The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.

Charles Cooper, an 11th-grade student at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia.
Charles Cooper, an 11th-grade student at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia. Credit: Magdalena Slapik for The Hechinger Report

What makes your school unique?

It prepares us for college and prepares us for the real world. What makes it unique is that it’s like any other school but you get extra stuff. We’ve got animals — cows, horses, pigs, sheep — and we get to explore different opportunities. We’ve got horticulture, food science, environmental and the kids, they get to pick their major. In ninth grade, one marking period you get environmental, the second you get food science, the third you get horticulture and the fourth you get plant science. Then you pick which one you want to do in 10th grade. That’s really when you get to start diving into studying.

We got a lab across the street, and it’s like a kitchen. We got different kinds of stuff that we make. Like, we made ice cream, baked chicken, rice, gravy. Across the street next to the meat lab is this CSA, community supported agriculture, and they grow different things. They grow corn and other vegetables, and we take some of that and put it in our food to make sure it’s very healthy. Lunch is about 20, 30 minutes. It’s pretty good.

What do you plan to do after you graduate from high school?

I like food and I want to try different things in food, like, cooking different things, seeing what’s in food, seeing the science of it. I want to own my own seafood restaurant in Philly. I want to go to college. I was looking at Temple and Penn State. I feel prepared. Starting in October and November, they send us emails of colleges to tour. I’m going next month to Penn State. Then, we start the application process.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a student?

IEP is for kids that have a learning disability that don’t get things right away. I’ve had it since first grade. A math problem or an equation, if I don’t get it right away, the teacher will come over one-on-one and talk with me, see how things going, and make sure I get the right answer and stuff. My learning disability is I don’t process stuff as fast as regular kids do. It takes a while.

How do your school and teachers support you?

They will put you in situations that will make you stronger, that will make you learn better. Say, if we’re taking a test, they will give me extra time doing the test, so that way I don’t have to feel rushed. I feel comfortable doing it, making sure I did everything right. I get breaks during class. Like, I go outside, take a walk or get a drink of water, instead of just constantly doing work, pushing myself. I try to make sure everything is OK and is right.

On Mondays and Friday, all the IEP kids in 11th and 12th grade come together in advisory. We meet, and we talk about what we need to improve on, and what we need to do to keep working. Every October my parents come in for a meeting and we talk about the IEP, they sign papers, and I will take a test to see where I’m at, like, my math level and reading level. I’m getting better at grasping stuff, and it doesn’t take me a while to get it down. Once I know something, I got it.

What is your favorite subject and why?

English. I just like reading and diving into different books, and I like writing about it after I read it, so I know what I learned and what I need to work on. I like reading books because I think it helps me understand things better, like big words. I will get the math, but it don’t come natural to me. It would take a little bit more time to get it.

Who is your favorite teacher and why?

I like Mr. Smith ‘cause he’s enthusiastic, he gets the class going and don’t mind talking one-on-one with you. He asks if you’re all right. He allows you to be yourself in class.

Charles Cooper was interviewed on 9/28/16. Student interviews were carried out during the 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. Posted grade levels are the grade the students were in when they were interviewed.  

The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers. But that doesn't mean it's free to produce. Our work keeps educators and the public informed about pressing issues at schools and on campuses throughout the country. We tell the whole story, even when the details are inconvenient. Help us keep doing that.

Join us today.

Letters to the Editor

At The Hechinger Report, we publish thoughtful letters from readers that contribute to the ongoing discussion about the education topics we cover. Please read our guidelines for more information. We will not consider letters that do not contain a full name and valid email address. You may submit news tips or ideas here without a full name, but not letters.

By submitting your name, you grant us permission to publish it with your letter. We will never publish your email address. You must fill out all fields to submit a letter.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *