Q&A With BELIEVE | Circle City High School Freshman Will Bivens
The Mind Trust believes the perspectives of those most affected by education change should be valued and allowed to shape education innovation and transformation. No one is more affected than students who attend schools we have helped launch and continue to support. In light of that, The Mind Trust’s Students on the Mind series highlights the experiences and viewpoints of high school students across center township.
Will Bivens, a freshman at BELIEVE | Circle City, sat down with us for a Q&A to share about why he chose to attend BELIEVE, his recent participation in advocacy efforts at the statehouse in response to the divisive concepts bill, what drives his passion for science, and his plans for the future.
Q: Why did you choose to attend high school at BELIEVE | Circle City?
A: I heard about BELIEVE from one of my mentors in my Soapbox Derby travel team. I was looking for high schools, specifically somewhere that offered dual-enrollment courses, and was originally going to go to Ben Davis High School. But I didn’t want to go to a big school with 1,500 kids and I had to make a mature decision like, “I can’t just go where my friends are going, that I’ve been with since elementary.” I had to pivot and make a more thought-out decision to go somewhere that I would get one-on-one academic attention. I had my future in mind when I chose BELIEVE. The structure at BELIEVE has already pushed me and I’m excelling.
Q: What has your experience been like at BELIEVE so far?
A: BELIEVE is not a traditional high school experience. The school has changed me and the way I think about things. It is set up to challenge me to earn privileges and the school prepares me to take responsibility in so many ways. And it’s carrying over into my life outside of the classroom.
What I like so far about the freedom BELIEVE offers students are the perks we can earn. On Friday, there’s a thing we call “Lit Lunch” for students who are on track and doing what they are supposed to. For instance, two weeks ago we had soul food for lunch, last week was ice cream sundaes.Those little incentives are how the school encourages us to keep it up or recognizes the good work we are doing.
Q: Describe your participation in BELIEVE’s advocacy efforts at the state house this spring.
A: As I student, there were a lot of emotions. When they first brought up the bill that could affect me and what I learn for these next four plus years and my younger sister who is coming up in the education system, I wasn’t okay with that. I took it personally. I was instantly like, “I want to say something, I want to speak.”
My entire school went to the statehouse. We didn’t get a chance to speak publicly on the bill but we were really fighting against it. I only got to read my speech to a representative and not on the stand because there were too many people in front us. Even so, I felt I could say I fought for a good cause. I’m definitely ready to do it again. After visiting the statehouse, I found a drive to want to push for what I think is right. I’ve become more confident and vocal because of that experience.
Q: What did you want to communicate through your prepared speech to the legislature?
A: I was going to touch on the fact that when you cut history out, the lack of knowledge among the younger generations is going to make history repeat itself. I want to know the facts. I feel like if you cut that out, you’ll never know the full truth about history.
Q: What was it like to participate in that advocacy effort alongside the rest of your classmates?
A: Literally my entire school was there. The building is big but we were on the fourth floor and seating was limited. When I got to speak to the representative, I shared that if this bill wasn’t of concern to us, we wouldn’t be here representing our school fighting against it. To get that firsthand experience and know that you were involved in something positive means something, I think.
Q: How do you hope the writers of that legislation have changed their perspective after seeing such opposition to the bill?
A: I hope they reconsider how they think. On a logical level, I would ask, “Do they lack common sense? Is there a lack of respect for students like me?” When you’re in a position to write those bills and make these decisions, you need to consider every aspect. I feel like other people weren’t considered.
Q: What are you involved in outside of school?
A: I’m an Eagle Scout and being in Scouts has taught me a lot and helped cultivate me and get me to where I am today. They offer real-world teaching. I’ve learned welding and soldering, personal management, and finance. We’re learning about stocks and bonds in a financial literacy course through Scouts right now.
