Viking New Tech at Huntington North High School hosted its inaugural portfolio night on Tuesday, May 24, giving students, teachers and parents a chance to evaluate the program's first year.
VNT ninth-graders (the only grade currently in the program) prepared online portfolios to present to friends, family and staff. The portfolios consisted of media presentations, photo compilations, resumes, career plans and a sampling of schoolwork.
Parents, teachers and siblings milled around the VNT classrooms as the students hosted groups of spectators around their laptops, explaining the basics of VNT and the work they had produced. VNT Director Kelly Reiner was pleased with the high turnout for the event.
"This is great," she said, looking at the three bustling classrooms.
Reiner says that support and interest in the program has increased. This year 108 students will finish as VNT ninth graders to return next year. The 125 slots for next year's ninth grade class are already filled, Reiner says, and there is a waiting list.
Parent Darren Crandell says he didn't know what to expect at the beginning of the year when the Huntington County Community School Corporation introduced VNT to HNHS.
"We were apprehensive to start with," Crandell says. "I heard ‘New Tech' and I thought ‘vocational school.'"
However, after an introduction to the program at freshman orientation, soon-to-be ninth grader Maddi Crandell told her parents that the new program excited her and she wanted to try it out.
"It has been so much more," Crandell says, reflecting on his original perception.
Student Maria Scott says that the start of the program was rough on most of the students as they adapted to the new system.
"It was extremely stressful and terrible. I wanted out," she says. "Now, I have better patience. I feel like I've grown so much."
Scott, who is contemplating a future career in substance or emotional therapy, now feels that New Tech students have an advantage over students in a traditional education environment.
"In New Tech we really have each other holding ourselves accountable," she says.
As Scott began talking through her portfolio, she immediately apologized for a spelling error on the main page and promised to fix it later. She talked through her "Prezi" (presentation program), a video compilation of freshman year photos, her resume with planned classes to take and strategies to raise her GPA, a 13-minute religion documentary, geometry project sample and an oral communication project video on slave trade.
Reiner finds that the group and project-based atmosphere of VNT has taught the students more than just facts.
"They are continually interacting with other students. They are learning how to communicate," she says.
While the group format may initially be stressful, she says that the students have learned how to thrive with it. At the start of each group project, students write group contracts stating what will be expected from each member and what consequences will be for failing to meet expectations.
"By the end of the year they are learning how to be more specific and direct when they write those contracts," Reiner says.
Since VNT is still in its first steps, the application process is still a bit rough. With the high level of interest for the 2011-12 school year, Reiner says that she foresees student selection eventually going to a lottery system rather than operating on a first-come, first-served basis.
Complete caption: Maria Scott, a ninth grade student at Viking New Tech in Huntington, stands by a laptop displaying her end-of-the-year portfolio showcasing her work over the past year at VNT’s first ever student portfolio night. Scott is one of 108 students who participated in VNT’s first year of operation.