YHS Calculus Fundraiser

My name is Mike Davis and I’m a mathematics teacher at Yucaipa High School.  Each year for the past 20+ years, It has been my true pleasure to be the AP Calculus teacher at YHS and this year, for the first time in those 20+ years, I’m sharing that responsibility with one of my former students, Mr. Vince Petta.  I ask a lot of my students (as I’m sure does Mr. Petta). I challenge them with highly complex problems and concepts. I demand that they work hard. I insist that they give their very best every day. We never watch movies in my class and we certainly never have pizza parties.  My students are never offered the opportunity to receive extra credit. I make them earn their high grades, which absolutely do not come easily. My wonderful students do everything I ask of them and they seldom complain, in fact it is far more common that they offer me expressions of appreciation for helping them to achieve their best.

It is in part because of their remarkable diligence, dedication and determination that, at the end of each school year, after they have pushed themselves to their limit and given all that they have, I like to treat them to one day of celebration.

Roughly one hundred seventy students arrive at YHS early in the day, climb aboard one of four busses, and skamper down the crowded freeways of Southern California to our destination, Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia CA.  While enroute, the students enjoy a movie on one of the overhead screens (perhaps Moana, Despicable Me, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or perhaps one of the other student favorites), and with each passing moment, student excitement and anticipation builds as we move ever closer to our ultimate destination.  Some of the students have never before visited Magic Mountain and are eager to experience this exhilarating park for the first time in their lives while others fight their anxiety over the thrill rides that await them. All of them are giddy with excitement and smiles populate their young faces as they unload the busses and make their way to the main gate at the front of the park.

After roughly eight hours of non-stop heart pounding, jaw dropping, mind blowing twists, turns, drops, and screams, the now disheveled students climb aboard the bus to make their way to our next destination – In-n-Out.  Upon arriving at the student favorite fast food palace, students once again unload with newfound energy and restored ear to ear grins. To order their food, they endure an unimaginable line that wraps itself from the front counter, to the back of the restaurant, across the back and down the other side, out the door, and down the sidewalk, all the while smiling and trying to outdo one another with stories about the day, the rides, and the experiences they just shared.  Every table inside and outside the In-n-Out are entirely populated with YHS students and a crowd begins to gather around one or two students who try to break the record for the “biggest burger” ever eaten on the annual trip (the current record is truly unbelievable). At 7pm all students gather in front of a palm tree on the premises for the annual picture (my classroom is adorned with pictures from previous years) and after multiple pics with multiple cameras, the students once again climb aboard the bus to make the long trip home.

This annual trip has become a YHS tradition shared by literally thousands of former YHS AP Calculus students and from what I can tell, it has become one of the year’s most memorable events (not the original intent but the kids truly love this trip).  I could easily fill pages and pages of stories from previous trips.

There are those who might unwittingly believe that this trip is nothing more than a boondoggle with no redeeming academic benefits.  They would be mistaken. These students have spent countless hours in class and at home learning the concepts, performing the computations, solving the problems, and reading about theoretical applications of Calculus in their very thick, very heavy and very confusing textbook.  Much of it … most of it, has been highly abstract and theoretical in nature. Whether they knew it or not … whether they intended for it to happen or not, these students developed a true understanding of Calculus and while they stand in the lines at Magic Mountain, many of them will be discussing the very calculus concepts they learned over the course of the year as those concepts apply to the rides at the park.  Whether they choose to discuss them or not, virtually every one of these students will be pondering those concepts over the entire course of the day. It is very cool to watch the students engage in the analysis of the trains and the tracks upon which they ride, how quickly the trains accelerate, how quickly they decelerate. They try to image what kind of force is needed to cause these things to happen and what kind of mechanical systems can be used to achieve them (like the linear synchronous motors that line the tracks on the Superman Ride).  The most advanced students will be thinking about vectors, horizontal and vertical components of velocity, acceleration and force. They will be thinking about the energy transferred to the trains in order to propel the riders to the heights and speeds achieved during the rides. Many of the students will be viewing the world with new eyes, a new perspective, and new curiosity for the first time. I’d like you to be a part of something this cool … which brings me to my point.

Your help is needed.  Soon, these young people will enter the workforce.  Some of them will do so after graduation from high school, and others (perhaps most) after accumulating massive debt and graduating from college.  Once they have entered the workforce and once they become gainfully employed, it will become their turn to give back … and they will. But right now, they simply don’t have the means and they simply need your help.  Please consider that these students spend hours and hours each night on their school work (my class alone demands approximately two hours of their time every school day). Perhaps think of this as a small reward for their considerable efforts.  If I may be so bold, when you give, please be as generous as you are able and know that your gift will provide more than 170 students with an experience they will talk about for weeks and memories they will enjoy for a lifetime.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration and your kind donation is sincerely appreciated.


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Mike Davis 
Yucaipa, CA
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