Amazing Alumnus, September 2016
“[YPT] helped me understand how powerful my words can be.”
Kenrry Alvarado overflows with passion for his students. Before he has even sat down, the bright, 23 year-old YPT alumnus starts gushing about the work he is doing as a ninth grade Biology teacher at Bell Multicultural High School.
“It’s really about the students,” he says. “We’re giving them the skills and the content that they need to know in order to be successful. ...There’s purpose to what they’re doing.”
What Kenrry’s students are doing is studying Biology through Project-Based Learning, learning core scientific concepts by investigating a real-world issue. This semester, the class is studying how aquatic plants might help clean up the polluted Anacostia Watershed. Through lab experiments, field trips and more, they will gather data on what plants are best at sequestering water-borne chemicals—then they will send their recommendations to the DC government. “Their voices aren’t just going to be ignored,” Kenrry promises.
If anyone knows what it’s like to have their voice heard in high school, it’s Kenrry. In 2011, when Kenrry himself was a student at Bell, President Obama came to the school for a town hall on education. Kenrry was chosen to ask the President a question, and asked him about grants for aspiring college students like him. “First of all, I expect you to go to college,” the President said. “I believe in you.”
Kenrry did go to college: Middlebury College, where he graduated in 2015 with a degree in Neuroscience. By his sophomore year, he knew he wanted to work in education—and after a year teaching at a charter school, he applied for a job at Bell. “I really wanted to give back to the school and to the community,” he says. “Maybe I can use [my background] to improve our school system.”
But it’s not just Kenrry’s background in neuroscience that he’s bringing to bear as a teacher: it’s his background in the arts, too. A YPT student in 2009, Kenrry wrote a terrific play called Daft Desire, which we produced in our 2010 New Play Festival and published in Write to Dream in 2012. He also joined our after-school Young Playwrights’ Workshop, co-writing and performing in several plays in high school. “YPT provides a space for you to be as creative as possible,” he reflects. “It really helped me create something ... that I can call my own.” As a teacher, he draws on that experience to empower his students, and seeks to make his science lessons as creative as he can. Next week, he hopes to have his students act out the carbon cycle!
Kenrry also plans to encourage his students to join the Young Playwrights’ Workshop, as he did years ago. “If you’re in high school and you ... have creative juices that you want to express somewhere, YPT is the place to be,” he smiles.
We are delighted to have Kenrry back in DC, and know that he will continue to make his classroom “the place to be,” too!