News From the Rock — Summer 2014

Jeff_Liddle_Headshot
Jeff_Liddle_Headshot

Believe it or not, we just this month wrapped up our 63rd trimester and our students returned home on Aug. 9.

As a result, it’s a different atmosphere here on campus as contractors work feverishly to maintain our facilities, new staff members settle in, and our veteran staff begins planning for the upcoming academic year — when they’re not catching up on some well-deserved rest.  While all this is going on, let’s take a quick peek at what I only halfway jokingly like to call, “The Summer That Was.”

Working with teenagers can be a messy business, and this summer was certainly no exception to that axiom. A few of our students made decisions that resulted in their dis-enrollment and some others struggled as that process played out. There were moments when it felt like things were falling apart.

However, true to the spirit that is Eagle Rock, the low points tested our conviction and pushed us into action. Our community has tremendous resilience and through hard work, well-placed hope, some good ideas, a little vulnerability, some forgiveness, and a few heartfelt apologies, we ended the trimester with a wonderful group of graduates and we’re headed in a positive direction.

As a side note, anyone who thinks the answer to all of the educational woes in this country lie in some sterile set of standards or one-size-fits-all solution to the “problem of the day,” has not spent enough time in schools. The answers, growth, insight — and ultimately the deep learning — often occur in the conflict. When we stay present with each other, magic can happen. Such is the messy but transformative nature of living smack dab in the middle of a community.

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Despite the challenges, some wonderful things also occurred this summer:

Under the direction of Brighid Scanlon, Amelia Howard, Kira Sinclair, Desiree Flores, Cassandra Zambrana, Nikki Bau, Berta Guillen, Rebecca Fenn, Jen Frickey, Sara Benge and Cindy Elkins, we successfully delivered an amazing rendition of the Vagina Monologues.

To say our students got their fill of the outdoors this past trimester would be a massive understatement. Whether they were mountain biking, traveling on NOLS and Outward Bound courses, rock climbing, exploring Yellowstone National Park and the Green River, or traveling through Lost Creek Wilderness to learn Outdoor Leadership or participating in internships with Rocky Mountain National Park, Eagle Rock was well represented in this, the year of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act.

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On June 18, we welcomed Isiah Gonzales, Kiyah Curry, Gilbert Salazar, Nia Crowell, Levi Sage, Jami Daley, Yeshra Perez, and Javonnie Campbell into our community following their debut six-mile run onto the campus to complete their 25-day wilderness trip. Eagle Rock was founded in Estes Park specifically for the purpose of connecting students with nature for its educational value and healing attributes. (You starting to sense a theme here? A lot of our students’ time was spent outside this summer.)

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Summer was also in full swing on the field of dreams. Aspen House cleaned up during intramural soccer season, going 8 – 0. While Piñon House and Aspen tied for first in softball, due to driving rains, we had to end the softball season early, which gave way to a wicked indoor volleyball tournament where Piñon took first and Ponderosa House second.

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Human Performance Center Fellow, Lindsey Rodkey and student, Tiffany Wright organized “fun day” on the field of dreams where we played a lot of field games and I was hit a gazillion times in the face with pies. This summer we even had a few surprise visits from the ice cream truck.

Students studied fitness, lifeskills, ceramics, body art, debate, biology, sustainability, karate and social justice issues all in pursuit of a deeper understanding of our graduation standards, which are captured in our five expectations:

  1. Making Healthy Life Choices
  2. Practicing Effective Communication
  3. Practicing Leadership for Justice
  4. Becoming an Engaged Global Citizen
  5. Developing an Expanding Knowledge Base

On Aug. 8, we declared eight Eagle Rockers proficient in our five expectations and therefore worthy of a high school diploma. We will miss graduates Tiffany Wright, Nick Hayden, Jaliza Perez, Nikki Bau, Lesly DeLeon, Jeremy Coles, Star Furio and Jessy Mejia. They all made a positive impact on Eagle Rock and we wish them well! (For an update on where each is headed, read Latest Eagle Rock Grads Reflect On Education And Setting New Goals.)

Nine of this year’s Public Allies Fellows are also moving on to apply their learning in new settings.  They did a fantastic job and we wish them the best as they spread their wings and carry what they experienced and learned at Eagle Rock into their next endeavors (Calvin King and Sara Benge will be staying on as second-year fellows):

  • Brian Rudd – Outdoor Education
  • Lindsey Rodkey – Human Performance
  • Jake Sund – Literacy & Literature
  • Katie Funk – Visual Arts
  • Jennifer Pearsall – Service Learning
  • Clay Elkin – Math
  • Rebecca Fenn – Life After Eagle Rock
  • Mary Reid Mumford – Professional Development Center
  • LuLing Osofsky – Curriculum

For more info on where some of these Fellows are heading to next, read There’s Life After Eagle Rock For Public Allies Fellows.

We’re all about engagement here at Eagle Rock, and we like to spread that enthusiasm around to other schools around the nation. So while our campus was not-so-quietly churning out future remarkable citizens, our Professional Development Center (PDC) team was busy as well.

  • This summer, our PDC team worked in Reno, Nev., to help start a new school.
  • We continued our work with the New Mexico Center for School Leadership on a number of projects, including the support of a new school called Health Leadership.
  • Our continuing work in Vermont is firmly establishing proficiency based graduation requirements into the schools there.
  • We’ve been working in Arkansas with Noble Impact and Washington with the Puget Sound Consortium for School Innovation to support school reform in those states.
  • Director of Professional Development, Michael Soguero, and Associate Director, Dan Condon, recently worked with Met West, Berta Guillen’s (former Eagle Rock societies & cultures instructional specialist) new school in Oakland, Calif.

It is through our PDC that we facilitate re-engagement efforts beyond the walls of our own classrooms. As a result, faculty and students alike from around the country can look forward to a more engaging upcoming school year.

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Finally, I’m happy to report that we are working hard on a five-year strategic plan that will result in adoption at our fall board meeting. We began a process of organizational self-assessment in the fall of 2012 and have been hard at work involving many stakeholders in the creation of the current draft. Keep checking the blog for a more detailed report out on the content of the plan.

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About the Author: Jeff Liddle is the head of school at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center — a nationally recognized, tuition-free residential high school in Estes Park, Colo., that offers a second chance to students who have not been able to succeed in a traditional high school setting, and a professional development center that supports high schools nationally in re-engaging youth in their own education. As head of school, Jeff is responsible for leading Eagle Rock’s school community and its executive leadership team; interfacing with the organization’s board of directors; and, overseeing the vision and financial health of the organization.

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