Grand Valley High School launches readiness program
PARACHUTE — A new program intended to prepare graduates of Grand Valley High School for the next stage of life officially launched Tuesday.
Students, with the exception of juniors, spent the morning filling out surveys and listening to a panel of representatives from some of the region’s largest employers, including Colorado Mountain College, Grand River Health and Williams.
Tuesday was really just the first step, explained Aron Diaz, whom the high school has hired to act as an internship coordinator. The intention was to help students realize the range of opportunities, especially locally.
The ultimate goal is to use the surveys that students filled out Tuesday to cluster them into groups with similar post-high-school aspirations.
From there, the plan would be to pair the group with a business owner or person working in the field of interest, which would help students determine if the chosen career is the right fit.
The program, or at least the hope of establishing such a program, has been in the works for sometime, said Ryan Frink, principal at Grand Valley.
After adopting Advanced Placement for all — mandatory AP courses for students — as a way to gain continuity in instruction and grading at a high school with high teacher turnover, the attention shifted from assessment to life after high school, Frink said.
School administrators noticed some Grand Valley graduates who decided to continue their education dropped out before obtaining a post-secondary degree. Others went directly into the workforce without a vision of a career.
In talking with local business owners, Frink said he noticed other employers were struggling to retain employees, much like the high school. Rather than recruiting from outside, Frink started thinking, “What if businesses could recruit qualified employees locally?”
Eventually, the school was able to receive funding through the Aspen Community Foundation’s Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative, which also supplied funding to other regional high schools for similar initiatives.
Grand Valley looked at some of the programs in other districts, taking the best aspects from those programs and putting a new twist on them, Frink said.
The school hired Mandie Dovey to act as a career counselor. By the time every student reaches his or her senior year, Frink said they will have three career plans for after they graduate. It could be continued education or a job. The goal is to give them a path to success, he added.
The second component, which was on display Tuesday, is intended to give students real experience prior to graduating. The high school hired Diaz for this aspect because of his connections to local businesses, and because Frink said he wanted to bring in people from outside the education world.
Beyond the opportunity to experience a specific career, students also will have the benefit of establishing relationships locally in a preferred career.
Tuesday’s experience was unique, said Aubrey Salazar, a freshman at Grand Valley who wants to be a pediatric nurse practitioner. Salazar said she has attended a number of schools, but was never exposed to anything geared so heavily to the future.
“It makes you feel like people want you to succeed,” she said.
This is Damien Vigil’s final year at Grand Valley. The senior is feeling torn between continuing his education, with a possible emphasis in geology or a different field, and joining the military. Vigil also would like to be an athletic coach someday.
For students like him, he says, graduation can feel like being put into a bind — one that forces you to make a decision while feeling a level of uncertainty. A program that provides that exposure prior to making such a decision is “a good thing,” Vigil said.
Several of Vigil’s classmates, including those who believe they have a solid understanding of what they would like to do after high school, agree. Samara Call originally thought she wanted to go into hospitality when she started high school.
Now, with a passion to help people and a mother who is a certified nursing assistant, the Grand Valley senior says she is leaning more toward radiology. Even for students like her, having an opportunity to try different things is beneficial, she said, adding that she wished the program existed earlier in her high school experience.
“It would open a lot more eyes,” she said.
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