Harboring Futures (Published in the Milford Times May 21, 2015)

By Bre Craig (HHS Student) and Ben Dowker (HHS Teacher)

Jordyn’s backpack timidly clung to her shoulders as she walked into the crowded lab classroom. Her composition teacher stood tall and poised with long dark brown hair as she waited for the last few students and silence. Choosing her seat in the back of the classroom, Jordyn’s nerves bounced off of the walls around her, I don’t belong here. Her anxiety flipped nervously through the crisp black folder labeled “Oakland Community College” on her lap.

Humming in the hallways  before the first bell was an air of excitement and possibility. Thirty-six sleep-deprived Harbor High School students gathered in a computer lab waiting for the bus to arrive. The possibility space beyond graduation was looming nearer and nearer for these seniors and juniors, and HHS has continued to take a keen interest in their success. The bus for the Specs Howards School of Media Arts trip left in ten minutes.  

Thanks to a generous contribution from the AT&T Foundation, Harbor High School has made it a priority to harbor not just students but their futures. According to Susan Gallagher, Director of Adult and Alternative Programs, “Through their Aspire Program, AT&T has provided our students with tremendous opportunities to explore some of the possibilities for their futures. Visits to post-secondary institutions, access to specialized workshops, enhancements to video production and publication classes, and several other creative endeavors have combined to enhance student learning and clarify our post-secondary education and training.”

Every single student has had multiple opportunities to visit and be open to post-secondary options such as Specs Howard, Detroit Institute of Music Education, Motion Picture Institute of Detroit, University of Northwestern Ohio, The Art Institute of Michigan, and Oakland Community College. These experiences enlivened students’ hopes for their future by fostering possibilities perhaps unseen, unheard, and unsung through life’s stigmas and blinders. When asked about the school trips and their affect, HHS Senior Richard Dukelow said, “The Specs Howard school trip really helped me see my options, and after I graduate in June, I will be going to OCC and then on to Specs Howard to get a degree graphic design.” 

Traditional classes at Harbor have been pulled along by the vision and momentum of post-secondary possibilities as well. Teachers Ben Dowker and Scott Armstrong stretched the job shadow component of Senior English to forge lasting relationships with community professionals, businesses, and corporations. In addition to conventional shadowing assignments, students were able to visit Team Detroit and the WDIV Channel 4 News broadcasting studio. 

Students even participated in a community-based mock interview experience staffed by Brian Beer, Chris Nooe, and Ron Lisch. When asked about the experience, Chris Nooe from Iron Mountain Information Management LLC out of South Lyon said, “I really enjoyed learning each student's backgrounds, aspirations and dreams for the future. It was clear that most of these young men and ladies have a genuine desire to make the most of the opportunity they've been given and become strong contributors in their communities. I was pleased and honored to be a part of the day."

Additionally, this year, nearly 20% of Harbor High seniors are dual enrollment students with Oakland Community College. With one foot firmly on the worn carpet of high school and one foot on the polished tile of college, students are earning high school and college credit. Bolstered by the support of their teachers, students begin to see a future beyond Harbor, Highland, and home, built on hard work and success after failure.  

She stood towering at the front of the classroom giving her speech about her dual enrollment. Standing in front of dozens of students, her hands quivering, she waited for her teacher to indicate her final grade. “You got a B, Jordyn Riutta, you passed.” Her teacher was nonchalant about it, having said it many times, but Jordyn was jumping out of her skin in excitement. She did it. She passed her first college class.

Inspiring and Harboring futures, one student at a time.





Serving up A's and B's (Published in Milford Times on Jan 10, 2014)

By Ben Dowker (HHS Teacher)


"I am going to be on the list this trimester," said Austin Suggs, a senior at Harbor High School, as he stepped over the threshold into Paul Sullivan's classroom an early morning in December. His voice punctuated the quiet ringing in the semidarkness of the room before first bell. "I am going to be on the lunch pass list all term," he elaborated with confidence. 


Since instituting a semi-closed hot lunch program at the start of the year, HHS students have pushed themselves to do better academically. Students who earn a B or better in every class win a coveted spot on the lunch pass list and open campus freedom. In the first six short weeks of the year, failure rates dropped by 14% from the previous year. 


Prior to the start of the 2013-2014 school year, Harbor students had been limited to a cold lunch option. But with significant financial contributions and a motivation to improve the options for Harbor students, Joan Steele, Director of Huron Valley School Food Service, helped make a hot lunch possible at HHS, but the effects stretched beyond the lunch period.  When asked about the new lunch program Joan couldn’t help but be excited, "It is not often that a food service team is so directly involved with making a positive difference in student achievement in the classroom.  Of course, we know that by providing healthy meals throughout the district, we are helping kids to be ready to learn, but at Harbor High, the academic results are amazing. The Harbor staff and Diana Schueneman, a dedicated lunch lady, launched the idea last year, and it has truly been rewarding to be part of this effort."


 “With our new lunch program in place, our attendance and grade averages have shot up tremendously. Although it is a nice to leave for an hour and take a break from the day, it is not a right; it is a privilege we must earn,” said Zac Brewer, a junior at Harbor. Michael Thompson, a junior, added, “The new lunch policy has given me motivation, and for the first time in a long time, I am doing really well, and I have hope.” The simple act of harnessing a student freedom to become a driving force behind student motivation has promoted student academic achievement, responsibility, and growth.  


