Yampah High among finalists for $10M grant | PostIndependent.com

Yampah High among finalists for $10M grant

Yampah Mountain High School Junior Tibet Boyer is filmed in downtown Glenwood Springs July 8 for an upcoming documentary by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch, following Yampah and other schools across the nation in their effort to win a $10 million XQ Super School grant.

The odds of Yampah Mountain High School winning one of five $10 million XQ Super School Project grants to develop its ideas for reforming high school education just got a lot better.

Representatives for the alternative high school in Glenwood Springs were informed Wednesday by XQ Institute CEO Russlyn Ali that the school was selected from among 348 semi-finalists to move on to the final round of grant consideration.

The five grant winners are to be informed Aug. 4. Each winning school will receive $2 million per year for the next five years to develop its plan.

Yampah Super School team coordinators Altai Chuluun and Michael Lowe said they are not sure how many finalists there are, but believe it is 50 or fewer. Project XQ officials could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Regardless, both Chuluun and Lowe said it's a testament to the work Yampah is doing and is now proposing to share with other area high schools, as well as across Colorado and nationally.

"It really gives validation to our efforts and our vision," said Chuluun, who sits on Yampah's advisory committee. "There are a lot of moving parts to this, but it's a real stepping stone to the end game of reforming education.

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"This would really give us a national platform on how to be an exemplary school," he added.

The XQ Super Schools grants are being financed by Apple computers co-founder Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell. It is aimed at reshaping education in America's high schools.

Yampah's proposal, which is being developed in partnership with area business and civic leaders, as well as Colorado Mountain College, involves the creation of a campus-based, learn-work program that can help students follow their passions into college and the workforce.

The goal is also to develop a broader model using an online platform that can be shared with other high schools locally and abroad.

"It's amazing that a school of 200 students is even in the conversation," Lowe said, pointing out that many of the applicants are large urban schools with thousands of students.

But its size and rural location are also part of Yampah's innovation, he said.

"One thing that I think has really helped us stand out is our pay-it-forward approach to use the XQ funds to help our neighboring schools do the same thing we are trying to achieve," Lowe said. "We've also found a way to do this visioning thing really well, where we reached out to literally hundreds of people to shared their ideas about what cutting edge education should be."

If Yampah wins a grant, Chuluun said the first two years' of money would be used to refine the experiential learning model and construct a new building behind the existing high school building on Midland Avenue that would house the learn-work pods.

"We already have the design plans, which are part of our application," he said.

Money in years three through five would be focused on further developing the online platform to introduce to other high schools in the region and beyond, Chuluun said.

"Part of our intent is to spend some of the money to help design our model for other schools to use and to improve," he said. "We really are looking at the community as a family of people working to raise and educate our kids."

The XQ Super Schools initiative has also taken to the national stage this week at the Republican National Convention and continuing next week at the Democratic National Convention with panel discussions hosted by PBS and focused on education issues.