Best in Class: Western School of Science and Technology

The Western School of Science and Technology provides a variety of high-quality opportunities for students, setting them on the path to success and encouraging them to embrace the community in which they live.  

“Western School of Science and Technology is a tuition-free public charter school serving the Maryvale community. We opened in 2014 with the explicit goal of being the first A-rated public high school here in Maryvale, which is a fantastic neighborhood in West Phoenix,” Peter Boyle, Western School of Science and Technology (WSST) founding director, said.

Since WSST opened, it has grown from 250 students in seventh grade through ninth grade to 550 students in seventh grade through twelfth grade.

“Our school looks exactly like our neighborhood. Here in the heart of Maryvale, almost all of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino, which is very similar to Maryvale broadly. Many of our students speak a language other than English at home,” Boyle said.

He added that almost 95 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, which is an indicator of family poverty.

Boyle explained that before WSST opened its doors, parents and families in the Maryvale community had certain expectations of college preparatory high school.

The Maryvale community wanted a school that had a strong focus on academics.

“So, we offer AP courses in many different disciplines. We have dual-enrollment programs, internships, career and technical education programs,” Boyle said. “All of which very strongly prepare students for the academic rigors of college.”

The families were also interested in a curriculum that includes STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

“[Parents] know as we do, and as research tells us, that’s where our economy is heading. Not just here in Arizona but nationwide and globally, as well,” Boyle said. “And so, that is a strong part of our program that’s unique for this community and what we’re looking for in this community.”

The families also saw a need for a small school environment.

“We will never be larger than 600 students, we know every student by name and that’s important,” Boyle said. “And, that community feel really makes a difference.”

WSST works to ensure its students stay connected with their unique community while learning problem-solving skills.

“We know that many of them want to give back to this neighborhood that means so much to them. It’s where they’ve grown up, it’s where their families are, it’s where their community support system is,” Boyle explained.

The students must complete a certain amount of community service hours in order to graduate.

Junior and senior students also have the opportunity to get involved with a social entrepreneurship program that encourages the students to tackle an issue in their community using problem-solving skills.  

Boyle explained that students will grow when they are in a school environment that fits with their needs.

“One of the great things about Arizona is our robust school choice landscape. And so, many of our students and their families have siblings who attend other great schools here in West Phoenix,” Boyle said. “And, we’re really excited by that because every student truly is different.”

He added, “And, we have found that students who are looking for that project and problem-based academic environment, students who are looking for a supported pathway to college, those are the students who are really successful in our program.”

Sierra Ciaramella

Nick Serpa

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