At the end of the first trimester at Harbor just 12 weeks into the year, the overall failure rate dropped by 17% compared to last year and is trending down. Susan Gallagher, Director of Alternative Programs, was all smiles when asked about the new hot lunch program and academic threshold, “I knew the program was going to be successful, but I had no idea that it would be as successful as it has been. Our students are making tremendous strides towards graduation and academic success, and without the help of Sue Gilson, HVS Director of Maintenance and Operations, Joan Steele, and the dedication of my staff, it would not have been possible.”  


Austin Suggs strode into Mr. Sullivan's classroom early Monday morning with a huge smile brimming with excitement and accomplishment that splashed over to touch the corners of his eyes. Paul Sullivan leaned over his desk, his expression asking the question. "I did it...I made the list," said Austin laughing and filling the silence with excitement, "the lunch list...I finally made the lunch list."


Harbor High School is now serving up hot lunches with sides of A's and B's. 





CSI Harbor (Published in the Milford Times May 8, 2013)

By Ben Dowker


"Hey, is this an ulnar or a radial loop?" scrutinized Paige Lorenz, a senior at Harbor High School, as she edged in closer to the print and warned, "we are going to have to watch that island when we count ridges." Scenes similar to this one played out across the classroom as eager students leaned over print samples and determined guilt or innocence based on whorls, ridges, loops, and arches. This class is just part of a push at Harbor to motivate students through innovative cross-curricular class options. 


Harbor High School in recent years has dramatically broadened its course offerings to meet the expanding Common Core Curricular Standards and to garner student enthusiasm. The two-part forensics class has emerged as a student favorite in the climate of crime scene investigation TV dramas. 


Aside from the innovative approach to science, this class offers a wide range of reading and writing content blended in seamlessly as crime scene reports, expert witness testimony, and lab journals. Emily Blanchard, an English team-teacher, had this say about the cross-curricular approach, "two teachers working together to teach one class is magical. The students have the benefit of extra support and guidance. In Forensics, we are able to do some pretty amazing activities: soil analysis, finger printing, blood spatter, hair identification, and tire tread analysis. By blending the two disciplines together, Science and English, the students produce some awesome work."    


Thanks to a district technology grant, Harbor students have not only been able to mesh English and Science but also technology into Forensics. Forensic documenting of a crime scene has gone paperless with students carefully standing just inside caution tape snapping pictures and briefly tapping out notes and observations.    


“Integrating technology into our forensics curriculum has been beneficial on many levels, most notably student engagement.  The iPads have been an integral part of our classroom, serving as both a research tool and as a means of demonstrating and sharing what students have learned, through activities like student-created videos, podcasts, and blogs,” responded Anne Zambito, an English team-teacher, when asked about the use of technology as a tool for collaboration and motivation.   


The energy was palpable on evidence day as numbered yellow cards dotted the landscape of the crime scene tucked away in the back corner of the classroom. While each forensic team took their turn at evidence collection and documentation, students whispered in hushed tones from the sidelines as they caught glances of the scene, iPads under their arms. 


Nate Clay, the lead teacher for the two forensic courses, enthusiastically shared his observations of the student involvement: “It’s really amazing to see students getting into science like this! For once, I don’t have to respond to the question, ‘When am I going to use this?’ Students see the immediate value of their hands-on learning and are drawn into it.” 


Meanwhile, a separate group of budding forensic analysts hunched over the last of the possible print matches linked to the crime scene. "Look at the bifurcation of the central pocket loop! This is our guy!" said Paige enthusiastically to her lab partner as she shot her hand into air to alert her teacher, "this is a match!" 


And it is safe to say that Harbor has found its match in Forensics. 






Harbor High Students Set Sail (Published in the Milford Times October 9, 2012)

By Timothy Frederick


 “If all students had a safe harbor, none would be at risk.” Harbor High School continues to provide a safe harbor for students by offering unique educational opportunities for those students who sought out another path towards success. Harbor has excels in meeting the students’ individual needs, helping them to discover future ambitions, and aiding them in achieving their high school diplomas. As college edification becomes more emphasized in today’s society, Harbor strives to encourage students to seek post-secondary educational specializations, and provides them with the right advantages to help them succeed in continuing their education beyond the diploma.


This continued achievement beyond the safe harbor of HHS is highlighted by two recent graduates, Dale Bowen and Ryan Chappel. Both students previously attended school at Milford and Lakeland and made the decision to transfer to Harbor High in 2009. Before their transition, both of them felt overwhelmed with the traditional high school experience and found that Harbor High was surprisingly helpful in offering alternative solutions to meeting their individual and educational goals. While attending Harbor, Dale and Ryan discovered new ambitions of pursuing college opportunities after graduation with the help of continued encouragement by the Harbor staff. 


In a recent interview both students were asked to answer a few questions about their experiences at Harbor High School. When asked about the benefits of attending Harbor High, Dale stated, “Because Harbor is a smaller school, I was able to get a lot of one-on-one time with teachers in a comfortable setting. I also really felt like part of a family rather than just a student.” He continued by adding very sincerely, “I believe Harbor High really saved me.” When asked about what was most helpful at Harbor in achieving their goals, Ryan responded, “The teachers really went out of their way to encourage me to apply myself and work towards my goals. I felt very close to my peers as well as my teachers, and as Dale said, there was a genuine family atmosphere.”


Both students have since earned their diplomas and are currently pursuing degrees in computer science from Baker College. “I feel the teachers really understood me here” said Dale, “It’s like we are all in the same boat here at Harbor.” And like many of the students at Harbor, that boat is sailing on to warmer waters.