By Celeste Cramer
Education, as we know it, is being reinvented. Ten years ago, a group of educators from different local schools- Chico High School, Pleasant Valley High, and Chico State- converged to cultivate ideas for rethinking education at the high school level. The premise of their work centered on the idea that “regular” high schools were not designed for all students’ success, and that schools should consider student passions and interests to offer a broad range of educational experiences. They wanted students to be flexible, fearless, and competent problem solvers, and they aimed to foster a culture of innovation, imagination, and creativity. They envisioned a safe, smaller learning environment that would provide a place for students to be risk-takers, change-makers, boundary-pushers, and challenge-seekers. In 2010, Inspire School of Arts & Sciences was born, and now, a decade later, they are rated the #1 high school in the area with a graduation rate of 98%, which far exceeds California’s average.
What makes Inspire School of Arts & Sciences unique?
The Inspire campus was designed to deliver an immersive educational experience unlike any other in the Northern California region. The high school has provided students with the unique opportunity to explore and intensively learn in theater, music, dance, visual arts, digital media arts, engineering, and science. With an extended, college-like classroom block schedule, 80 to 90-minute classes allow the necessary time to dive deeper into the subject matter. Additionally, the school offers a family-like feel with an Advisory class where students stay for all four years of their high school career. Inspire is a home away from home where students can discuss sensitive topics like racial injustice, equity issues, and environmental solutions, and where they learn empathy for others. It is also where they develop a desire for life-long learning and self-improvement.
Striving for Excellence:
Inspire has the #1 ranking in English Language Acquisition (ELA) and Science scores for Chico, CA area schools, with the highest rate of high school graduates.
Transcending Traditional Learning:
Inspire offers over 80 electives and 12 majors to its students, creating an award-winning educational experience. Inspire prepares young leaders to expand and achieve their dreams in Visual Arts, Digital Media Arts, Dance, Theatre, Musical and Technical Theatre, Vocal and Instrumental Music, Science, Environmental Science, Engineering, Robotics, Humanities, and Recording Arts.
Producing World-Class Performances:
Patrons often walk away from Inspire productions in awe that this level of talent has come from high school students. They don’t know that students are encouraged to play a role far beyond the expectations of other high schools. Students provide projected budgets, drawings of the sets, backstage management, costume research and design, lighting plans, and much more.
“I have been attending Broadway Shows in New York for 30 years, and after watching Oklahoma by Inspire, I now know where I can see performances of that caliber.” – Connie, Butte County resident.
Creating Hands-On Experiences:
Inspire School of Arts & Sciences offers a diverse range of engineering courses designed to connect content-level skills and creative solutions. Students work in teams to design and test solutions empowering them to develop in-demand, transportable skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
Facilitating Courageous Conversations About Race:
Inspire is committed to achieving racial equity in our systems of teaching and learning. In social science, students learn about the contributions of Black Americans and other Americans of Color to our culture as a whole. Juniors and seniors have the opportunity to travel to the South with “Sojourn to the Past” to learn about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and meet those directly involved in the struggle for equal rights. This year, Inspire has partnered with the Book in Common event, and is planning to share and discuss readings from Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist as a school.
Science students are encouraged to think critically and creatively, leading them to explore and innovate. Projects have included a recycling a system that converts plastics on campus into usable items and working with a scientist on the East coast to develop a powder to regenerate limbs. Another exciting project was designing a suitcase-sized solar battery delivered to villagers in Tanzania to provide light to a community with no electricity.
What does the future hold for Inspire School of Arts & Sciences?
A new campus is in the works. From the beginning, Inspire has held the vision of moving to a new site. In late 2019, they learned that they became eligible for Prop 51 funds from the state of California through a charter facilities grant applied for in Spring 2017. Under this program, the state will fund up to $10 million, if they can match with their own $10 million. Parallel with this momentum, the Inspire Foundation was established with the purpose of supporting the school and launching a capital campaign to build the students and staff the school they deserve at a new site.
The Inspire School of Arts & Sciences Foundation is vigorously working on raising enough funds to build a genuinely inspiring campus, including state-of-the-art classrooms and dynamic maker spaces. This campus would allow Inspire to achieve its vision of a school with facilities and resources that would enable invention, creation, and collaboration for thousands of students for years to come. This is learning, inspired.
For more information on Inspire School of Arts & Sciences, please visit www.InspireChico.org. To support Inspire education and the new facility through volunteer time or donations, please visit www.SupportInspire.org.