The Preuss School, formed in 1999, is a diverse, public charter school in La Jolla, CA, for low-income students that aspire to (and are on track to be) the first in their families to attend college. In 2009, Preuss student Paul Tran was selected as a Bezos Scholar. Luckily, Paul nominated me, to be his educator and to join him on the year-long leadership journey as a Bezos Scholar. Since 2009, two additional Preuss students have been selected as Scholars: Miriam Million in 2010 and Eric Tran in 2017.
I am a founding faculty member of The Preuss School and spent the last 12 years as principal. I recently retired after 38 rewarding years as an educator and have been reflecting on what being a Bezos Scholar has meant to me, students at Preuss, and the school itself.
Each student selected as a Bezos Scholar organized successful Local Ideas Festivals (LIFs). Paul’s festival, Cracks in the Glass, was focused on youth fostering and leading innovative ideas while Miriam’s festival, What the World Needs Now, examined global issues. Eric’s festival, Triton Alliance, was focused on education, specifically mentoring. All of the LIFs launched at Preuss have been tremendous learning opportunities for students and faculty. They have made Preuss a better learning environment and school. Over time, each has enhanced our Service-Learning course and raised the bar for all our students, especially the seniors.
2017 Bezos Scholar Eric Tran hosting a peer mentoring session as part of his local ideas festival Triton Alliance.
In their last year of high school, students take a Senior Wheel course as part of their graduation requirements. In the course, students intern at UC San Diego (UCSD), conduct research, and write a college level paper. At UCSD, they have the opportunity to work in a lab alongside a professor or a doctor, or in various departments such as the cross-cultural center, ecology/environmental center, LGBT center, or athletic department. Key components of Senior Wheel are a service-learning course and field work project. Because of the influence and impact of the three LIFs launched at our school over the course of nine years, seniors continue to strive to organize some incredible community projects.
Each year, students who come from 45 different zip codes give back to their own neighborhoods and learn the importance of working together to accomplish community goals. The field work project begins with students being grouped by zip code, identifying a need in their neighborhood, and then researching that need and developing a plan on how to make a meaningful impact. Projects have included organizing a tutoring program at a local elementary school, developing a voter registration campaign, teaming up with health professionals to assist with diabetes screening, and creating lend and leave libraries in neighborhood parks.
The previous Scholar-launched LIFs have served as models for all of our seniors to create their own service-learning projects. The Bezos Family Foundation and Bezos Scholars Program have had a positive, lasting impact on the Preuss community and model what giving back to community can look like and mean. Preuss is making a positive impact in La Jolla and students are making transformative changes in their own lives, their communities, and the world.
The Preuss School UC San Diego