The International School of the Americas (ISA) is a small, autonomous school located on the grounds of a large, comprehensive high school in San Antonio, Texas. Its student body, which is chosen by lottery from San Antonio's middle schools, is made up of more than half minority students.
Originally founded as a professional development school for Trinity University, with a focus on helping young people to understand the implications of NAFTA and to prepare for international jobs, the school's mission has since significantly broadened. Today the school seeks to produce students who are truly "global citizens."
Hands-on projects and simulations invigorate the learning process and form the centerpiece of the school's global studies mission. A large Model UN; partnerships with the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas to teach about world hunger; a week-long school trip to explore Mexican culture; science partnerships with schools in Japan; and community service requirements and career exploration internships with internationally-oriented organizations, all supplement the classroom curriculum.
The Prize award has been used to solidify the international mission and experiences of the school. The funds were used to support a campus initiative to provide assistance to students and families in funding ISA's yearly travel experiences for students to Mexico and Heifer International in Arkansas.
Since winning the Prize, ISA has been named to the Texas Business Education Coalition's Honor Roll for 2006. Like other prizewinners, the school has emerged as a national best practive example and is a mentor school for the International Studies School Network, the International Center for Leadership in Education, Texas High School Project, and an Emerging Mentor for the Coalition of Essential Schools Small Schools Project. Always aspiring for improvement, ISA has embarked on an aggressive review of its work and purpose. In the past year, the facutly committed to using OxFam's definition of "Global Citizen" as a lense for its work. The result has been a more precise and thoughful understanding of what it means to be an international school and a revision of the campus mission, graduate profile, travel curriculum, and student portfolios.
Principal Kristopher Wickerham, offers advice to schools interested in following in the footsteps of ISA. "First, stay committed to your mission and purpose. Some people in our District do not universally understand or accept how and why we do certain things differently. We continue, though, to forge ahead because we believe in the power of our vision and the importance of our studies. The result is a highly thoughful and globally aware student and faculty population that not only strives to meet our own definition of an international learner, but also excels on state and national measures.
Second, connect with other, similar schools outside your local and national community. ISA continues to communicate and work with international schools in Asia Society's International Studies Schools Network, but also with small, innovative campuses in the Coalition of Essential Schools, Texas High School Project, and other organizations. We benefit and improve from the opportunity to hear other's work, but also in presenting our own work, which requires us to reflect upon our practice. Our relationships with sister schools across the globe provide an authentic example of cooperation and appreciation for global learning.
Third, do not become complacent with your success. Innovation and creative curriculum received deserved attention and respect. There is always, though, room for refinement."