LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Howard Medrano

Position: Social Science Teacher
School: Sonora High School
School District: Fullerton Joint Union High School District
City, State: La Habra, CA

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Music that Describes Howard

Howard Medrano was nominated by Hawley Woods, a member of the community.

Mr. Medrano and his team at Sonora High School in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District have this amazing program they put together for at-risk youth that is very successful and potentially a model for other schools: the iPath program. The idea stemmed from the students entering high school who were not engaged in school. The staff asked themselves, "What is going to make these students successful and see the value in education?"

iPaTh identifies kids in middle school, specifically 8th grade, from the feeder middle schools. The three teachers that run iPaTh work with teachers and counselors at the feeder middle schools to identify the kids that are the most likely to struggle in high school. By 8th grade, most of the signs are in place - falling or failing grades, bad attitudes, trouble makers, etc. Once the students have been identified (up to 120 students), they are invited to attend a summer bridge program, similar to an educational/motivational boot camp. They focus on English, Math and Writing skills, but Mr. Medrano and his team work with the kids to give them so much more than academics. They help them develop an attitude for success and what it takes to be successful in high school.

The biggest win for iPaTH is that it gives students a place to belong and connect with one another. It teaches them that in high school, they are essentially starting over and becoming a whole new person on campus. Mr. Medrano and his fellow iPaTH Teachers, Cory Witt and Joe D'Amelia, show students the value of an education and that school can be fun and engaging. A typical new school year will start with 90 students in the iPaTH program. If the kids are able to get plugged into another avenue to the school (e.g, a club, sport) at the end of freshman year, they can opt out of the program. However, those students are still monitored, and the three teachers can see the impact that they are having on the students that stay within the iPaTH program.

iPaTh has been running for seven years. The goal of the program is to have every student that participates in iPaTh graduate from high school and attend some form of higher education (college, military, trade school, etc). Currently, the success rate of this program is 100% for students who stay at Sonora throughout their four years of high school.

Another innovative component about this program is the classrooms. The teachers have turned their classrooms into a learning "Garage," with kid-friendly decorations like an amazing graffiti mural.

"When I asked about the success stories from iPaTh, he said 'every student that graduates.'" said Woods. "He also shared a story of a girl who graduated high school as a mother of two. That doesn't happen in the general population of high school students. Dropout rates are especially high for girls that become mothers."

"The way I found out about this program was while I was doing a staff luncheon at Sonora. I had some chips left over, and the iPaTh teachers asked if I would like to donate those chips to this program. Of course, I said yes and wanted more information," said Woods.