Solo computer time and group projects combine for winning formula at Carpe Diem Aiken

CINCINNATI – Bad grades and incompletions forced Rio Turner to leave Walnut Hills High School and seek his academic fortunes elsewhere.

He chose Carpe Diem Aiken, a brand new charter school in College Hill sponsored by Cincinnati Public Schools.

He liked that Aiken was different, a hybrid that combines spending half the day working independently on a computer with half the day in classrooms working on group projects.

By March, when he sat down with WCPO, Turner said he was caught up on all of his delinquent credits and earning high grades. In fact, he can transfer in the fall back to Walnut Hills, the highly acclaimed college preparatory high school, if he chooses.

"Walnut was more like everybody moves at the same pace. Here, everybody gets ahead and nobody gets left behind," he said. "I'm really leaning toward staying here. I like the structure."

Turner spoke during a science workshop, designing a working model airplane in coordination with GE engineers, who volunteer there twice a month.

"This is a unique opportunity for us to reach high-potential kids," said Erin Schilling, a GE engineer.

That's our hope in general to get them excited. We want kids to get the spark and maintain the spark," added Alisha Kalb, GE Aviation engineer.

Turner's imagination has been sparked. "I want to be a scientist," he said, working in bioengineering to grow new limbs on animal and reversing memory loss.

His turnaround story is the kind that Carpe Diem hopes to replicate many times over as administrators tweak the model to the needs of the 7-12th grade students it is serving. It shares a brand new building with Aiken New Tech, which is a CPS magnet school 7-12th graders.

Insiders can read about the school's new approach to teaching.

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