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"I like going to school and I'm upset when we have days off," he said.
The 16-year-old spends his days learning in classrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and Internet access at nearly every desk. Like many other students who spend their days at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE) in Stamford, Conn., he doesn't think twice about going the extra mile to attend the college preparatory magnet high school.
"I love the majority of the teachers," Sodaro said during a recent interview. "I love my friends. That's the best part, and, overall, it's a fun place to be."
Sodaro, his friends, his teachers, and his school are among people and schools defying studies that increasingly show U.S. students lag behind their peers in other countries in science, technology, engineering, and math. They are interested in current affairs, international politics, travel, math, science, and technology, and much of the credit is due to the school's architects and administrators.
AITE isn't like other schools.
It's not built of cinderblocks painted in drab, institutional colors, and it's not lit by buzzing fluorescent lights.
Its hallways and 40 classrooms fill with natural daylight. Every student gets a school-issued laptop and they can connect to the Internet with Wi-Fi signals in an outdoor amphitheater designed like a lecture hall. Parents pay $75 to insure and maintain the HP swivel-design tablet laptops, which encourage students to retain penmanship and come installed with LoJack theft protection software.
Principal Paul Gross said the design of the building matches the spirit and philosophy of the school. The Bronx native is determined to provide students with an education that emphasizes thinking critically, problem-solving, mastering technology, becoming bi- or multi-lingual, and demonstrating social accountability.
Classes are 88 minutes long. Six students interviewed recently said they have no trouble focusing on their lessons for the duration. Teachers with professional backgrounds in the subjects that they teach demonstrate creative methods -- like tossing a rock at a classroom door -- to grab and keep students' attention.
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