'Zip code doesn't define destiny': School uses arts to tap into students' social emotional learning

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Tuesday, August 23, 2022
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ABC13 anchor Samica Knight visited Key Middle School, which is just a few feet away from the grounds of her former school. There, they are using the arts to change lives.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston ISD, the biggest district in the state, is now back in session, and ABC13 morning Anchor Samica Knight is a proud alum.

Samica was so excited to meet up with her beloved elementary school teachers and principal on the grounds where her school, J.C. McDade Elementary, once stood in northeast Houston. Now, it's just a fun walk down memory lane.

"Coach Barrett, I tell everybody at Channel 13 that I have a trophy from McDade where I did the most push-ups. Do you remember that?" Samica asked her former middle school coach.

"Yes, I do, and I have one thing to say: Simply the best," Coach Barrett said.

There are still a lot of great things going on just a few feet away at Key Middle School, where they are using the arts to change lives.

"There are great things on the horizon for Key. The arts, for a lot of students, are an outlet to whatever is going on in their personal lives or going on outside of school. So, that's a way for them to express themselves, through dance," said Barrett.

HISD's Francis Scott Key Middle School is a major part of the Kashmere and Trinity Gardens neighborhood in northeast Houston. Principal Jennifer Murchison, marking her first year at Key, says music and movement like dance and cheerleading are just a few ways they are investing in their students.

"We address academics, but the arts allow us to tap into the students' social-emotional," said Murchison. "We are a Title I campus, so that means that we have a high population of low socio-economic students."

Key Middle School was in school improvement during the 2021-22 school year. It came out of school improvement, meaning the academic program is growing. To help with that, there is a college and career readiness program within HISD called Project Explore.

"We are at schools where they don't see a lot of different college and career opportunities. They don't see it in their household or their communities," a person who works with Project Explore said. "So, my role is to expose them to different opportunities and help them make informed decisions, whether it be starting your own career or following the career path of your role model or even the military or a trade."

SEE RELATED STORY: Houston ISD continues to fill the gap on teacher shortage as new school year begins

Fayla McHenry, a 7th grader, said she wants more.

"I want to be an entrepreneur on many different things. I can teach people how to start a YouTube channel. I can teach people how to start their own business," said McHenry.

"One of my favorite things in the whole wide world to say to people who doubt any Title I school or any Title I student is that zip code does not define destiny," said Murchison. "So, just because of where you live, that has nothing to do with what that student is capable of achieving."

SEE ALSO: 13 Investigates: School district police go to greater lengths to stop violent threats

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