ALAMOSA – Adams State University has been awarded $2.5 million under the state of Colorado’s Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) fund to address learning challenges in San Luis Valley schools related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19.
“We are thrilled to have the state investing in efforts to address inequities facing our rural schools here in the San Luis Valley, and we are grateful to Gov. Polis for his vision and leadership in creating the RISE fund and to the RISE selection committee for recognizing and funding our efforts,” said Adams State President Cheryl D. Lovell.
Adams State will lead an SLV Collaborative that includes seven K-12 schools districts in the San Luis Valley as well as the Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley. The collaborative has developed an innovative plan for a model to transform learning systems in rural schools that ignites students’ motivation for learning by engaging them in career pathways that develop essential 21st-century skills relevant to workforce needs.
The following key goals and supporting activities will guide the Collaborative in creating a sustainable model and the infrastructure with potential to grow the initiative across all 14 SLV school districts post-grant:
• Develop and build out the Entrepreneurship & Innovation (E&I) career cluster with Career Technical Education (CTE) and Concurrent Enrollment (CE) options and stackable credentials to empower students by engaging their imaginations, creativity, and leadership potential; Pathways in business, business development, and marketing include building skills in information technology, graphic design, communications, and/or media production; Project- and work-based learning, including a high school internship program and innovative learning technologies, inspire innovation and entrepreneurship and develop essential employment skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and communication.
• Increase the capacity of 7 districts across the San Luis Valley for CTE course delivery through professional development, with Adams State as the hub for teacher, administrator, and school counselor training for certification via summer institutes, workshops, and course development with an initial focus on Business and Marketing.
• Leverage partner resources, including teacher certifications, and improve technology, transportation, and family support services to remove barriers to career exploration, experiential learning, and credentials for all students.
• Expand advising, coaching, and mentoring to encourage career and postsecondary explorations and promote personal goal-setting and achievement. Specialized supports will surmount technology, “college knowledge,” and language barriers for migrant, EL, and other students and families furthest from opportunity.
“The RISE grant underscores Adams State’s forward-thinking efforts to engage students in career pathways that develop essential 21st-century skills relevant to the workforce,” said Adams State Vice President of Academic Affairs, Kent Buchanan, Ph.D. “The partnerships of the SLV Collaborative are meaningful and will help propel the San Luis Valley and its students in a positive way.”
The RISE funding supports high-needs school districts, charter schools, and public institutions of higher education to address the learning challenges related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19. Grantees are expected to create sustainable innovations that improve student learning, close equity gaps, and enhance operational efficiency for pre-K-12 through higher education.
In its RISE grant application, Adams State made the case that the pandemic has intensified, as well as highlighted, the inequities in access to education and employment across the remote, rural San Luis Valley. Opportunities and support for students to access career exploration, experiential learning, and concurrent enrollment are uneven due to rural isolation, multi-generational poverty, and low regional educational attainment rates.
As a result of COVID-19, rural student populations and their families including those who are low-income, minority, migrant, English language learners, and others who are high-needs have become even more marginalized due to reduced income, access, and resources. In a superintendent focus group conducted in October 2020, SLV districts reported a sharp rise in home-schooling and absenteeism. Despite best efforts on the part of schools, some students have disengaged completely from school.
Based on input from students, parents, educators, and the business community, the SLV Collaborative identified the Entrepreneurship & Innovation career cluster as the initial focus of its efforts to develop credential/degree and career pathways. Collaborative projects, multi-district activities, apprenticeships and internships coordinated jointly by the SLV Boys & Girls Club and Adams State University, and other opportunities for mentorship and innovation, will actively engage students with the local workforce.
On Monday, Governor Polis announced the second round of RISE Fund awardees to innovate and transform public education. In November 2020, Gov. Polis shared the first round of RISE grantees, following his September 2020 announcement of the RISE fund, which supports innovation in high-needs school districts, charter schools, and public institutions of higher education to address the learning challenges related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19 in a manner that creates sustainable innovations that improve student learning, close equity gaps, and enhance operational efficiency for pre-K-12 through higher education. These grants bring the total amount awarded through RISE to over $40 million.
As before, all of the recipients were chosen by a group of parents, students, and education leaders.
“Adams State University is excited to lead the efforts of the San Luis Valley Collaborative to reduce the inequities in access to education and employment in our communities, and ease the impacts of COVID-19,” said President Lovell. “RISE support and the formation of the SLV Collaborative of P-20 educators and community partners present a rare opportunity to improve the futures of our students, especially those who are furthest from opportunity, and our region’s vitality. Youth development, expanded capacity in Career & Technical Education across seven school districts, and paid internships for high school students will energize and inspire our youth and begin to develop the skilled workforce the San Luis Valley needs.”