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Lakeland students head to Italy

An Italian youth program found its way to Lakeland High School, and now two students will be headed to Italy this summer.

Chiara Bargellesi graduated from Lakeland last week as a foreign exchange student from Italy, and she was encouraged to bring the Wayouth competition to Lakeland.

Wayouth is an Italian youth leadership program that features some of Italy’s best youth leaders, and they participate in activities and “hackathons,” which are project marathons where groups of students challenge each other to devise solutions to problems and opportunities in society.

Chiara brought the idea to the principal, Douglas Wagoner, and despite the shortened timeline, he was happy to bring the competition to his school.

“It was exactly how I wanted it to be. There were a lot of different kids from different backgrounds,” Chiara said. “They worked their best ideas, and some of them even created a website.”

There were five groups and a total of 23 students participating in the hackathon, and they had to think about the kind of school they would like to attend and put together a presentation.

“It was amazing,” said Lakeland teacher Gail Barker.

The students still had to reach some qualifications, but they weren’t incredibly stringent so that they could have a diverse group of students. Chiara was surprised by her peers.

“I was surprised and they listened to me. They even worked for a whole school day and a half-day after that,” Chiara said. “They worked with different people and started on their own.”

Chiara had the opportunity to judge the competition along with other teachers at the school to pick a winner, and two students from the winning team will be going to Italy in the winter to participate in another competition with students from Italy.

Paul Meadors and Louise Murray were chosen from their team to go.

Teachers at Lakeland were happy to be a part of the competition and to see students have the opportunity to participate in an international program.

“Suffolk has a limited number of opportunities, and they are getting better about reaching out and working with communities,” said Barker. “This helps students to see the world with different eyes and be better citizens.”

Some of the participants in the Lakeland hackathon were recipients of the Gear Up Grant. The grant is intended to raise the probability that students will go to college, and they provide funds to parents and offer educational support programs like remediation materials and training programs.