NTN Alumni: Lifelong Learners

January 6, 2017

A Letter from Lauren Cooney – New Technology High Alumni

Lauren Cooney graduated from New Technology High School as the valedictorian. She then attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Ocean Engineering and is currently working towards Master of Science in Ocean Engineering. As the recipient of a Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, Lauren is conducting research related to control systems of underwater vehicles.

Skills for Life

On my first day, I knew immediately that New Technology High School was different — computers on every table, glass walls, and classroom seating focused on interaction amongst students as opposed to in rows looking at the teacher. roughout my time there, I developed the technological savvy that defines the “Tech” of New Tech. I learned how to use word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools; designed a website; and utilized multimedia and imaging programs. More importantly, I learned that one of New Tech’s greatest successes comes from placing the student in the “driver’s seat” through Project-Based Learning.

Before transferring to New Tech, I attended a “college-preparatory” high school for my freshman and sophomore years. I was an “A” student, yet became apathetic regarding the learning process and certainly uninspired to continue on to higher education. I would sit in class thinking, “How am I supposed to get excited about the world by copying notes from an overhead projector, then taking an exam on it?” My parents recognized this in me and suggested that I check out New Technology High School.

My first year at New Tech included an integrated history and English course called American Studies. My classmates and I were given an assignment to create an informative website describing a movement in American history during a designated time period. A fellow student and I decided to document the development of union laws. Our understanding was developed through the use of traditional classroom resources and those on the internet. We used documents, articles, witness accounts and photographs to determine the cause and effects of the labor movement. As a result of our growing personal passion for the subject, our research led us to an investigation on current global working conditions. I had never felt such emotion in a school project as I did during our research on sweatshops. In addition to our assigned project, we went beyond and created a site tracing popular fashion items to the pitiful labor conditions and wages that produced them. When the student is the one directing their own education, there is a natural feeling of discovery and enthusiasm that reaches beyond the subject at hand.

I’ve found that I consistently rely upon the skills and abilities developed at New Tech. My biggest fear was that I might be unprepared for the traditional academic work of college. During my freshman year at MIT, I participated in a course which investigated the complex problem of monitoring and preserving the Amazon rain forest. is was a very open-ended project, one which the students were required to determine the structure. I noticed that many of my classmates had never encountered such a task — their previous experience primarily involved bookwork and exams. Some of them had never worked in groups, delivered presentations, or defended the results of their own findings. Although I had very little technical background on the subject matter at hand, I fell very naturally into the dynamics of this project due to my experience at New Tech. I was confidently able to adapt and be a leader in the situation and to figure out the necessary steps to achieve our final product.

I believe that my curiosity and passion for learning was cultivated at New Tech, and the skills that I developed — critical thinking, self-discipline and time management, communication and team work — have proven invaluable in nearly every aspect of my life.

– Lauren Cooney
Napa New Technology High School