Camelot Education’s Thunderbolt Academy Students Compete in Digital Design Challenge

 In Camelot Blog

At Camelot Education schools, staff members are always looking for opportunities to ignite a sense of self-esteem and self-expression among their students. To that end, Thunderbolt Academy in Millville, NJ, has created a digital design lab on the campus that allows students to express their creativity by designing their own t-shirts.

But that’s not all; the students competing to design and print the most imaginative shirt, and on February 28th, the submitted designs will be voted on and a winner chosen. The winning design will be available for purchase from the school’s reward store.

“We started the project on February 13th,” said Jacqueline Lugo, a teacher’s aide who is spearheading the project. She explained that she took an interest in the subject through her husband. “He started doing this a few years ago, and sometimes I would help him. Eventually, I started figuring out how to do it myself, and now I design and print t-shirts at home. I thought ‘it would be so cool for our students to learn this.’ I thought it was something that could be integrated into the school’s academic programs.”

Lugo and the school’s program manager, Abdul Payne, explained that when the idea was presented, the allocation of space for the lab and the purchase of special printers and materials were procured quickly. Then, the students got to work designing their first t-shirt.

“I chose two students and gave them an overview of how the process worked,” Lugo said. “One of them put together a t-shirt with Martin Luther King and the word ‘Dream’ on the front. On the back, it said ‘Teach Peace.’ We have several completed designs so far. Actually, a lot of our students are very artistic and imaginative. They’re very creative and really took this project to heart. They learned how to draw the pictures, scan them into the machine, and upload images. Essentially, they’re creating their own clothing lines, which is the overall purpose behind this project – to unleash their creative energies and get them thinking outside the box.”

Lugo went on to say the digital printing lab gives students something to look forward to and also helps them think about a career choice they may not have considered before.

“From working with my husband, I learned how to design and print party decorations, birthday ornaments, shirts for sports teams, and designs for events such as breast cancer awareness,” she said. “I knew that getting our students involved in something like this would broaden their perspectives and that some of them could have a career in design and graphics themselves. They can design stickers, decals for smartphones, all kinds of things. They’re really excited about who will win the competition.”

Student Ronnell Higginbotham, age 13, said he became involved in the digital lab because he found it extremely interesting and also realized he could eventually have an impact on his peers.

“I saw it was the type of program that I could learn how to become an entrepreneur and be successful,” he said. “I’ve learned how to create different designs, and this has opened up different ways to make money. I’m learning how to help myself become successful in many ways. I can help other students by showing them how to print designs, or I can talk to them about how the staff can help you create a design from one of your drawings, or earn some money and profit from it.”

He said his favorite part of the project was being able to enjoy himself while learning and having a fun interaction with his peers and the staff.

“We have fun in a cordial manner,” he said. “Students with a higher school status, such as those in student government, help other students grow. We, as student government pledges or “Bolts” (as the members of student government are called at Thunderbolt Academy), help all other students no matter what grade. It could be a personal problem or an academic one. We help and encourage one another, and this printing lab is another way for us to do that.”

According to Payne, students earn tickets and can use them to purchase items at the reward store, such as puzzles, books, and other niceties. The winning design will be featured on shirts that students can also buy from the store.

“Day-to-day, we focus on positive growth. We identify those students who are showing improvement, and they’re rewarded with tickets throughout the week. They really love it,” Payne said. “This is the overall part of what we accomplish with our kids. You hear so much about students in communities where resources are lacking getting caught up in the wrong kinds of activities and with the wrong people. We work to flip that story on its head. Our students need help figuring out who they are and what they’re capable of, and we engage them in different ways to help them realize their interests and potential. We work to remove the stigma of how society might view them so they can establish their own identities.”

Students attending Thunderbolt Academy have experienced disciplinary violations are referred to the program by Millville Public Schools. Students from this campus return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics.

At Camelot Education’s network of schools, the teachers and staff are deeply committed to the academic, social, and life success of our nation’s most vulnerable students. In partnership with public school districts

around the country, Camelot Education excels at re-engaging these students in their education by helping them overcome social, emotional, and academic challenges in their lives, resulting in improved life and educational outcomes.

Navaeh Waters, age 15 said she loves the new digital lab and learning how to create different designs.

“I love art,” she said. “Learning how to create designs and then transfer that artwork onto a t-shirt is amazing. You’re actually creating something. I think this could positively impact others by creating shirts with positive words and quotes to make people feel better. Learning how the printing machine works to create different designs is an experience I never thought about. I would like to continue learning more about how to create different designs so that I can begin doing it myself. I want to make shirts and socks and sell them to friends and family. This opened up a whole new world for me.”

Related article: Thunderbolt Academy Students Learn About Leadership by Mentoring Others


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