ABC13 reporter Mycah Hatfield visits the school she attended for 13 years

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Thursday, August 25, 2022
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Students at Northland Christian on Houston's north side are diving back into another school year.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Students at Northland Christian on Houston's north side are diving back into another school year.

ABC13 reporter Mycah Hatfield attended school there for 13 years, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

She went back last week and got to catch up with several teachers and staff who were there when she was.

Since graduating, the preschool, elementary, middle, and high schools have all been combined into one campus on Sylvanfield near FM 1960 and Stuebner Airline.

The school has since rolled out several new programs, including an elementary robotics program.

Starting in third grade, students are able to take the STEM-heavy class.

Amy Owens, who teaches the class and the after-school robotics club, said the students learn coding, engineering, math, science, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication.

During Mycah's visit to her alma mater, the fifth-grade robotics class was coding robots to go on a "space mission." They had to code their robot on an iPad to "orbit the moon," catch moon rocks and return to earth.

"It's exciting to finish a program that takes," fifth-grader Sammy Duke said. "This is our third day of this, and most of us are almost done with the program."

Owens said each of her student's codes will look different based on their minds work. She tries to build on their strengths.

"I think the strongest thing the robotics programs does is make sure that they know how to problem solve and that it's OK to fail," Owens said. "So many times the kids want to be perfect instead of accomplish something and fail and keep going."

Duke was part of the after-school robotics program last year, where they dive deeper into coding. He hopes to be part of it this year.

He said he wants to be a football player when he grows up, but he has added to that since starting robotics.

"In third grade, after the robotics program, I got interested in science and chemistry and stuff, so I decided that I wanted to be an engineer," Duke said.

Northland also launched an international program about 10 years ago.

Currently, they have about 29 international students from Portugal, France, Nigeria, China, Thailand, Mexico, and several other countries. They expect that number to grow throughout the semester. Most of the students are in high school.

Liz Chavez serves as Northland's international program director.

She said the students go through an application process to make sure they are a good fit. Chavez said they test their English skills to ensure they can be successful in the classroom.

Once they are here, the boys can live in a dorm on campus, or they will live with a host family or their own family in the area.

They take the same classes the local students do.

"They don't often have the opportunity to take some of the classes that are offered at Northland, including AP classes, specialized classes, like our debate program or robotics, or play sports alongside their academics," Chavez said. "A lot of these students also want to go on to get an American degree."

Chavez said there have been international students who have gone on to win awards in subjects at the end of the school year that they had not studied prior.

"Students here take world history, and they take geography, and they take all of these subjects that students in other parts of the world are learning in a different way or from a different perspective," Chavez said. "Having their contribution in the classroom could be pretty eye-opening for some of our students."

Starting this school year, Northland brought in a chef and opened a coffee shop for their parents and students to enjoy.

Chef Gabriel McKnight and his team prepare lunches from scratch for the students every day.

In the past, he has worked as a personal chef for members of the Houston Texans.

He is proud that they make everything from scratch, including sauces, stocks, hamburgers, and hand-breaded chicken tenders.

"I really care about the children, so I try to give that to them in the food, and we build that bond with them," McKnight said. "Our addition compliments the vision of Northland and any other school that we go to."

Campus staff said McKnight has completely revamped their lunch program, and now the students line up to get their hands on what he is cooking.

Next month, they will start preparing meals that families can take home to heat up for dinner.

For more on this story, follow Mycah Hatfield on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.