As I reflect on another year’s homecoming festivities with the parade, football game and dance, I can’t help but think about the important role that high school plays in our students’ lives.
The high school years are a key time in life when students begin to take on more responsibility in their homes and communities – responsibility that often comes with obtaining a driver’s license or taking a first job.
It is also a time when students start to explore their individual interests more deeply and chart a potential career path. Many adults who look back on this time in life can point to a specific teacher or class that inspired them to pursue a specific path in life.
My daughter discovered her love of firefighting at Montezuma-Cortez High School through the fire science program. She is preparing to graduate from Fort Lewis this year and will be serving in a full time firefighting career.
Our vision for our high school is to provide students with a quality, engaging education with multiple opportunities to explore career paths ranging from preparing to attend college to preparing for their careers. Through these pathways, students have the opportunity to work closely with an advisor starting in ninth grade to explore their interests and aptitudes and learn about careers that might be of interest to them.
Throughout high school, they have the opportunity to take classes that allow them to delve more deeply into these potential careers through hands-on classes in emergency medical services, agriculture, welding, auto-body, construction, culinary arts, arts and media, and technology.
We are also exploring a partnership with the Nathan Yip Foundation to expand our technology offerings to include more courses in computer science, coding, and robotics. These types of courses open the doors to high-paying, in-demand careers that often allow people to work from anywhere, giving our students the opportunity to work globally and continue to live and contribute locally.
While we recognize the importance of high school in preparing students for college and career, we also know that this is a critical time that prepares students to become civic-minded community members. One of the strengths of our community is our willingness to work hard, to give back and help our community, and work together to support our kids future.
We want our high school to be a place that helps students develop character, explore leadership opportunities, and give back to the larger community. We offer many leadership opportunities for students, and our teachers provide role models and accountability for young people to develop a strong character that will help them grow into positive, contributing members of our community. We are working in partnerships across the district to ensure students have these types of opportunities at the high school and Southwest Open School.
We are achieving our vision for our high school and seeing results every day with our students. Our graduation rate has increased by more than 20 percent just in the past five years alone. This is one of the biggest improvements in graduation in the state in such a short period of time.
Our student participation in advanced placement classes, honors diploma programs, and our various career and technical classes is at an all-time high – so much so that we are expanding our programs to meet student demand.
I couldn’t be more proud of our teachers and of our students who are growing into young adults with so much to contribute to our community in whatever path they choose to take in life.
Lori Haukeness is superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1. Reach her at [email protected].