Delta High STEM school creates opportunity for all

January 11, 2013 

I am a senior at Delta High School and I read the letter to the editor, “No to Delta High,” in the Dec. 28 Herald.

I’m truly shocked to see that anyone in the Tri-Cities is against the idea of continuing the Delta High School program.

At the same time, however, I can see why somebody who doesn’t know Delta as well as I do might think that the school districts could just close it down and try to start science, technology, engineering and math programs at the other high schools and that this would work.

Even though I’ll be graduating this year, I believe it is necessary to respond to the letter, because I know how important Delta was and is to my academic success.

The facts alone say a lot about how significant Delta is. If you look through the Tri-City Herald archives to an article printed Jan. 8, 2012, titled, “Mid-Columbia education hits the notes,” you will see how well Delta has performed in testing compared with the rest of the state.

I cut out this article and pinned it to my wall because I’m proud of it, and I’m proud to be a part of Delta’s success. I’ve heard Delta described by other high school students as the place where the “smart kids” or “nerds” go, and this is simply not true. There are very smart students at all of our high schools, and Delta doesn’t pick the best and the brightest. Our students are selected by a lottery system and anyone in the Tri-Cities can apply to be included in that lottery, regardless of how “smart” they are.

Here’s the thing about Delta; we are recognized for being a science, technology, engineering and mathematics school, and our course work reflects that emphasis. However, there is so much more to Delta than that.

There also is a unique culture and mindset to our school that is just as important as the STEM classes, and we would lose that if our students were integrated into the other high schools.

We also would lose the socioeconomic and cultural diversity we get from having students from all over the Mid-Columbia attend, and the different perspectives that come with them.

In my case, I don’t actually have much interest in math or science, yet I’ve stayed at a STEM school. I applied to Delta because of the technology and engineering aspect, but Delta doesn’t even offer classes in photography, film or video production — the things I’m planning to make a career of.

So why did I stay at Delta? I stayed because it’s small, and because we feel more like a family than classmates. I stayed because we have some of the best teachers and staff that you could ever hope for, who are completely dedicated to our individual success and who spend countless hours beyond what they’re paid to make sure we get the help we need.

I stayed because we’re a safer school than the others with far fewer drug and violence problems, and when we do have problems our amazing principal Deidre Holmberg deals with them quickly and effectively.

I stayed because of the unique opportunities we get through our community partnerships and the recognition we get from other organizations for our successes. What we have at Delta is a unique way of functioning that traditional high schools with their size and curricula are currently unable to offer.

This isn’t about having to spend a bunch of money building a new Delta facility, and to an extent it’s not even about having more STEM-educated students. The issue here is the growth of a new kind of education that has proved to be effective.

The U.S. education system is broken and we need a way to fix it; Delta High School and programs like it are a huge leap in the right direction. Instead of trying to disassemble Delta and stick the pieces of it into the other high schools, we need to grow the current Delta program and create more like it.

Erik Ruehl is a member of Delta High School’s first graduating class.

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