DCP Awarded 2017 National “School to Watch” Distinction

At DCP, we’ve made it our mission to change the lives of first-generation students by preparing them for success through college and beyond and creating a community that supports and serves their needs. That is why it is with great pride that we announce that DCP Alum Rock Middle School (DCP ARMS) has been designated a “School to Watch™” (STW™) Model Middle School by the California League of Schools, California Department of Education, and the California Middle Grades Alliance.

School to Watch

DCP ARMS was recognized as a “School to Watch” at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon in Sacramento on Feb 23, 2017.

DCP ARMS is the first independent charter school in the state to receive this prestigious distinction and the first middle school in San Jose to do so. Our school joins 10 other high-performing middle schools across the state also selected this year for their demonstration of “academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity.”

“These are fantastic schools that do such a terrific job of helping students succeed with academics and succeed as they face all the other unique challenges of being in middle school,” said State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson in a press release. “It’s a significant time in a student’s life, and they need special teachers, staff, and administration to help them prepare for success in 21st century careers and college. These schools do all of that and more.”

Now as a STW™ model middle school, DCP ARMS will host visitors from California and around the world who are interested in learning practices that can help close the achievement gap in their own schools.

“Schools to Watch” National Designation at Washington D.C. Conference

DCP ARMS was honored again most recently at the 2017 National “Schools to Watch” Annual Conference, held in Washington D.C. from June 21 – June 24. There, our staff members joined over 80 other STW™ middle schools from across the nation in a discussion of best practices, presentations (two of which were led by DCP ARMS staff!), and an awards dinner.

The DCP ARMS team were all smiles at the 2017 National “Schools to Watch” Annual Conference awards dinner.

While in D.C., DCP ARMS staff also stopped by Capitol Hill to meet and speak with Representative Zoe Lofgren. During the visit, they talked with the Congresswoman about education policies impacting middle school and college success, and even about DCP ARMS’ own national designation.

DCP ARMS staff visiting Representative Zoe Lofgren on the hill.

We would like to thank the DCP ARMS staff members who work incredibly hard day-in and day-out to create an environment in which our students can thrive! Because of you, this accomplishment is possible.

DCP ARHS’s Founding Class Graduates with 100% College Participation Rate!

It is with great pride that we announce that on Thursday, June 8, DCP Alum Rock High School (DCP ARHS) proudly celebrated its first graduating class of 2017. Two-thirds of our graduates were the first to sign the college commitment pledge seven years ago as the founding class of DCP Alum Rock Middle School. Now, every single graduating student will be attending college in the Fall at prestigious schools including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and San Jose State University.

We proudly present to you…DCP ARHS’s first graduating class of 2017!

Many of the members of DCP ARHS’s Class of 2017 will be the first in their families to graduate from high school, let alone attend college. Every one of these graduates has a post-secondary plan and has received from us the academic, emotional, and financial guidance they need to make their transition to their two- or four-year universities a reality. As these students move on to their chosen colleges, DCP will continue to provide coaching and scholarship support.

Students’ families, DCP staff, and even Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco were in attendance!

The success of first-generation students is why we at DCP do the work that we do, and for our organization, this graduation marks the beginning of the journey to college that we have been eagerly waiting to take with our founding class. It is also the moment our graduates join our distinguished community of DCP Alumni who are working to positively contribute to society and impact the world through their courage and leadership.

Many students chose to get creative with their graduation caps!

Congratulations to DCP ARHS’s first graduating class and to the families, mentors, and staff who guided them to this achievement. As President Barack Obama said in an inspiring quote that graced the cover of our graduation ceremony programs:

“And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.”

Class of 2017: the world is yours for the taking, but we hope you’ll always think of DCP as “home”. Once a Lobo, always a Lobo!

DCP Students See ‘Hamilton’ in San Francisco!

On Wednesday, May 3rd, juniors from DCP El Primero High School (DCP EPHS) had the privilege of seeing a matinee showing of Hamilton: An American Musical, at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre. Not only did the students enjoy the Tony-award winning musical about the life and times of founding father Alexander Hamilton, they were also able to speak with cast members during a Q&A before the show! Making the experience even more meaningful, however, is how exactly it came to be.

