Rating the Suburbs 2014: Stellar Schools

Trail Blazers

Caitlyn Tipple and Morgan Rogers learned early that the path to success is rarely straight. As North Ridgeville High School students back in 2009, the cross-country runners needed a better place to train.

With too few sidewalks and a park trail in poor condition, the team often took to the streets for its workouts. It inspired the then 15-year-old Tipple and then 16-year-old Rogers to take action.

"We had a path through the woods behind the high school, but it wasn't well-maintained," says Tipple. So she and Rogers set out to raise $10,000 to jump-start the city's plan of improving South Central Park's quarter-mile pathway.

While the city wanted to redo the existing trail, the girls sought a longer, more extensive path. "We needed a safe place to run," Tipple says. "And the small trail didn't really help."

Within the first year, the duo hosted two 5k runs and held multiple fundraising efforts to meet their goal for the $273,000 project.

Tipple and Rogers' work earned them the Girl Scouts Gold Award. It also inspired North Ridgeville Mayor G. David Gillock to ask the parks and recreation department to apply for a $150,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which it received last October.

"This project really solidified my decision to teach people about making a difference," says Rogers, who is currently at Baldwin Wallace University studying environmental studies.

After nearly five years, the two are seeing the fruits of their labor as the construction of the 10-foot-wide, 1.2-mile-long trail comes to completion later this month, providing access to the 30-acre park for residents at a nearby senior center as well as connecting City Hall, the North Ridgeville Library and the middle school.

"People can get some exercise if they don't have sidewalks where they live," says Tipple, who will spend the summer in Uruguay teaching English to kids through a program at Walsh University. "It feels really great, because I can say I made a difference in my community." 

Course Notes

You've probably never heard of a "Cheese-Rex" sandwich. But seniors in Iron Chef IHS, Independence High School's Iron Chef-based family and consumer science class, will tell you the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and mac 'n' cheese stuffed into a hollowed out pretzel bun drizzled with hot sauce is delicious. The class has hosted a full roster of students eager to experiment in the kitchen since it debuted in 2012. "The kids wanted something fresh, and food competitions are so big right now that I thought it would be fun for them," says Kelsey Whitacre, family and consumer science teacher. Groups of students submit their ingredients lists to her the day before competing, and the next time class meets, it's time to throw down. Students are graded on how they work with a team, use the products, follow directions, clean up and make their individual pitches. "They're taking skills and creativity and putting their own flair on what they know," Whitacre says.

Protective Geared

Nordonia Hills Schools will be the first school district in the nation to use a new GPS-enabled smartphone app that can help if an intruder enters one of its schools.

After a 911 call has been placed, the SpotOnResponse app will show local law enforcement the invader's location in the school based on information faculty members or students input into the app.

Students or faculty can also use it to send officers on the scene text messages about the conditions inside and pictures to help with identifying the suspect.

The app is loaded with a map of the schools showing details of hallways and classrooms. If the officers aren't immediately familiar with its layout, it allows them to navigate to the area that a trespasser is expected to be.

"This is going to remove all the guessing and save minutes, seconds and lives," says Northfield Village police chief Mark Wentz. "It will be like we are able to take the roof off the school and know exactly where to drop officers."

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