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Alum Uses E-magination to Help Pupils

06/28/06
Running in the Boston Marathon allows a teacher to raise money for laptops as part of his after-school program aimed at college bound students.
By Norm Schneider
Oliver and Zipporah Sicat after Oliver completed the Boston Marathon.

When Oliver Sicat, a 2001 graduate of the USC Rossier School of Education, completed the Boston Marathon in April, it was part of a much larger effort.

He finished the marathon in four hours, 24 minutes and 34 seconds 30 minutes faster than his goal. But more important, Sicat ran the marathon to kick off a campaign to raise $20,000 for laptops for 20 college bound “Emagine” students.

Sicat, until recently a mathematics teacher at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Boston, ran the marathon to provide 20 of his graduating seniors with the laptop computers to “eliminate the technology divide and ensure a successful transition to college” next year.

His marathon kicked off a Friends of Emagine Fundraiser Campaign to attract donations.

Sicat is the founder/director of Emagine, an innovative after-school program that began at Madison Park in 2002 as a partnership between teachers in the Boston Public Schools and after-school researchers and practitioners at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The program has helped prepare students for college acceptance and success since their freshman year of high school. This spring, four years later, 20 participants graduated and have been accepted to college.

“These students believed in Emagine’s mission for four years, and their hard work has paid off,” Sicat said. “I wanted to give these graduates a gift that will help them succeed in college and congratulate them for dedicating themselves to Emagine. I hope running the marathon helped raise awareness that students at any school can succeed if you build relationships with them and hold them to high standards.

“I truly believe that my success is a result of my preparation in education at USC,” he added. “I brag about USC’s program all over the East Coast.”

Emagine focuses on “Habits of Successful Behavior,” a concept of intelligence, especially as it pertains to preparing students to excel in the post-secondary environment.

Drawn in large part from Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick’s “Habits of Mind” (2000) and Gene Bedley’s www.ethicsusa.com, the concept grew out of the belief that to succeed in the post-secondary environment, students must develop the capacity and the will to apply their intelligence creatively and wisely, in ways that reflect their genuine beliefs.

Learning and practicing these habits in learning settings and in everyday life involves drawing upon intellectual, moral and emotional resources to inform choices and guide actions.

Sicat has been teaching in the Boston Public Schools for four years. He had organized after-school programs in Los Angeles and Orange County before launching Emagine in Boston while working on his master’s degree.

This year he was named Teacher of the Year in the Boston Public Schools (the ceremony will be held June 12). Recently he accepted a position as the founding principal for a charter school in Chicago. He will spend a year creating the school before it officially opens in the fall of 2007.

The work of Sicat whose wife, Zipporah, graduated from USC in 2002 with a business degree has garnered national attention. The Boston Herald, K-12 Blueprint (E-Newsletter), Fox 25 television in Boston and WCVB television in Boston have featured Sicat. People Magazine also has covered his story. More information about Emagine is available at http://www.emagine.us.