Hayden, South Routt school districts awarded $1M RISE grant to increase career pathways for students | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden, South Routt school districts awarded $1M RISE grant to increase career pathways for students

STEAMBOAT SPIRNGS — The Hayden and South Routt school districts were awarded over $1 million from Gov. Jared Polis’ Emergency Education Relief Fund to address economic and educational gaps in Colorado.

The Response, Innovation and Student Equity — RISE — grant worth $1.05 million is meant to help the local school districts develop a hands-on curriculum and a plan to engage the community around the local food system and the sustainability of agriculture and energy production in the Yampa Valley.

The grant was one of 19 awards to school districts, post-secondary institutions, charter schools and a Native American tribe, which were announced by the governor Monday. When combined with the first round of grants announced in November, over $40 million has gone to schools in the form of RISE grants.

The grant will allow the district to create new career pathways for students within the Yampa Valley, diversifying their opportunities and training students for jobs relevant to the Routt County. Some of the new classes this grant will help create will start as soon as this fall.

“That is the ultimate goal, assessing what our community needs are and matching a skill set for our students, so there is a pathway and an opportunity to stay within the Yampa Valley,” said Ciara Bartholomew, finance director for South Routt School District.

She said the district looked at various career and technical education programs currently offered in the schools and compared that information with the results of a local needs assessment, which studied what kinds of jobs will be available in the county’s future.

South Routt Superintendent Rim Watson said while the district would like all students to be on a college-bound path if possible, that is not the right road for every student.

“Some of our students have a more individualized route that works better for them and might not lead them to a four-year university experience,” Watson said. “This is alternate pathways for students; it doesn’t lower the rigor.”

If students choose not to pursue a college educations, Watson said adding these courses will help prepare them for well-paying careers that are in need locally.

Christy Sinner, superintendent of the Hayden School District, said the grant funding would expand their agriculture-focused classes of which they just have one currently.

There were well over 100 grant applications submitted. In the first round, just 13 of the 75 viable applications were funded. Counting requests that were denied in the first round and reapplied for in the second round, there were roughly 150 applications total.

“It was extremely, extremely competitive,” Sinner said.

The districts opted to wait for the second round of funding to apply and chose to take advantage of grant support funding to help write the application. Sinner said the Hayden district started working on it as soon as the grant was announced last September.

Bartholomew said Colorado Succeeds, as well as the Gates Family Foundation, were really helpful to “tease apart the ideas” they had and put them into the grant application.

“Investing in our students at a young age will increase return on investment,” She said. “The RISE grant will allow us to do exactly that.”

The goal is to allow students to get industry certifications in a variety of areas, Watson said. These areas will include construction, food production, natural resources and business and marketing. The food production courses are being designed in partnership with Colorado State University’s local extension office and the school’s meat discipline program.

Grants like these are crucial to allow cash-strapped districts to pursue adding new opportunities for students rather than just maintaining the same level of programming.

“Had we not gotten this grant, we couldn’t do it,” Sinner said. “With state funding where it is at, we can keep up with what we have, but to add new programs obviously takes a lot of time, planning and money. Without the opportunity of this grant, this wouldn’t have become a reality for us.”

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