.

To see Mrs. Pierson's speech, visit Every Kid Deserves a Champion.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.