Senator McConnell visits Lee County High School, part II

LCHS Senator McConnell

LCHS TEALS CS students get a photo opportunity with Senator Mitch McConnell during his visit to the school to learn more about TEALS in the region.

When I learned the Senator would be coming to LCHS to visit this April, I made every attempt to be sure I would be there. When he came to Redmond, WA for his initial “how did Microsoft find Lee County” visit, I was on the teleconference sitting in the classroom with the students. This time I was glad to see he wanted to visit the students in person. What I didn’t understand was that a lot of preparation and thought was going to have to go into this from the Microsoft side. Also, because I would be an MS representative on the ground there, it made sense to have me as the key liaison between the school and Microsoft.

Superintendent speaking

Superintendent, Jim Evans, gives the introduction and opening speech.

While I wanted the Senator to have the classroom experience to observe what I have described in part 1 of this post, it was clear that with the number of attendees, we would not be able to fit everyone in the room. Therefore, we moved the event to the auditorium and created a bit of a program for him. The Superintendent would speak, then I would represent TEALS and we would share our student’s stories  along with a short hands-on demo and include a parent voice.

Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek
Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation, professional rock climber and Volunteer TEALS speaks out about LCHS, local partnerships and TEALS expansion in the region.

The students and parent chosen were perfect. Personally, I felt I fumbled my part and was disappointed in that, but I know the student and parent presentations more than made up for it. He wasn’t there to listen to Microsoft’s blah blah blah about TEALS. He heard it last year, though I did want to share how we are expanding and speak out about the call to action. But, I did think it was good for him to hear how Lee County is progressing, to hear why I’m involved and so passionate about it’s success here and for the expansion of TEALS in the region. I wanted to give him some context to let him know that I understand the importance and impact beyond the stats and Microsoft agenda.

Kevin LCHS students

Dr. Kevin Wilson
Data Scientist, Knewton and TEALS volunteer
A casual conversation with some students from the TEALS CS class at LCHS while waiting for the Senator to arrive.

2 of the Intro to CS alums from last year’s class were in attendance and I was able to call them out and share their current story and impact the class had on them. Our Senior from

Justin speech

A Senior at LCHS, Justin volunteers his story with TEALS for the Senator

the AP class, Justin, who is attending UPenn spoke next. He’s generally a quiet person, but he spoke out just fine for this occasion. He wasn’t able to take the Intro class last year, but that didn’t stop him from teaching himself Python at the suggestion of the TEALs teacher that year. This year, he was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to take the AP course and stands out as our top student, poised to do well on the AP exam on the 6th of May.

LaShonda SpeaksThe second student to speak was LaShonda. She signed up for Intro to CS because it was a Microsoft course and she thought she would be learning Microsoft Word and such. Despite this confusion, she decided to stay in the class and give it a try. She remarked how important it was to be in attendance and fully present because she would find herself getting behind otherwise. This she comments, was a habit she had to adjust in order to do well in the class. Part of her speech included a demonstration of one of her projects, one in which she said she was the most proud: Ping Pong.

LaShanda demo

Another Senior, LaShonda volunteered to demo one of her CS projects for the Senator.

She invited the Senator up to the computer with her and did a wonderful job describing what her project did. She even had a part for the Senator where he would change the velocity of the ball and see the change. Her presentation was flawless. He was amused and grinning ear to ear the entire time. When she was finished, the Senator asked her if she thought she would use this (what she learned in the Intro class) after High School and LaShonda remarked, she wasn’t sure. To his curiousity, perhaps, Pong may not be the most representative of what computer science is about but it definitely is the easiest and simplest way to learn the concepts and set yourself on that path. If only there was more time to explain this to him…

Marian speech

Marian graciously volunteers her time to share her story with TEALS and its impact on her son, who is in AP CS this year and took Intro to CS last year with TEALS.

Finally, Marian Ross, Dakota’s mom (Dakota took Intro last year and is in AP this year) and Aunt to LaShonda, spoke. During rehearsal earlier that day, she melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Her speech was simply perfect. My only advice to all 3 of them in their prep was to be honest, share their story and express what they liked and challenges they encountered since TEALS entered their lives. Marian talked about Dakota’s 5th in State placement of a recent computer project he and fellow classmate (Tristan, also 2-time TEALS student) submitted. For this same project, they took 1st in Regionals. She described how these classes really make him think about what he is developing and how things work. But, she calls out the internet as their biggest challenge. There’s no place in town that stays open late enough to service them since he’s in Band and other extracurricular activities and the home internet quota is gone in 3 days. In fact, I enjoyed her expression of the situation: (Loosely quoted)

…found the best internet option was Excede Satellite, which costs $60.58 a month for 10 GB, which she thought was a lot. After 3 days, her 2 boys said ‘Mom, something’s wrong with the internet’ to which [she] learned they had maxed their quota. “I guess 2 boys can go through 10GB in 3 days.” Excede said she could buy more at $10 per 1 GB but she can’t afford that…

At the end of the presentations and the final remarks from the school’s Superintendent, the Senator turned to me and said: “Boy am I glad you love to rock climb.” J Cropped group photoWe took a group photo and that was the end of our time with him. All of the prep done for this by everyone involved, made it run without a hitch. He arrived late, didn’t stay too long, but we managed to get everything in we wanted to….I just wish we had more time to really talk about program and challenges.

There was much more that I wanted to say to him to help him really understand what is happening in the region since TEALS stepped foot. The program is expanding, we’ll be in more schools in Kentucky next year. Remote work spaces are being developed and internet is only $$$ away. In other words, the technology ball is rolling and picking up momentum. It’s the people’s vision, resilience, creativity and hope that will change the area and make a difference during these difficult times. Hopefully, they can ebb the job loss tide and create new opportunities in the long and short term that will keep these places habitated and from becoming desolate holes. I know from a climbing perspective, it’s a place I’d love to continue to come back to and experience and see prosper.

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
This entry was posted in Musings, News and politics, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized, Writings and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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