DCP EPHS juniors and special guests outside of the Orpheum Theatre waiting to see Hamilton!

Tickets to the show were generously secured for our juniors by Michelena (pictured above) and Andres Valdespino in honor of their son and former DCP ARMS teacher, Dan Valdespino. Dan—a beloved Social Studies and Science teacher who valued meaningful relationships with his students—passed away over two years ago from heart failure. His parents acquired the tickets as a way to memorialize Dan and his passion for history while also giving back to an organization that mirrored his values.

For the last two years, DCP ARMS has celebrated Dan’s life on “Dan’s Day,” paying tribute to his energy and commitment to improving students’ lives through education. Students during the most recent “Dan’s Day” celebration received dog tags that read: “Be the change. Pay it forward.”

Qualifying for these special Hamilton tickets was no easy feat, as schools and students had to meet numerous requirements. Between junior trip, spring break, CAASPP testing, and ACT/SAT prep, our juniors participated in a 5-day unit provided by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a group helping to facilitate student viewings of Hamilton. By the end of the five days, students produced an original piece of work—either a monologue, scene, or poem—related to the Founding Era.

DCP students were joined at the Hamilton showing by Michelena Valdespino and Dan’s younger brother, Matt.

At DCP, we believe there is no education without art, and we are grateful to Michelena and Andres Valdespino for providing for our students this unique experience to bring history to life while celebrating their son Dan. A DCP college scholarship has been funded by Dan’s parents, family, and friends in his name. Click here to learn more, or donate now by clicking the button below:

DCP Students Explore East Coast Colleges: Spring 2017 Trip Recap

This spring, DCP partnered with the Ivy League Project to offer the opportunity of a lifetime to 12 El Primero and 11 Alum Rock High School students. From 3/26-4/1, our group visited prestigious colleges and historical sites across the East Coast and experienced many firsts: some students had never flown before and others had never been in the snow! Some of the week’s highlights have already been shared via our Facebook and Twitter pages, but here you will find a summary of the trip in its entirety, including some of our favorite photos.

DCP 2017 East Coast College Trip Recap

Day 1: After landing in Washington D.C., our group covered a lot of ground, hitting many historical spots. The day’s activities included visits to the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, George Washington’s house in Mt. Vernon, MLK Memorial, and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. We were especially proud of our scholars, who were very thoughtful and aware of the heavy history of many of these sites amid the fun of their experience.

DCP takes over the National Mall.

Day 2: We started the day off with an early morning tour through Georgetown University, followed by the Capitol. Next, students visited the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and heard from awesome Latino change-makers, including a presenter who worked for the Obama administration and scientists working on improving environmental policy. Our group ended the day at American University and enjoyed the beautiful lawn located at the center of campus amongst AU students.

Our young scholars at American University in Washington D.C.

Day 3: The third day of our trip was a busy one. We began with a visit to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where our group had an admissions presentation, a Q&A with a current student, and a campus tour. Next, we visited the University of Pennsylvania, where we had the opportunity to chat with students at the college’s Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina—an especially moving experience for many of our young scholars. Finally, we saw the famous Liberty Bell before heading to Princeton University, where DCP El Primero alum Rodrigo Pichardo led us on a night walk through campus and shared his experience.

DCP students in front of the Liberty Bell in Philidelphia.

Day 4: Our students started the day in New York City, where they visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial, Times Square, and the Bull and Fearless Girl statues on Wall Street. Our group then headed to Columbia University, where we received a private tour from an Ivy League Project student. The day ended in Connecticut with a panel at Yale University in the Latino/a/x student center, La Casa Cultural Center.

Our fearless group standing alongside the Fearless Girl statue.

Day 5: On our fifth day of the trip, we revisited Yale University for an admissions session in one of their beautiful lecture halls. It was certainly a powerful sight to see our students in an Ivy League lecture hall! Next, we went on a self-guided tour of Wesleyan University before heading over to Rhode Island to attend a student panel at Brown University.

DCP students at Yale University in Connecticut.

Days 6-7: We had the last of our university visits on day 6, which included an admission info session and tour of Harvard University, as well as an admission session at MIT, both located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Later in the evening, students had dinner with various post-doctoral and law students from Harvard, followed by a Q&A panel session. On our final day of the trip, we spent the morning at Plimoth Plantation and the afternoon at Quincy Market in downtown Boston.

Our group at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

DCP Wins $100,000 Grant to Expand Innovative STEM Program

We are excited to report that DCP Alum Rock Middle School (DCP ARMS) has won a $100,000 grant from the Northrop Grumman Foundation’s Fab School Labs contest. This generous grant will allow us to expand and enhance our STEM program to better prepare students for success in engineering and computer programming courses throughout high school and beyond.

DCP ARMS students already engage in real-world STEM projects—including developing prosthetic arms, coding, and circuit building—but lack the necessary computer and prototyping equipment typically available in maker spaces. DCP alumni-teacher Nina Rodriguez led the school in applying for the Fab School Labs Grant, emphasizing the need for up-to-date technology and fabrication equipment that would enable our students to create complex and lasting design projects. Based on our innovative computer science and engineering curriculum, DCP ARMS was chosen as a grant winner over nearly 200 other public middle school applicants across the nation. The passion our students have for STEM is evident in their video application below:

At DCP, we have long believed that the importance of STEM education should not be undervalued. The lessons learned in STEM classes extend beyond science, technology, engineering, and math—students also learn other skills that will prove useful throughout their lives, including creativity and the ability to bring ideas to fruition. With our newly-updated lab and dedicated, industry-experienced staff, we are confident our students have the tools they need to further their STEM education and use it to their benefit outside of the classroom. Thank you to the Northrop Grumman Foundation for helping DCP in our goal of establishing state-of-the-art maker education spaces throughout its middle schools.

Do you want to join the Northrop Grumman Foundation in investing in DCP students’ STEM education and college future? Click the button below to visit our Donation Page and help us change lives.

DCP Alum Rock MS’ Alejandro Herrera Named Educator of the Year

We are pleased to share the news that DCP Alum Rock Middle School’s own Alejandro Herrera has been named CLMS Region 5 Educator of the Year. The CLMS and CLHS Educator of the Year award is given to 22 educators—representing regions across California—who have made significant efforts to implement educational reform in middle or high schools while exemplifying educational excellence. With his consistently high-performing classes and commitment to honing his craft, it comes as no surprise that Mr. Herrera has been chosen to receive this honor.

Educator of the Year

Mr. Herrera in his English classroom at DCP Alum Rock Middle School.

Mr. Herrera is a beloved English teacher at DCP Alum Rock Middle School who is known by his colleagues for leading with his actions and empowering students to do the same, both inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to teaching, Mr. Herrera serves as the English department lead and is an active member of the leadership team. He is also a self-proclaimed nerd, creating a gaming club for students (think Dungeons and Dragons) that is now one of the most well-attended afterschool clubs on campus.

Educator of the Year

Mr. Herrera was presented his Educator of the Year award at a dinner in his honor on December 8, 2016. His reflection on what he wished someone would have told him when he first started teaching: say “Yes” not “No”, smile, high five, and show kindness above all else.

Like many of his students, Mr. Herrera grew up in East San Jose, and he also attended high school in the area. After graduating, he went on to receive his teaching credential from UC Santa Cruz, ultimately returning to his hometown to begin his career as an English teacher and continue building upon the roots that gave him such a strong foundation. His passion and enthusiasm for teaching are evident in his personalized and creative lessons as well as his mentorship of his students and the student teachers who have the pleasure of working with him.

It’s safe to say that DCP Alum Rock Middle School wouldn’t be the same without Alejandro Herrera.

Congratulations on your well-deserved award, Mr. Herrera!