Roaring Fork Schools capstones program a finalist for state education award

For their capstone project last year, Basalt High School students Gabriela Magana Silva and Carla Soto traveled to El Paso, Texas, to learn more about the situation at the United States-Mexico border. The students participated in an immersion program sponsored by the World Leadership School.

Roaring Fork Schools’ capstones program for seniors, now entering its third year, is a finalist for the 2019 Colorado Succeeds’ Excellence in Education Innovation Award.

The award recognizes what are considered innovative approaches to “developing agile learners prepared for an uncertain future,” according to a press release issued by the district on Thursday.

The capstone program requires all graduates of Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork and Basalt high schools to complete a self-directed project.

“Capstone projects give students the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said in the release.

“For many students, this is the first time they are asked what they’re interested in; what they want to know; and how they’re going to figure it out. This experience is a huge opportunity for students to stretch their learning and build essential skills to succeed after high school.”

Teachers and volunteer community experts help to guide students as they explore a topic of personal interest as their capstone project.

The idea is for students to build “essential, real-world skills for life after high school.”

“When we review students’ final capstone reflections, we see clear themes of improved confidence, time management, organizational and communication skills, perseverance, patience, leadership, increased knowledge and responsibility, service to others, and preparation for college and the future,” said Tom Penzel, the district’s capstone coordinator.

Finalists for the Succeeds Prize are chosen through a selection process involving education, business and philanthropic leaders, according to the release.

“The Excellence in Education finalists stand out as true examples of what Colorado schools are doing to keep pace with the changing world around us,” Colorado Succeeds President Scott Laband said in the announcement.

As a finalist, the Roaring Fork School District will receive $5,000. If selected for the award, the district would receive $15,000 to support the program.

Winners are to be announced at a live event on Sept. 19 in Denver.

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