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Vegas student aspiring to study politics gets full ride to Ivy League’s Brown University

Plus: A proposed bill would expand access to tutoring services in underserved areas, and a new state task force is focused on youth voter engagement.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education
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Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Education newsletter. I’m Rocio Hernandez, The Nevada Independent’s K-12 education reporter. 

This newsletter provides a recap of the latest education stories and highlights interesting educators, students, programs and other events and resources throughout the state. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter and receive it each Tuesday via email.

I want to hear from you! Send questions, comments or suggestions on what I should be covering to [email protected]

Carson High School students using new vending machines stocked with complete lunches on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Carson City School District/Courtesy)

News briefs

🥪 New vending machines serving up lunch at Carson High School — The Carson City School District’s Nutrition Services department has added vending machines at Carson High School to provide students with an alternative way to get their lunch and skip long cafeteria lines. The vending machines are in the school's High Tech Center, which is far from the cafeteria and makes it challenging, at times, for students with classes in the building to get lunch, said Nutrition Services Director Elizabeth Martinez. The machines are stocked with full meals complete with an entree, fruit, vegetables and milk. Martinez said so far, the machines have served anywhere from 10-35 meals a day. District officials have received feedback that students are loving the food and appreciate the convenience and proximity to classes.

🗳️ State setting up task force focused on youth vote The Nevada secretary of state’s office is accepting applications for a new Youth Advisory Task Force that will focus on improving youth voter engagement and providing feedback on ways to advance civic education in schools and communities. The task force will be composed of 13 members between the ages of 17 and 24 from across the state. Applications can be found here

✏️ Tutor-to-teacher pipeline Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) that would create a $500 million grant program for school districts and organizations expanding access to tutoring in underserved communities. It would also aim to put more student teacher candidates in tutoring positions and make tutors eligible for student loan forgiveness. The bill was endorsed by several education organizations, including the Clark County School District. (This brief was featured in the Jan. 20 edition of D.C. Download.)

School Spotlight

Valley High School student Devin Womack. (Devin Womack/Courtesy)

Brown University-bound student aspires to work in national, international politics

Valley High School senior Devin Womack is known for being a busy student. 

In addition to being part of his Las Vegas school’s rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program focused on college preparation, he’s involved in several volunteer opportunities and extracurricular activities inside and outside of the school — including a board game club, the IB state board and a student service group convened by Assemblywoman Erica Mosca (D-Las Vegas) in her district. 

“I wanted to get so involved that every day I'm doing something after school,” he said in an interview. “It’s really fun … to tell my friends all the crazy stories that I'd be doing week to week. It felt like I was really living a life … that I would be proud of rather than just existing when I got home.”

He said he plans to continue staying busy as a college student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Womack is one of 12 students from the Clark County School District who received a full four-year scholarship this year through the QuestBridge National College Match program that supports low-income students who excel academically looking to attend top colleges in the country. 

He said he fell out of his seat when he learned that he was accepted into Brown. 

“I just started screaming,” he said. 

Womack said this opportunity means a lot to him as a child of a single mother. Together, they’ve gone through many challenges including homelessness. He said the scholarship is a huge relief. 

“My family lives in a studio apartment — now they won’t have to worry about funding my college or taking out loans,” he said in a recent school district press release. “I now have hope that I will be able to succeed and go further in life without worrying about money.” 

He said part of the reason he was accepted into Brown was because of many of his teachers, who helped with the college application process, read over his essays and wrote him letters of recommendation, He also credited his former therapist and mentor who encouraged him to “reach for the stars.”

Womack plans to major in politics at Brown and aspires to one day work on national and international issues such as labor and housing. 

“I talk with my friends about politics way too much, and people like Erica Mosca have shown me that politics isn't all rotten,” he said. “There are people who do good and try to do good in the world.”

His goal for the rest of his senior year is to maintain his straight-A streak that he’s had since junior year, he said, and prepare for his first year of college and his move to the Northeast. 

“I haven't experienced snow in like over a decade so I just want to see it again,” he said. 

Have a student or staffer who we should feature in the next edition of School Spotlight? Share your nominations with me at [email protected].

Reading Assignments

Hope Squad empowers students to help peers who are contemplating suicide

Compassionate students at six Washoe County schools are being recruited to give hope and support to their peers who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Clark County schools release bodycam footage of district police detaining Durango students

The records, released under a court order, come nearly a year after school police used force against Black students while searching for a firearm.

Lawmakers mum on $310,000 in donations from teachers union amid contract dispute

Campaign finance reports show the Clark County teachers union made donations totaling $310,000 to four members of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in days surrounding a Dec. 13 meeting in which the committee deferred on a funding request from the Clark County School District, with whom the union had a bitter contract dispute.

Extra Credit

Elko County School Board ends Friday tutoring, lunches

The Elko County School District has been offering lunch and tutoring services on Fridays when there were no classes due to its four-day school week. But the school board voted last Tuesday to scrap these services citing high costs and underutilization, the Elko Daily Free Press reported. 

CCSD teachers have gotten a raise, but some still want right to strike

KNPR spoke with Nevada Current Deputy Editor April Corbin Girnus and Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas) on Clark County teachers’ new contract, an effort to give teachers the right to strike and a proposed policy change that could affect the four new, nonvoting Clark County School Board trustees. 

Events           

🍎 Washoe County School Board special meeting — Tuesday, Jan. 23, 9 a.m.

The agenda includes a discussion on a timeline for the district’s search for a new superintendent and a proposal to hire a search firm. 

🍎 Washoe County School Board meeting — Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2 p.m.

The agenda includes presentations on strategic plans and weighted funding budget updates. 

🍎 Clark County School Board meeting — Thursday, Jan. 25, 5 p.m.

The agenda includes a proposed policy change to remove nonvoting trustees’ ability to make motions and request reconsideration of past board decisions; proposals for recruitment and retention incentives for support staff; and a cost-of-living increase in the second year of the district’s contract with the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees. The meeting will be held at Northeast Career and Technical Academy located at 405 W. Dorrell Lane in North Las Vegas. 

Featured social media post

Douglas County elementary students sending help to fellow students in North Carolina. 

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