Soapbox Derby is another thing I’m involved in that ties in to my passion for chemistry and physics. It’s basically gravity racing. I’ve been doing it since elementary school. Science is my thing so I already knew about Newton’s laws before doing Soapbox Derby. So I was thinking, “I can make this car as smooth as possible, no edges, I can make it light, balance the weight in the correct ways, get low, tuck my body down, make it perfect to change my potential energy to kinetic energy, not lose as much thermal energy.” Essentially, how can I be the best? I used science to my advantage and I was good at it and I excelled in it. It taught me about engineering, how to use tools, work with my hands, woodworking, etc. It’s opened doors and been really cool. One of my cars is named “The Blur”, which I got from Little Rascals. I took it to the National Championships in Akron, Ohio, and got seventh place in the entire country and got a big trophy.
Q: Where does your passion for science come from?
A: PBS kids. Odd Squad would be on the tv in the morning before my mom took me to school. There would be machinery and different mechanics going on in the video and my mom would explain it more. Now growing up I can define those things better, like, “This is happening because of this chain reaction which causes this to happen.” Knowing there is more to understand and more behind things always drives me to learn.
Q: What are some of your goals for the future and why is it important for you to access dual-credit opportunities in high school?
A: If everything goes to plan, I’ll graduate high school with my associate’s degree and technical honors. I’ll go to college for four years and get a master’s. My mom wants me to go for six years and get a PHD but I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I want to major in a field related to psychology, business, or technology.
My older sister went to Ben Davis High School and was enrolled in early college classes and she only had to do three and a half years in college and is now working in a nice corporate job in Bloomington. I’ve seen where my sister is at and I know what is possible for me. Just a high school diploma is not enough to get me the type of lifestyle I want. So I’ve got to get an associate’s degree now and prioritize achieving a master’s degree. Then it’s work, save, and enjoy life.
Q: What do you appreciate most about Principal Kimberly Neal’s leadership?
A: Our school is very diverse. It is 95% Black and Brown students who go here. Ms. Neal, she’s from St. Louis, a lady of color, very cultured. She connects with us on a cultural level while retaining her professionalism. She’s a great leader. The women who run this school, to have put together such a structured system, there was definitely some intellectual power to be able to put something up as sophisticated as this. It is so different from other high schools in Indianapolis. You’re going to see BELIEVE students excelling.
Q: Who is an important mentor for you?
A: My aunt. She is a senior in college at Marian University, studying psychology, graduating with her master’s this year. I hang out with her periodically. When things are stressful for me, she is able to talk with me and connect and remind me that difficulties are a part of life. She told me, “Life isn’t going to adapt to you. You have to adapt to it.” I didn’t want to take those words at first. But over time I learned how to adapt.
There are two ways things can go for somebody who looks like me. Either I can do well in the classroom and someday make it out of this system or I become another statistic. Being at BELIEVE, I already feel like I’m in a position where I can bring other people up and steer them in the right direction with me so that we don’t become those statistics.
Will is a great student! He works well with others and motivates those around him. He is positive, helpful, and friendly to all he meets. Will is a friend to all and a joy here at BELIEVE Circle City High School.Ms. Cover, Will’s Village Leader at BELIEVE Circle City High School
About BELIEVE | Circle City
BELIEVE | Circle City is a public college and career preparatory high school dedicated to the achievement of students in the Indianapolis area. Their mission is to develop students into leaders through a community that fosters agency, autonomy, and acceleration to provide a foundation for future independence and success. The school boasts a 12:1 student to teacher ratio and a 94% parent satisfaction rate. Twenty-six percent of their students participate in dual enrollment courses at Ivy Tech Community College. BELIEVE | Circle City was founded by Kimberly Neal, an Innovation School Fellowship alumna.
About The Mind Trust
The Mind Trust is an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit that works to build a system of schools that gives every student, no exceptions, access to a high-quality education. The Mind Trust does this by building a supportive environment for schools through policy and community engagement, empowering talented, diverse educators to launch new schools, and providing existing schools with the support they need to hire world-class talent and achieve excellence. Since 2006, The Mind Trust has supported the launch of 49 schools, 15 education nonprofit organizations, and has helped place more than 1,800 teachers and school leaders in Indianapolis classrooms.