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Meet Your Neighbor: Chris Bezsylko

It’s safe to say that no parent would intentionally put their child in front of a shark…or would they?  Parents and teachers alike were thrilled to let their 5th graders from Henderson International School present to a group of judges affectionately known as the “Shark Tank” as part of a fundraising activity to decrease poverty and combat childhood diseases in the community.  Their efforts were in conjunction with a national organization called Change for Change, under the direction of 89052 resident Chris Bezsylko, who happens to be both their middle school principal and preschool through eighth grade curriculum director.  The organization’s mission is to help empower young adults to create big changes.  In this case, students created real-life business concepts designed to fight poverty and disease and presented them to the “tank” of investors for a possible total of $750, which was invested in the winning businesses as start-up capital.

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By: Callie Thomas

Bezsylko began his education career as a teacher in inner city Philadelphia and later left to become a full-time educational consultant.  Although he spent four years traveling across the country and working with many educators, he missed being part of a school community and seeing his students grow.  He went back to teaching and earned a Master of Arts in private school leadership through the Klingenstein Center Teachers College at Columbia University.  He began his career as an administrator and later moved to Las Vegas. His mission for Henderson International School is not a common one.  Their goal is to develop and nurture life-long learners who are prepared to work and support others, making service the primary purpose of education. Bezsylko talks about the school’s efforts with a variety of charitable organizations, his personal experiences through their support of Change for Change and unplugging after a busy day.

Tell us about the mission of the Henderson International Schools.

“Henderson International School is dedicated to nurturing great learners and responsible global citizens. The idea of community service is not novel, however, it is not common to make service a primary purpose of education. This resonates with who I am as an individual, as a father and as an educator.  I believe that as a community of learners, schools have a responsibility to engage and be active members of a community.”

How was the school involved with Change for Change?

“This is the first year that Henderson International School has participated in the initiative.  Our fifth graders engaged in a year-long study of poverty where they met with guest speakers, exchanged research and opinions with peers at our Meritas sister schools, and participated in a variety of community-service projects.  The project challenges our students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-life issue.”

How does the “Change Project” work?

“Students worked as individuals or in small groups to turn a modest financial investment into greater change.  They created one-page business proposals, met with project coaches and finally pitched their proposals to a panel of judges called the “Shark Tank.”  The judges awarded start-up funds to viablestudent projects that aid local, national and global causesand organizations.”

Any experiences you’d like to share?

“I spoke with a parent who witnessed her son’s change over the course of the Change for Change project.  She said he thinks of others and wants to find more ways to help.  I’ve also heard from students who thought they were going to hate working on the project but ended up loving it.”

 What other organizations does the school support?

“We’ve partnered with the American Heart Association’s Hoops for Heart and Jump Rope for Heart, the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree holiday project and the Las Vegas Rescue Mission’s Holiday Food Drive.”

What are you most proud to have accomplished?

“My wife Marta and I have two boys, Max and Luca, who are by far my greatest accomplishments, but fatherhood is a work in progress that I cannot consider something I have accomplished just yet.”

How do you de-stress after a busy day?

“A bicycle ride home and cooking for my family.”  

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