Graduation Day: A Bright Future for Isabella

Isabella Garcia-Mendez will graduate from Manteca High School this week with a considerable leg up on many of her peers. This graduating senior, who speaks three languages and plays multiple musical instruments, plans to major in political science at the University of California Berkeley next fall. And while much of her academic success comes from drive and determination, her community’s dedication to education transformation helped prepare her for her next steps with up-to-date technology and skills.

When Manteca Unified School District (MUSD) began to envision a new way of teaching and learning for its diverse and economically challenged community, it had students like Garcia-Mendez in mind. Starting this year, all of the district’s 23,000 students and 1,200 teachers were given Windows 8 devices loaded with Microsoft Office, OneNote, Skype and Bing in the Classroom. And for ambitious, involved and busy students like Garcia-Mendez, the new tools were invaluable.

After many months of training and preparation, Garcia-Mendez says, “We were all really ecstatic. When we finally did get [the devices], it was like the most exciting thing ever. Everything is at your fingertips.” And the district’s careful planning clearly paid off. “I felt like from the first day – the first ten minutes – I already had everything and I kind of knew how to work it,” she says.

With Garcia-Mendez’s exhaustive schedule – band, language club, barbershop quartet, golf, volleyball, track and HOSA Future Health Professionals, to name a few – being able to do her school work anywhere and at any time has made a big difference.

“If I wanted to do an assignment between classes, before, I had to wait to get home so I could do it on my computer,” she tells us. “Now, I can just do it in passing periods or at French or at lunch. So that’s more time that I have at home to do anything else I want to do.”

For well-rounded students like Garcia-Mendez, a 1:1 device approach means that she can accomplish more – both in school and in her extra-curricular activities. She uses OneNote extensively, is making a video for her AP Spanish Literature class and takes advantage of the stylus pen to take notes in her AP English Literature class. “Sometimes, you just want to take notes the old-fashioned way,” she says, “and you can do that with the stylus.”

When Garcia-Mendez and her brother, also a Manteca High student, competed at the California HOSA State Leadership Conference, they used electronic note cards to give a presentation on public health. “We just detached our tablets after writing our speeches and then we gave our presentations and we looked so uniform because we both had the same type of technology and it was really cool.”

A big part of Manteca USD’s early success with this program is parental involvement, and Garcia-Mendez’s mother, Silvia Mendez, is seeing the benefits first-hand. She tells us: “The Windows device, when used responsibly, brings the world’s resources to our dining table so our daughter can expand her learning at home and go beyond.”

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“Going beyond” is exactly what Isabella Garcia-Mendez plans to do after graduation. We’re excited to see where her journey takes her, but whatever her future holds — thanks to the forward-thinking leaders of her community — she’s well prepared to change the world. Isabella graduates from high school this week, so from all of us at Daily Edventures, congratulations, Isabella!

Read “How an Unlikely District Led Massive Learning Transformation” to learn more about Manteca from the perspective of the students, parents, teachers and administration.

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