Cedar Rapids Leaders Go Back to School

By Beth Malicki, Anchor/Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - There's no shortage of people who want to change education. But how many of those with strong opinions have been inside a high school lately, playing the role of student?

Chuck Swore is a familiar face to many. He grew up in Cedar Rapids and graduated from Jefferson High School in 1960. This month, he went back to the school to see what has changed, and what hasn't, in 54 years.

"Does it look the same? Sure, yeah, basically it's a little bit different. There's been some construction, and they've added different areas. (They've) expanded another gym, better fine arts, all in all same old school," Swore said.

His student guide was Trey Hill, a senior at Jefferson who takes a heavy course-load of advanced placement classes and has been offered scholarships to play the saxophone in college. Swore followed Hill to all his classes.

"Honestly, it's been a really great experience. He's introduced me to a lot of different ideas, life after high school, trade school, services, a really great experience," Hill said.

The Back to School Project started a movement in the Cedar Rapids Community School District that's now called "Iowa Big." It's an innovative way to educate students by having them take on real-world projects and connect with local companies in the process.

One of the founders of Iowa Big, Shawn Cornally, said local reform got its start with the Back to School Project.

"That opened up a pipeline for businesses and (organizations) to have a pipeline into schools to actually affect instruction," Cornally said.

One of those businesses is The Gazette Co., KCRG-TV9's parent company, and it funds part of Iowa Big.

But it all started with this concept: immersing community leaders in schools and then listen to their experiences.

Swore and the handful of others going "Back to School" this semester will meet and discuss what they learned, what surprised them, and what they wish they could change. Those recommendations and observations will feed into Shawn Cornally and his Iowa Big project.

Read the reports from the first four classes to go Back to School. KCRG-TV9's Beth Malicki was part of the inaugural class.

To apply to be a member of the Back to School project, click here .
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