BW’s Russell McMurry Discus Award finalist Program
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
Big Walnut High School senior Russell McMurry has been recognized as a 2011-12 Discus Award winner for his achievements in the areas of Faith, Technology and Athletics, and is now eligible for 2011-12 Discus Awards scholarships.
The Discus Awards is a national program that provides recognition and scholarship opportunities to all-around high school students who excel in three of 10 key attributes.
What sets McMurry apart at Big Walnut High School is his participation in the school’s Credit-Flex Program.
Credit-Flex allows students to tailor their education to their personal interests, explained Big Walnut High School principal Steve Fujii. While students still take all core courses required for graduation, using Credit-Flex those same students can earn elective credits in a non-traditional setting.
“Credit-Flex requires some kind of unique circumstance for the student,” Fujii said. “It’s for students who are passionate about something, or have a unique opportunity offered to them, or had an atypical experience before they attended Big Walnut and can use those experiences to advance their education.”
In McMurry’s case, he’s passionate about technology, and plans to attend Ohio Northern University where he will study Computer Science.
After completing his required courses for the day, McMurry goes to Big Walnut Middle School and checks in with Wayne Thompson, the district’s Director of Technology. Thompson then assigns technology tasks to McMurry that become real world, hands-on learning experiences.
“I recently set up some laptops at the middle school as a computer lab, and I’m constantly in the tech room organizing — tedious but necessary work,” McMurry said. “Sometimes I troubleshoot for a teacher or install programs.”
McMurry works under Thompson for one or two hours each day, and will earn one-half of an elective credit for his efforts. On days when there’s nothing to do he logs on to the Atomic Learning educational website and works with tech-related tutorials and walk-through guides.
“Credit-Flex has opened my eyes,” McMurry said. “Schools don’t have unlimited resources. When you run out of classes in your senior year and you’re going into college, through Credit-Flex you get to interact with people doing what you want to study. Working with Wayne Thompson and Dave Maxwell helps me understand their culture and language.”
Fujii said Credit-Flex adds legitimacy to some student’s experiences by allowing them to earn formal credit while doing something they’re passionate about.
“If only a few students are interested in pursuing a particular field of study, it would not be cost-effective to provide these types of learning experiences in a classroom,” Fujii said. “For students in the arts, agriculture, music and science — any student who has any extra ordinary opportunity presented to them — it’s an opportunity to take a look at what they want to do.”
Fujii said Big Walnut High School has always had some form of flexible credit system in the form of independent studies and post secondary educational opportunities; but over a dozen students at the high school are currently involved in the more formal Credit-Flex program.
Fujii noted that Credit-Flex has a formal application process that the student works through with his or her high school guidance counselor, students don’t just walk in and say they want to do Credit-Flex; but for qualified students it offers opportunities for service learning and mentorship.
McMurry added that any student who has an interest in the high school’s Credit-Flex Program and a valid opportunity has virtually nothing to lose by doing it; that it’s something that can only be beneficial.
“Even if you don’t like the work, you find out about it before you invest your college career in it,” McMurry added. “And if you do like the work, it gets you prepared for college and the work world.”
Russell McMurry is a member of the Big Walnut High School varsity tennis team, is president of the Sunbury United Methodist Church Youth Group, and the District Youth Council president. He also works at The Lakes Country Club.