The Latest News From the Rock — December 2014

Jeff_Liddle_Headshot
Jeff_Liddle_Headshot

Having just wrapped up our 64th trimester, a blanket of quiet has settled over our campus. And looking back, it proved to be a busy and productive trimester for all of us here at Eagle Rock.

We kicked ER 64 off by welcoming eight new full-time Eagle Rock staff members, 10 new Eagle Rock Public Allies fellows, and one wilderness intern — Jack Bresnahan — to our mountainside community. Add it up and that’s just about 40 percent of our staff. Considering all the newness, we’ve done pretty well.

As expected, our students continued to deepen their understanding of our five expectations — making healthy life choices, communicating effectively, practicing leadership for justice, being an engaged global citizen and developing an expanding knowledge base. Much of this was absorbed through engaging classroom discussion.

And, of course we’re proud to have sent our three newest Eagle Rock School graduates — Gigi Hagopian, Isaac Holmes and Cat Leger — out into the world.

In addition to classroom activities, we’ve been working hard to improve the quality of student life elsewhere at Eagle Rock, and this trimester we had a lot going on, thanks to a large extent to The Magnificent 7 — an elite group of veteran students who help out with evening duty.

This trimester, the M7 put on an exciting house versus house Olympics, and when the dust settled, Aspen and Lodgepole were tied for first place. To break the tie, student Ziyad Johnstone, representing Aspen, and Isiah Gonzales, representing Lodgepole, played a nail-biting game of egg roulette for the tiebreaker.

If you’ve never seen it, egg roulette has each person work back and forth through a dozen eggs, cracking them on their heads. Most are hard-boiled — some are not. Lodgepole came out on top, with Aspen placing second, and Spruce rounding out the top three.

Since the first trimester here at Eagle Rock, we’ve been conducting an ongoing conversation about what constitutes a safe community. Toward that end, world language instructional specialist Brighid Scanlon and student Ashalou Harrison hosted an engaging community meeting that was facilitated by JP Butler on anti-bullying.

We also had a lot of fun — and great food — over Thanksgiving with tons of activities, including Mine Craft, Crossfit, aikido, a ton of basketball, live music and a bit of swimming kept students engaged with one another and entertained. Study halls, restorative justice councils, and drug education classes all occurred in the name of student growth and development.

Spectrum (our gay/straight alliance), the African Diaspora affinity group, the budding Latino/Latina affinity group and a white awareness group created safe places for students and staff to explore the notion of identity. Jacques Fournet and Calvin King organized a group of students and staff to view the movie, “I Am Not a Racist… Am I?“. That film and the tragic loss of life of Michael Brown and Eric Gardner left us sad, angry, emotionally raw and a little uncertain about the way forward as we struggle with racial injustice.

Every Wednesday we play intramurals where houses compete against each other. During the first five weeks we played ultimate Frisbee. Piñon House came out on top in that sport with an undefeated record of 8-0. In the second five weeks of the trimester, pride was on the line as we played basketball and water volleyball. Aspen took the top seed in basketball and water volleyball with identical records of three wins and two losses.

Jeff-Liddle-Lodgpole

Chores, KP, thousands of conversations, some deep laughs and plenty of tears. That and much, much more. ER 64 was a busy trimester on the Eagle Rock campus.

We’re noted nationally for being all about engagement, and that goes double for our Professional Development Center team, which was busy all across the country this last trimester.

We continue our support of new schools in Albuquerque, N.M., and Reno, Nev., two states that consistently rank as among the lowest performing schools in the nation. Our objective there is to be part of the movement to turn those reputations and performances around.

We also continued our work in Burlington, Vt.; New York, N.Y.; Seattle, Wash.; and Oakland, Calif. At Eagle Rock, there isn’t a sharp line dividing our campus activities and our professional development center. All of our staff and students participate in both enterprises.

For instance, this trimester, a number of staff and students traveled on behalf of the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center to support re-engagement efforts around the country. Those staff members included Kelsey Baum, Steph Dixon, Sarah Bertucci, Michael Soguero, Dan Condon, John Guffey, Mark Palmer and Anastacia Galloway. Student participants included Ashalou Harrison, Emelia Eller, Martin Araiza and Sonja Stolmar.

We’re of the opinion that with more than a million disengaged students in the United States, our efforts would be fairly insignificant — a drop in the ocean — were we only running a school. It is through our professional development center that we make a meaningful contribution to our nation’s youth and their right to a good education. To see upcoming projects around the country, read Eagle Rock’s PDC Has a Busy Calendar for the Cold Winter Months.)

Finally — and we don’t know where the time went — but it is time for us to start recruiting next year’s Public Allies Fellowship cohort. If you’re interested, or if you know someone who would be a good fit, check out the great information available online about the Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellowship.

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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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