Prior to the 2018-2019 school year, Nathaniel Alexander Elementary and John M. Morehead STEM Academy shared only a cafeteria. Nathaniel Alexander was a K-5 neighborhood elementary and Morehead a K-8 science, technology, engineering and mathematics magnet. Now, the two schools have merged into one — Governors' Village STEM Academy.
The academy recently held its dedication ceremony to celebrate its expansion and revitalized STEM philosophy. Thirty student ambassadors wearing sports jackets with the new school's logo proudly greeted guests as they arrived. None of them took the role lightly: They had to apply, get reference letters from teachers, write an essay and interview for the position.
"I applied to be a student ambassador because I want to be a part of my school. Being a leader and role model for the younger students is important," said eighth-grader Ishaun Ali. "When you really want something, you go for it."
Sixth-grader Jhane Moody applied because she has a strong sense of pride in her school.
"I'm proud of my school and being a student-ambassador gives me chance to tell people about the great things we are doing," said Jhane. "I'm meeting new people and learning how to be more confident."
Principal Alejandra Garcia said the student ambassador program was one way to help students feel connected to their school and community. Garcia told students, elected officials, the superintendent and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of education members present at the event that her commitment to them was to remove the barriers that often devalue students' potential. She commended the Board's decision to combine the schools.
"The district has created this strategic merger with the goal of eliminating the opportunity roadblocks that cause the haves and the have-nots," said Garcia. "We will no longer engage in conversations about the haves and have nots. We will consolidate those two terms into the will-haves because all our 2,000 students will be afforded the same opportunities."
Music teachers Kaitlin Zielinski, Donna Wiles and McKenzie Coleman agree that the changes are exciting. Although the school's focus is STEM, the arts are not far behind.
"Principal Garcia has given us so much in the arts this year," said Zielinski. "More than that, the staff morale is great and we've had wonderful parent support. It's been a wonderful ride and I can't wait to see where else this journey takes us."
After a month of rehearsals before and after school, the school's 45-student choir debuted with a performance of The Power in Me.
Garcia has designated this as groundbreaking year and invited everyone to embrace the school's theme: Innovative Trailblazers, Pioneers of the Impossible.
"Whatever you do, wherever your dreams lead you – technology will be part of your daily life," said Dr. Clayton Wilcox, superintendent. "When you see yourselves in what can be, it will be. Study hard, be kind, be the examples we know you can be — go, Cougars!"
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