By Lea Maamari

As part of SolUnesco’s Charitable Giving Program, we announced our first initiative at Seneca Ridge Middle School last May. To continue with that effort, SolUnesco helped coordinate a Professional Development day, held on August 16, with participants from the sponsoring partners and Seneca Ridge staff to further the discussions about the Partners Program. The Partners Program is designed to help middle school students embrace leadership and education as lifelong endeavors.

Partners that are involved in this initiative include:

  • Barakat Orthodontics, whose employees are interested in leading initiatives in career day, STEM for girls, incorporating art, science, and math into programs, and encouraging hands-on involvement.
  • Joe’s Pizzaria, is a local restaurant that is excited to teach students about running a business.
  • Mile High Karate, a martial arts training facility that brings expertise in fitness and self-defense and approaches to dealing with bullying.
  • Sterling Playmakers, a community theatre, offers workshops on playwriting and brings insights into the arts and charitable outreach.

    Moe Abutaa, of Joes Pizzaria, discussing how students can learn more about running a business.

  • SolUnesco, a solar energy company that brings knowledge of sustainability, science, renewable energy, entrepreneurship and government policy.
  • The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), which focuses on technology innovations and entrepreneurship, offers expertise in biosciences, life sciences, biosecurity, and cybersecurity. This partner also would like to promote programs for girls in STEM.
  • The US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation brings expertise in geography, mapping, and GPS technologies.
  • Walmart, together with plan to get involved in STEM, math, and information security programs.

“We are excited about the diversity of businesses that are partnering with us, and the expertise that they bring to the table,” said Nick Cottone, Principal at Seneca Ridge Middle School. “We generated some great ideas and look forward to hashing out details for lessons.”

Three rapid “speed networking” sessions allowed teachers and partners to interact one-on-one to generate ideas and build relationships. A number of key interest areas were discussed:

Brian Fennimore from discussing ideas on cybersecurity with Seneca Ridge teachers.

  1. Health and physical education, including kinesthetic learning opportunities.
  2. STEM topics, including opportunities to enrich learning in math, science, keyboarding, technical education, coding, GIS, and engineering.
  3. World cultures, including languages, family and consumer sciences (FACS) education, and entrepreneurship. Exploring cooking and baking of cultural foods could involve local restaurant partners.
  4. Service opportunities and other ideas to incorporate English-language reading and writing.

“Some of the ideas included teaching students about how to budget for projects,” commented Francis Hodsoll, CEO of SolUnesco. “The geometry and algebra teachers were interested in leveraging SolUnesco’s site evaluations to incorporate geometry, with respect to slope, erosion, wetlands. We look forward to developing a program around these concepts and continuing to expose students to renewable energy opportunities.”

Once feedback is collected from all of the interactions between partners and teachers, participants will develop project and lesson plans for use in the classroom.

Visit the Seneca Ridge Partners website at