SALAMANCA — Four Salamanca High School students spent last weekend in Washington, D.C., presenting at the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools Conference on the theme of Uniting for Education & Innovation.
In their presentation, freshmen Makenzie Crouse and juniors Alleyana Abrams and Matthew and Mitchel Schnaufer discussed how they and the staff have redesigned instructional practices to engage students in a different way of thinking. So far, they have seen students more engaged in learning and academic successes, something the students demonstrated in their presentation.
At Tuesday’s Salamanca Board of Education meeting, Karen Magara, assistant superintendent for operations and finance, said all four students did a fantastic job presenting Sunday and Monday. She said the Schnaufers “were both up there like seasoned professionals at presenting in front of 400 people” on Sunday.
Crouse and Abrams, meanwhile, were more nervous about presenting but also did great, Magara said. They did a panel with three other students on Monday in a room with 50-75 people in the room talking about how teachers can motive and engage their students.
“Everybody was coming up, telling us the kids are fantastic, that this is a great program, it was really cool,” she said.
NAFIS is the leading association advocating for Impact Aid, which replaces revenue lost due to the presence of nontaxable federal property in a community, such as military installations, Indian lands, federal low-income housing and national parks.
Since most public schools are funded in large part by local property taxes, Impact Aid ensures districts containing federal property — called federally impacted school districts — have the resources they need to provide a quality education to the students they serve.
Tiffany Giannicchi, assistant superintendent for academic services, agreed with Magara, saying the kids were inspiring, engaging and had a sense of humor. Some of the groups that presented Sunday after Salamanca’s students commented on how well they did and how great the programs in the district sound, even receiving a standing ovation.
“What I was most impressed with is they were with kids they didn’t know, and they naturally integrated with other kids and met new people and were taking pictures together,” Giannicchi said. “It was like they were friends for 10 years and giggling, and it was really nice to see.”
Giannicchi recognized teachers Brooke Canale and Cheryl Johnson for their leadership and guidance with the students. She said they could successfully mentor any student in the district and were amazing with Abrams, Crouse and the Schanufers.
Dr. Mark Beehler, district superintendent, echoed the praise, saying the students made the administrators feel like rock stars at the conference. He said people from across the country came up to them afterward asking for contact information and wanting to know more.
“The professional lobbyist from NAFIS said we have to get the kids on (Capitol Hill), we need to get a video, we need to start promoting what’s happening in Salamanca to the benefit of all the NAFIS schools,” he said. “It was another point to really be proud of Warrior Nation this past weekend.”
On Wednesday, administrators and staff were headed back to D.C. with another group of students to advocate and lobby for continued and increased funding for schools impacted by federal lands. Beehler said they have meeting scheduled throughout Thursday and Friday with elected officials.
“Mrs. Giannicchi and I met with Congressman (Nicholas) Langworthy’s office yesterday,” he said Tuesday. “Five of these school districts are in his congressional region, so he’s going to be important to have on our side.”