Throughout the last year, Homegrown Talent Initiative districts across Colorado have been reimagining what work-based learning and career exploration looks like for their students and their communities. These districts have made incredible progress despite the innumerable challenges the COVID-19 pandemic posed for all schools.
As we prepare for the third and final year with this HTI cohort, districts reflected on their breakthrough moves – celebrating the new programs, business partnerships, system-wide changes, and other accomplishments.
Clear Creek continues to develop strong community partnerships, from sharing their graduate profile with businesses and community members, to attending county commissioner and chamber of commerce meetings, the district is collaborating across the community to increase out of school learning options for students. As the pandemic forced all districts to adjust their HTI plans, Clear Creek saw this as an opportunity for business partners and teachers to think outside the box in ways to provide career-connected learning opportunities for students. Clear Creek is proud of this agility and will continue to seek out new and creative opportunities moving forward.
Durango has built on already-strong CTE offerings to develop 11 pathways across a variety of industries and will continue to grow these opportunities with the construction of a new Innovation Center, supported by a community funding measure passed in 2020. Durango has also pursued a disbursed leadership model, with no single HTI coordinator, as is the case with other HTI communities, which has allowed them to engage a larger group of stakeholders and diversify awareness, knowledge, and responsibilities of their HTI process.
When starting HTI, Elizabeth knew their current school schedule was not compatible with most work-based learning opportunities. To address this challenge, Elizabeth piloted two new schedule options in early 2021, with significant input and feedback from students, families, and teachers, to find a schedule that best suit external opportunities for students, such as concurrent enrollment, and internships. Elizabeth has also spent the last year creating library of career-connected learning videos to expose students to different industries. Students led all aspects of this video production, from initial brainstorming to filming and editing.
Fremont has wholeheartedly integrated the Graduate Profile across the district. Their board of education updated graduation requirements to align with the skills and competencies of the Graduate Profile, and their counseling program is centered on the Graduate Profile as well. Fremont has also made a concerted effort to expand CTE and concurrent enrollment opportunities for students, from flexible scheduling to partnerships with Pueblo Community College Fremont Campus, and neighboring school districts Cañon City and Cotopaxi.
East and West Grand have been partners since day one of this project, the two districts collaborate and share resources to increase opportunities for all students in Grand County. The two districts share an HTI coordinator, who, among many other responsibilities, has placed 62 interns with 58 business partners across the two districts. Although this partnership is strong, each district is able to pursue HTI programming specific to the needs of their district. West Grand is introducing a capstone project for all seniors and has intentionally integrated the graduate profile competencies into the mission and vision of the district. East Grand has changed graduation requirements and increased concurrent enrollment to encourage more work-based learning and introduced a post-secondary workforce readiness class required of all sophomore students.
Holyoke has spent the last year diligently collecting feedback from students and business partners to better understand the skills and opportunities the district should offer. This feedback has shaped course offerings and student skill development offered by the district. HTI has encouraged Holyoke to re-center student interest, business relationships, and community need at the heart of their work-based learning. Another aspect of Holyoke’s HTI work focused on creating grade level skill examples for each attribute on their Graduate Profile. This resource helped get teachers understand the goal and purpose of the Graduate Profile and allowed them to more easily incorporate these skills and competencies into their instruction.
Cortez dedicated a lot of time thinking about how to integrate their HTI learnings and community feedback into all aspects of their instruction and school culture. Their Graduate Profile represents the presentation of ideas to students – connected, professional, future oriented – and they are building their school system and culture around these ideas. This expanded system includes include comprehensive behaviors, expectations, and guidelines to frame everything from student advisory periods to internship agreements. Establishing this strong baseline has allowed Cortez to bring the community deeply into this work and clearly outline to students and families their commitment to expanding student opportunity and building essential skills.