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Programs Build Cross-Functional Skills and Interpersonal Know-How

by Shannon T. Zarb  |   Back to Table of Contents

Two innovative Upper School programs offered for the first time this year — Genius Lab and Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt Academy, both overseen by Ravenscroft IT specialist Chris Michael — are equipping students with both real-world problem-solving skills for the industries in which they’ll one day work and the leadership competencies necessary to put them into successful practice.


Genius Lab I and II

With more than 2,000 endpoints or network-attached devices at Ravenscroft, the help-desk team staffed by students enrolled in Genius Lab courses works hard to get up to speed with the many skills they need to get the job done.

“It takes four to six weeks of training to get students on board with increased access,” Michael said. “At first they’re just tagalongs with very guided movements. Eventually, they’re diagnosing problems and speaking with division heads.”

The program, modeled after the hugely popular Genius Bar in Apple stores, fosters the technical expertise needed for IT specialists, but, Michael noted, it’s often the skills commonly described as “soft” that prove invaluable. With each service call, students refine their email etiquette, customer service approach and communication techniques.

“One of the first skills we teach is how to bring someone’s guard down,” Michael said. “No one calls on us when they’re happy.”

The program also represents a paradigm shift: most students aren’t used to talking to teachers on a professional level, and many teachers aren’t used to their students being the experts.

“It’s an adjustment for us all,” Michael said with a laugh.

But the adjustments are paying off. As Sarah Loyola, director of educational technology,  explained, “Faculty members have said what’s most impressive about Genius Lab students is their dedication to customer service. Chris believes in the importance of politeness and positivity and has put a big focus on teaching students how to interact with adults.

“[Upper School registrar] Debbie Pirotte recently commented on how professional Genius Lab students are,” she added. “You think they need your help, and it turns out they’re there to help you!”

Infograhic: 2,000 Networks Connected Devices, 4-6 Weeks of student training for IT role, more than 24 hours to resolve ticket


In this screencast, Genius Lab II student Dani Rowe ’19 talks faculty and staff through troubleshooting when their Internet connectivity is poor.

Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt Academy

“Lean Six Sigma” might not be a household name, but its focus on efficiency and waste reduction is more relevant than ever in an increasingly resource-strapped world.

Ravenscroft is one of only two local high schools participating in the pilot program for Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt Academy, a business model and certification course offered by N.C. State’s College of Textiles. The university bills it as “a two-staged approach which drives continual improvement and strives towards greater than 99% efficiency, creating enhanced customer satisfaction and less wasted resources.”

If it sounds intense, it is. But the four Ravenscroft students who earned their Junior Green Belts in the course leaned on competencies emphasized in Lead From Here, Ravenscroft’s citizen leadership curriculum.

“Together we were able to overcome the obstacles we faced and bring the lessons we learned into practice inside and outside of the classroom,” Katie Shearin ’19 said. “The training gave me the opportunity to put my leadership and teamwork skills to the test.”

Practitioners of Lean Six Sigma aim to solve some of manufacturing’s biggest concerns. The Ravenscroft cohort focused on an efficiency challenge that hits home daily for them and their classmates: lunchtime.

“Our students conducted a process-improvement project on the Dining Hall’s traffic flow. Students monitored flow patterns, checkout times and how long it took patrons to get to their tables,” Michael said. “Then they made recommendations, added signage and redirected traffic — each reducing checkout times. Small improvements can have a big impact when we’re talking about a forty-minute lunch period!”



In this presentation, Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt Academy students (Matthew Lang ’19, Emmanuel Petrov ’19, Adam Seidenfrau ’19 and Katie Shearin ’19) review their efficiency study on wait times during lunch at Ravenscroft’s Dining Hall.