April 7, 2017


Eric Parquet has been making his rounds throughout IPS,
spreading the word about one of the district’s newest Choice programs and
schools: Henry W. Longfellow
Medical/STEM Middle School 28


As the new principal, Parquet has held parent meetings and
even visited the district’s elementary schools to talk directly to students
about Longfellow. It’s actually how Desiree Blakely learned about the school. Eric Parquet


Her son, Christian, a sixth-grade student at Eliza A. Blaker
School 55, attended one of the meetings at school then asked his mom to sign
him up for Longfellow. On July 31, Christian will be one of the expected 350
students Parquet will welcome on the first day of school.


“I looked into the program and the types of classes that
they are offering and I think it’s going to be very beneficial for him,” said
Blakely. “Christian has wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember.
When he was 2 years old, he wanted this doctor’s kit, and he always wanted to
listen to hearts when he went to the doctor’s office.”


Going through the IPS Choice Lottery application process,
Blakely wasn’t completely sure that Christian would get in, but she’s glad he
did — not only because of the school’s academic focus —  but because
he really wanted it.


“He wanted it so badly,” she said. “He’s a really mature boy
and he’s really serious about what he wants and what his dreams are, and I’ve
always pushed him to go for it. It would have broken his heart if he didn’t get
in because he is so excited. And I’m just excited for him, because he’s chasing
his dream.” 


Unlike traditional middle schools, Longfellow’s focus is on STEM
and medical curriculum, which teachers and staff will incorporate into
everything they do — from core academic subjects (language, math, science,
social studies, etc.) to gym, art and more.


The school will also offer unique classes such as Career
Explorations and Medical Detectives, which Parquet said, will allow students to
explore the different areas in the STEM and medical careers to gain a better
understanding of what they really want to do.  


“To me, I don’t want to give them just one thing, I want to
expose them to everything because I know there’s a lot that they’re not even
thinking about. Just exposing them to a lot of different things and them
choosing from there, will help,” said Parquet. But we’re going to help. We’re
going to help them through the process within seventh and eighth grade through


Parquet’s vision about the day-to-day schedule is just as
vivid as his view of the school’s curriculum.


“My vision for Longfellow is that when you walk into our
building, you’re going to see kids collaborating with each other, interacting
with each other, working together, moving around,” said Parquet. “It’s not
going to be a typical school where the teacher is in the front leading that
classroom. It’s going to be more teacher focused, but student driven, because
kids need to learn how to collaborate with each other and work together.”


Ben Carter, director of Career & Technical Education at
IPS and head of the Career Technology Center (CTC) at Arsenal Tech High School,
said that there are definite benefits of introducing STEM to younger students.


“There are definite benefits for seventh and eighth grade,
and even earlier,” said Carter. “The earlier we can get them exposed, the more
confident they will feel pursuing these careers. Especially for our
nontraditional students like females in engineering, males in the nursing
field. It’s really important to break down those barriers and the negative
connotations they have with nontraditional genders pursuing these careers. It
gives kids confidence and familiarity and gets them excited about it as well.”


As a former chemistry teacher, who also worked on the
administrative side of education in Pike Township, Parquet sees the need for
getting more minority kids and more girls involved in STEM and medical careers,
because they are underrepresented in both fields.


Because he achieved it, he knows that others can too and
he’s determined for everyone —especially the students — to be successful.


“We’re going to push our kids academically as far as we can
possibly push them … I want them to overcome obstacles and build up that sense
of confidence, but we also have to make sure that we’re nurturing also,” said


Actually, one of the school’s mantras is “Success is the
Only Option.” That constant pushing is one aspect of Longfellow that attracted
Christian’s mom.


“I think giving these inner-city kids a really good
opportunity to get a head start, especially the ones who are really serious
about it, and allowing them to be in a school that is going to push them is
great,” said Blakely. “They plan on pushing the students and making them work
for it. And, honestly, there’s a lot of schools that don’t do that anymore.”


Christian is excited about attending Longfellow in July and
being around other like-minded students.


“I will be around people that you can work with, and people
who can help me if I needed it and I can help them if they need it,” he said.