Dual School Brings Ideas to Life

Andrés Samson (‘20), Contributor

Community service, project based learning, business connections: this is Dual School, a program that brings together students from across the state to apply their passions and learn in personalized ways.

Founded in the Fall of 2017, Dual School began with thirteen students from seven high schools meeting for one afternoon a week at an incubator space for entrepreneurs in downtown Wilmington. By starting with the idea that the students are in charge, Dual School continues to offer a unique learning experience in which applicants are asked to identify an issue that they personally care about and would like to commit to working on in the community. Students then begin to tackle their issue by contacting real experts and professionals in the field, conducting research, and testing their ideas, all in hopes of planning and creating a viable solution. Dual School’s partnerships with the University of Delaware, Blue Dot Education, and Social Contract help students achieve this.

Along their journey, Dual School students have valuable interactions and gain invaluable knowledge. They are exposed to important 21st century skills such as leadership, communication, collaboration, and networking. Dual School is an incredible program to help students learn and bring their ideas to the outside world. As one student put it, “Dual School is a place where I know I am changing the world.”

So far, Dual School projects have impacted many different areas such as financial literacy, computer science education, immigration, and environmental impact. As a member of the initial Dual School class, I had the unique opportunity to create my own project that benefits refugee families during the holiday months. At the beginning of the program, I had no idea what Dual School was about or how I would be working with my community. In fact, I didn’t even have a concrete plan for the direction of my project. Instead, I simply knew about some of the struggles that immigrants in Delaware were facing and I wanted to help. In the ten weeks that followed, I had the amazing opportunity of partnering with several immigrant and refugee support organizations to create the American Holiday Experience Project, a program built to provide for refugee families during the winter months and introduce them to some of our American holiday traditions. In creating this effort, I met a wonderful refugee family from Afghanistan whom I was able to provide with winter clothing. Along with this, I recruited the help of several citizen families from around the community to provide the family with new experiences such as ice skating at the Wilmington Riverfront, a visit to Longwood Gardens, and a holiday family dinner. It was truly incredible to meet a family who had escaped a tough situation by leaving their homes to come to America, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to create fun and joyful holiday experiences for them. Without Dual School and the connections that it helped me to create, my project would have never been possible.

Fellow Salesian student Michael Wiciak (‘19) also participated in this unique program. After watching a video of a child being injured by the blade of a drone, Michael was inspired to redesign the drone without the rotors. During his time in Dual School, Michael built and tested several different prototypes of his ideas. With the help of the mentors, Michael was able to make several valuable connections in the outside world including meeting an engineer and a representative from the drone company, DJI. By the end of the 10 week program, Micheal had finalized his impressive, “Project X.” The final exhibition proved the perfect place to start spreading the word about this new technology and how it can be used in the real world.

Projects do not always end after the Dual School program, and Michael’s project is a perfect example. Michael presented his design and business proposition to the Diamond Challenge, an international entrepreneurial competition where Michael’s impressive ideas blew the judges away, winning him $5,000! Through the connections, resources, and creative environment of Dual School, Michael was able to build on his ideas and share his life-changing technology with the world.

Dual School makes it possible to share your ideas and learn while doing it. Zachary Jones, director of Dual School, describes it as, “a place for students to make the change they seek to make. The connections that students make [through Dual School] are the connections that will help them take their next steps.” It is the place for young people to truly make an impact on the community.