Dual credit class connects students to community

Taking dual credit classes can be a daunting task, but Sonia Noyola at Northside High School has found a way to ease her students into the program by connecting their projects back to the community.  

Since she started teaching dual credit Government classes at Northside, Noyola’s students’ community awareness and empowerment projects have served as an extension of her dual credit classroom. 

Their latest project was S.H.I.N.E. (Spirit, Honor, Innovation, Nuance, Education) Fest, a student-led film competition held at Houston’s White Oak Music Hall that attracted submissions from several HISD schools and postsecondary institutions. The connection between these projects and the dual-credit course content is not lost on her students.   

“(This festival) ties into Government because it shows what you need to do in your community to get people involved,” said Courtney Brown-Daniels, one of the founders of the film fest. “Dr. Noyola’s class connects you to real world experiences. This project has taught me so much about communication skills and how to present myself.” 

While projects such as S.H.I.N.E. Fest took on a celebratory tone, other dual credit students focused their work on problematic topics within their community. Students Juan Quiroz and Rocio Vazquez were part of the Northside High School team that delivered a video presentation on the violence and safety concerns facing the Northside community during last year’s University of Texas Civics Fair, which yielded the “Passion for Change” Award at the statewide competition. 

“It was good that we went and competed because not a lot of people knew this was happening in our community,” Vazquez said. “I remember people in the audience were shocked.”  

Noyola’s insistence on extending her dual credit GOVT 2305 curriculum to include these projects has changed her students’ attitudes about their community and their legacy within their school.  

“In the beginning, we were very skeptical,” said Northside graduate Javier Campos. “But as we got more into it, we slowly understood Dr. Noyola’s purpose and what she was trying to get us to do.” 

During his time in Noyola’s class, Campos helped establish Project N.E.W. (Northside Election Works), which aims to get more students to volunteer as election workers. Beyond graduation, Campos has continued his work at Northside mentoring students like junior Elijah Lopez, who is eager to continue the mission of Project N.E.W. while enrolled in Noyola’s dual credit Government class. 

“My brother was a wrestler, and he left his mark by winning the district championship with his team,” “I want to leave my mark on this school,” Lopez said.  “I want to reinvest in this community and make it even better.”