Granby " A conversation with … Larry Norman
March 4, 2008
Larry Norman, director of the Grand County Center 4 Excellence, wants local high school students and other young adults to become engrossed in and excited about their education.
Rather than just reading a textbook or watching a documentary video about historical or current events, Norman wants them to have “up-close-and-personal” experiences with the subject matter.
As part of his unique learning program that has the endorsement of the East Grand School District, five students from Middle Park High School will be traveling this month to Tacoma, Wash., on a three-day research project to study America’s “War on Drugs.” Back in the 1990s, the Hilltop neighborhood of that Puget Sound city became a real battleground in the nation’s anti-drug campaign and is now in the process of recovery.
What is the purpose of taking the students to Tacoma?
“When we leave for Tacoma on March 13, we’ll be in the eighth week of our semester. On this trip, the students will be expected to actually use the research tools that they were given in the classroom. They’ve already done the research through the Internet and other sources. But how does it relate to the actual events and to the people who lived those events?
“One of the values of this trip is to expose students to the real-life part of research and history. All of them will be required to keep a journal and prepare questions for the different individuals that we’ll be interviewing in Tacoma.
“Our students will be asked to make comparisons and contrasts of the events and individuals based on historical data and their Internet research. They’ll also be comparing that information with the addition of firsthand information from live interviews.”
During this trip, who will the students be meeting and interviewing?
“We have scheduled a number of interactive lectures and interviews with the people who lived in, served and governed during the restless years of Hilltop history during the 1990s. They will be interviewing public officials, police officers, newspaper reporters from the Tacoma Time News Tribune who covered the Hilltop beat in the ’90s, former gang members and neighborhood residents who lived and worked there.
“The interviews will also be with folks like Harold Moss, James Waller, Tom Dixon and the entire Pierce County Black Collective. They will hear from these pioneers about the horrible toll in life, productivity and dreams that a War on Drugs has taken from Hilltop, and what it was like to keep hope and youth alive during that time.
“This is a little touchy, but we’ll also be trying to get into an incarceration facility so our students can talk to some of the young and old folks who became part of the battle for the streets of Hilltop and how they view life today.”
Why study the “War on Drugs” ?
“This semester we’re studying contemporary U.S. and world history, war, ethnic cleansing and civil unrest. One of those conflicts that has been going on for over a decade is the War on Drugs. It’s something a lot of these kids don’t know anything about.”
What will the students be expected to produce from this trip to Tacoma?
“It will be part of their final project. They will be making either a PowerPoint presentation or a written assessment. They’ll be trying to answer questions such was ‘What went right or what went wrong?” and “How could things have gone differently?” These are important questions because history tends to repeat itself.”
Beyond the specific knowledge about the War on Drugs in Tacoma, what will students take away from this course?
“The overall goal of Grand County Center 4 Excellence is to get students motivated about their education. We were looking at how to develop a program to provide a challenge to high school students and meet the needs of college-level freshmen.
“The kind of program we’re offering is what the kids can expect to find in college. It challenges students to develop their research writing, time management and independent study.
“Our ultimate goal with the program is the mission statement for the Grand County Center 4 Excellence. It is to identify and remove obstacles to academic, vocational, social and personal success.”
Who else do you have working with you?
“Currently all positioning, including the director’s, are non-funded. Mr. Parker Thomson III has been assisting the program by facilitating as the assistant youth program director. Mr. Thomson is better known to local ski enthusiasts as one of the top aspiring pro halfpipe skiers. His recent top-20 finish in the North American Opens at Breckenridge is truth enough. His close proximity in age to the student population adds a tremendous resource for the ability of the program to reach students, assess obstacles and set realistic goals.
“Parker Thomson, Jeanette Love and myself will be the adults accompanying the students on the three-day research project to Tacoma.”
To help raise funds for their trip to Tacoma the week of March 13-16, the students in the Grand County Center 4 Excellence canvassed the local community for donations. An account has been set up at Grand Mountain Bank for those who would like to contribute.
For more information about Grand County Center 4 Excellence, call Larry Norman at (970) 509-0504.