Students at AITE must study at least one foreign language.
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About 49% of the students are white and the rest are mostly African-American and Hispanic. About 65% of the students are boys, but Gross is trying to change that by targeting girls in recruitment efforts. He said it helps to bring along female students, but many teenage girls are reluctant to leave their social circles at other schools.
"I Don't Feel Intimidated"
Nadya Ali, a 17-year-old AITE student who said science is probably her strongest subject, believes that fewer women are drawn to math and sciences because the fields are dominated by men.
"Last year I had to write an essay about that," she said. "I don't feel intimidated, but I think [some girls are] because women have been suppressed for so many years."
Yu Xiao Zhao, a senior, disagreed.
"I think it's because they're less interested in those subjects," he said, beginning a debate that began with giggles and ended with students agreeing that a teacher has to get students involved and make lessons fun for everyone.
Students easily rattle off several names when asked which teachers make their classes most fun. And, their conversations move seamlessly across a variety of topics that include their own schedules, college applications, plans to travel abroad, and the plight of refugees in Darfur.
During the dot-com boom, the high school aimed to prepare students for technology careers in Stamford, but Gross altered the curriculum to reflect globalization and increased competition. The school maintains a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but students must also take four years of English, math, social studies, science, and a choice of French, Spanish, Latin, Mandarin, Russian, or Arabic.
Gross said that when American students visit foreign countries, a disadvantage is evident as they encounter teens who speak three or four languages.
The school's architect, Joseph Fuller, Jr., A.I.A., EVP of Fuller D'Angelo, said that a Chinese delegation from Stamford's sister city recently visited and AITE students greeted them in Mandarin.
"They were floored," he said. "It was really special."
Gross said that he tries to use the students' interest in technology to encourage them to learn about current events and connect with other children from around the world. Half the courses rely on online textbooks and students who miss classes can check lessons and homework assignments on their teachers' Web pages.
"These children now and, in future generations, are going to be digital masters," he said.