James (Seung Gyu) Lee has made rapid personal and academic progress in the past five years.
In 2012, Lee traveled to the United States from his native South Korea in search of a new life and better opportunities. He didn't speak English, and he carried little in the way of personal contacts or cultural fluency.
"At first, I was just scared to talk to people," said Lee, a senior at Cherokee Trail High School who now speaks almost flawless English. "I couldn't understand others, I didn't know how to speak."
Lee overcame his linguistic barriers thanks to the support of a dedicated foster family and thanks to his own disciplined approach to his studies. Nowhere is Lee's progress more impressive than in his schoolwork at Cherokee Trail. Lee is enrolled in the school's International Baccalaureate program, a rigorous curriculum that demands a good deal of academic research and writing from its students. For Lee and for hundreds of other students in the Cherry Creek School District, a specific set of research resources have made a critical difference in offering preparation for college-level learning.
"I thought it'd be good to challenge myself with IB, and look for better college preparation and education," Lee said.
This year, Lee undertook a large-scale research project for the IB program that combined sociology, anthropology and history. His research paper examining intergenerational conflicts between collectivism and individualism in modern South Korea demanded a sophisticated and refined level of research skills. Happily, the research resources available through Cherokee Trail and the wider Cherry Creek School District library network proved an invaluable tool for finding the proper materials.
He drew on a combination of current data from South Korean news websites and scholarly articles from EBSCO, a collection of academic databases available to middle and high school students in CCSD. EBSCO is a tool in use at thousands of libraries, universities and colleges across the globe – in CCSD, it's a trusted resource for students and teachers looking for vetted content from the best and well-reputed scholarly and professional sources.
For Lee, the database served as a key part of writing a college-level assignment.
"In EBSCO, I learned a lot about the differences between collectivism and individualism. How did collectivism spread? How did individualism spread? I was able to find details about religion and technology," Lee said. "It helped me a lot … I feel like I know how to research now."
"I tried to use search engines, but the items that popped up didn't have any author names, so it was hard to trust those results. I wasn't sure if my teacher would like that ... EBSCO gives you the citation for your bibliography."
Cherokee Trail High School Junior Sarah Thomson
Other students at Cherokee Trail have translated those research skills into college credit before they receive their high school diploma. Sarah Thomson, a junior at CT, will enter her senior year with college credit from a concurrent enrollment U.S. history class that saw her utilizing college-level research skills for extended papers that covered topics like the Salem Witch Trials in the 18th century and the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Thomson used a combination of online resources and reference materials from the library for her projects, and she said learning to navigate the sources was a valuable part of the process. Specifically, she accessed vetted, university-level academic journals and articles through EBSCO and detailed reference books from the library.
Just like Lee, she found a much more helpful set of resources than general search engines like Google.
"I tried to use search engines, but the items that popped up didn't have any author names, so it was hard to trust those results," she said. "I wasn't sure if my teacher would like that," she added with a laugh. "EBSCO gives you the citation for your bibliography."
Long after these students move on from the specific topic of their research projects, these skills will serve them in the next phase of their academic careers. Though she still has another year before graduation, Thomson is already looking to take her first steps on a college career that will eventually lead her to medical school. Lee will head to the University of Wyoming next year to study engineering, and he feels like the academic skills he learned in the IB program will make the transition from high school to college easier.
Just as learning a new culture and a new language offered plenty of challenges, the route to academic literacy was far from easy.
"It was hard, but it was worth it," Lee said.
Read more about CCSD libraries:
High School Libraries Offer Students Skills for the Future
CMS and SHHS libraries earn “highly effective” designation; CCHS library coordinator named Librarian of the Year
Eaglecrest Library is national award-winner
District Library offers variety of resources