Hybrid High Students Solve Society’s Critical Problems in their Final Session

In the final session of Developing Academic and Career Success Through Third Space Thinking, twenty students at USC Hybrid High College Prep used the Center’s ACE-IT model to find new and innovative solutions to some of society's most difficult problems.

After learning the importance of Third Space attributes during a 10-week online course, students applied the essential soft skills — Adaptability, Cultural Competency, Empathy, Intellectual Curiosity and 360-Degree Thinking —  in their final presentations on May 7, 2021.

Groups presented their final projects to a handful of Third Space educators including Third Space Founder, Dr. Ernest Wilson, Third Space Executive Director Shellee Smith, Third Space Fellow Jaime, and their teacher Sarah Batizy. Before the five teams shared their findings, Dr. Wilson made an opening remark to reinforce the critical use of the soft skills students learned in this program in regards to job opportunities. 

“As someone who hires students when they finish high school,” Dr. Wilson said. “When they have these skills, these are exactly the kind of skills that employers are also looking for.” 

Next, Third Space Fellow Jaime Carias applauded the students on their exceptional efforts in the program and encouraged them to reflect on their personal legacy. 

“As you sit down in the summer, I want you to sit down and reflect on what we talked about in the first session about your legacy and what legacy you want to leave behind and how you're going to frame and plan,” Carias said. “What I want to leave you with is that no matter where you end up you belong there … whatever space you end up in, you earned your way there and keep that forward.”  

Students then began their presentations in which they were called to present a problem in today’s society and solve it using the five ACE-IT attributes. Students were asked to answer the following question: if you could change one thing about the world you live in now to create a future that you imagined, what would it be? Groups presented an array of problems with innovative solutions using key soft skills in their final projects. For example, Team One discussed the effects of gentrification towards small businesses in Los Angeles and how they plan to use soft skills to solve this issue.

“We plan to adapt the Los Angeles county temporary eviction moratorium which serves to protect business owners from getting evicted during the 19th and damage to our own law,” Hybrid High student Melissa Ordonez said. 

After presenting, all Third Space instructors provided feedback to the group and invited further discussion on the subject matter. 

“I would challenge the group to use your 360 degree thinking to come up with ideas that maybe don't create kind of an us versus them approach,” Third Space Executive Director Shellee Smith said to spark further innovation. 

To second that sentiment, Third Space Fellow Monica Guardian also emphasized the need for 360 degree thinking and empathy when creating solutions. 

“It's really that 360 degree thinking and empathy,” Guardian said. “You don't want to be always one sided. You want to see the benefits of any improvement in any community so I encourage you to dig deeper and find other ways.” 

Additional teams presented on topics such as the education system in Central America, cancel culture, changing stereotypes in schools, and the board of education. To do so, some groups used creative approaches to present their materials. For example, Team Three used breakout rooms to inspire a discussion to solve this issue of cancel culture. Team Four had the audience engage in a Third Space Thinking activity to emphasize acceptance as they tackled the issue of stereotyping.

“The purpose of this activity was that no matter how big or small, the object was useful at some point, while you were building it,” Hybrid High student Alejandra Gomez said. “It’s the same with humans. No matter their color, their sizes, beliefs or their disabilities each of them had a purpose — everyone has a purpose in life.”

The final group, Team Five, called for more integration and diversity within the board of education.

“The American school system has been programming students to be testers and workers,” Hybrid High student Axel Pino said. “We want to change this by switching from a work, teaching style to learning based taking steps to prepare students for the future. We will do this by diversifying the education system with new strategies provided by the current generation of high school graduates.” 

Proposing the inclusion of students within the board, the group used intellectual curiosity and empathy to understand the needs of students and find an innovative way to solve the issue. Such insight resulted in strong feedback from Third Space faculty. 

“I like that you challenge the status quo, that you showed some critical thinking there and sort of examining the current system and saying here's how we're going to improve it,” Smith said.

The online course, Developing Academic and Career Success Through Third Space Thinking, is one of many community engagement programs the Center for Third Space Thinking offers. In June and July, the Center will introduce the ACE-IT model for problem solving to more than 180 students in the Migrant Education Program from Los Angeles and Riverside counties. Learn more about the programs by clicking here.