DIRECTV Brings Fun and Learning to a Denver Charter School

  • Jun 12, 2015

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DIRECTV and FOX visited Denver’s University Prep Elementary School (U Prep) during the last week of their 2014-2015 school year to host a live-action version of the hit TV show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”. Our guest blogger Steve Demedis (below), who works in DIRECTV’s Communications department, was in attendance, and came away asking himself the same question.

Steve Demedis

I am smarter than a fifth grader.

And I’ve been certain of this since the mid-90s. But as I stood in the back of the gymnasium at University Preparatory School (U Prep) in Denver, Colorado, a spectator at the DIRECTV-sponsored Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader event, my confidence began to waiver. I started to question the education I had received at Plum Point Elementary all those years ago.

What is a trapezoid? How many sides does a heptagon have? Which number is both a factor of 36 and a multiple of 3?

But what truly crushed my self-esteem was the eager enthusiasm, and dare I say swagger, with which the students – or “scholars” as they are called at U Prep – tackled these questions.

In the event, which DIRECTV hosted in partnership with FOX, third and fourth graders took turns taking the podium to answer math questions. They received points for correct answers and had a “panel” of classmates to turn to should they require assistance.

It was all meant to celebrate the school’s success with ST Math, a blended learning software program that was implemented at U Prep thanks to a 2014 grant from DIRECTV.

And this was a celebration. From the moment the students filed into the gymnasium-turned-gameshow-set, there was an energy in the room unlike anything I remembered from my days in elementary school. The kids spontaneously danced to the pop music mashups blaring through booming speakers (yes, U Prep is cooler than your elementary school). They clapped and chanted responses to the school’s energetic principal. And when math questions were posed to the audience, scholars nearly dislocated their arms, wildly thrusting their hands in the air in the hope that they would be called upon.

“This is a great example of how we are supporting STEM education in our local schools, and celebrating the successes of the students at the end of a long school year,” said Ron Hyland, a VP of Customer Care at DIRECTV who shared some remarks to start the event and is most certainly smarter than a fifth grader. “It’s incredible to see the engagement and energy of the students. They are proud to show what they’ve learned and eager to support each other.”

Ron hits on what was probably the most impressive thing I saw at the event. After the first contestant and eventual champion, fourth-grader Nakina Johnson, answered all five questions correctly, the next scholar found himself in the unfortunate position of being the first to answer incorrectly. The disappointment on his face at the sound of the buzzer was quickly washed away by the cheers and clapping of his peers, who picked him up with their unwavering support. He answered the next four questions correctly.

The kids who competed and cheered, along with their teachers, deserve the credit for what I experienced at this event. But I couldn’t help but take pride in being a small part of it as an employee of a company whose Corporate Citizenship mission is to foster K-12 education.

The impact we are having on young people, naturally, has greater meaning when you see it in person. But it really hits home, when you see Billy Milton Jr., a team leader at the Denver Customer Care Center, in attendance.

Billy’s daughter Shayla, a third grader at U Prep, had been selected as a panelist to help the contestant from her class answer questions. Billy was there to watch.

“It’s amazing to see. I knew this is a great school, but I didn’t know that DIRECTV was a part of that,” said Billy. “I love that the company recognizes the work this school is doing and promotes it.”

University Prep is a tuition-free public charter school that focuses on college the second a child walks through its doors. It is one of three schools in the Denver metro area we sponsor through the ST Math grant.

“Having a corporate sponsor in DIRECTV is critical to our mission of preparing each of our students to go on to college. It’s not an easy thing to do, but DIRECTV believes in that mission and understands that seeing it to reality takes a real investment of time, money, and resources,” said the school’s headmaster David Singer. “What they do to enhance the education we provide our students is incredible.”

Kudos to the Corporate Citizenship team at DIRECTV for creating an incredible event. I left U Prep on Tuesday afternoon impressed by the scholars and teachers, proud of DIRECTV’s work to improve our local community, and eternally thankful that my paycheck doesn’t hinge on my being able to do fifth grade math.

Just for fun, take a shot at the following math problem from the event, and prove to yourself that you’re smarter than a 5th grader:

There are 100 students in the school. On Valentine’s Day, each student gives every other student one card. How many cards are exchanged in total?

—Steve Demedis

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