Acquiring an Appreciation of Eagle Rock’s Graduate Higher Education Fund

Graduate-Higher-Education-Fund-Eagle-Rock-SchoolIn Eagle Rock’s early years, students would graduate in proper circumstance — if not pomp — only to face seemingly impossible financial barriers in their efforts to move on. Having earned their diplomas and eagerly looking forward to grander goals, these confident students often found their promising futures thwarted by monetary constraints that prevented them from financing further education.

What it came down to was students who wanted to go to college — and they could get into college — but they just didn’t have the support, according to Robert Burkhardt, our founder and former Head of School.

By the summer of 1997, Burkhardt and Dick Herb, who was then our director of operations, came up with the beginnings of a plan. Herb found some money in the budget that enabled Burkhardt  to bequeath a thousand dollars to one graduate.

But it quickly became obvious that all of our graduates deserved a financial opportunity, so the next trimester, we granted the same award to all graduates. Nice sentiment, but in order to make the fund sustainable, we had to come up with a fund-raising operation.

We began to hire the school out for Eagle Serve once a trimester, and then became involved with the Estes Park Duck Race organization. And volunteers began sending out letters to people, asking for monetary support.

When Judy Gilbert, Eagle Rock’s first director of curriculum passed away, the American Honda Education Corporation donated Continue reading…

Our Students Make Beautiful Music Together — Behind the PDC Building

Sometimes living together in a close-knit community can be a taxing proposition, and students need to find ways to become rejuvenated and eager to move onto the next step in their educational path.

For quite a few of our Eagle Rockers, the small building nestled behind the Professional Development Center (PDC) is nothing short of a haven. It’s our one-room schoolhouse — a place for musicians to gravitate for the purpose of recording music

Surrounded by countless musical instruments, a small recording studio, computers filled with music software and a pair of talented instructors, our music department boasts significant opportunities and resources. And certainly not the least of these is our partnership with Berklee College of Music in Boston.

As part of the Berklee City Music Network (BCMN), Eagle Rock students have access to additional musical opportunities. BCMN is a nonprofit network dedicated to supporting underserved youth through contemporary music.

Isaac Leslie, our music instructional specialist, said that with Eagle Rock as its partner site, BCMN delivers the musical proficiency and financial resources needed for students to succeed at a prestigious institution like Berklee College of Music. He said the purpose is to bring these resources to students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a school like Berklee.

The partnership includes two main assets: the Continue reading…

Newest Eagle Rock Grads ‘Do a Geographic’ and Find Success

There’s a term for people who pack up and move away from home in order to escape their problems and attempt to bring order back into their lives. It’s called “doing a geographic,” and it’s where a person won’t change themselves, but choose instead to change their address.

While our five newest graduates all arrived at Eagle Rock from distant hometowns and situations, it’s quite apparent they all turned their “geographics” into positive experiences. Instead of blaming the people around them, or their schools, or their parents, these high schoolers accepted their part in their particular situation.


That’s why we’ve set aside this entire blog post to highlight the Eagle Rock experiences of our five latest grads — Chance Lyons, Tobee Malinzak, Derik Bernardez, Ashley Hernandez and Amelia Horne. Here are their stories:

Chance Lyons grew up within a tight-knit family in Littleton, Colorado. But once he reached high school, he drifted away from that upbringing, becoming more “independent in the wrong way.” After performing poorly at two other high schools, he realized that he needed a change.

“Eagle Rock’s philosophy of 8+5=10 was really appealing,” Lyons explained. “I realized I could come out of this place a better person.”

When he joined the campus community, Chance struggled with some of the common challenges of a new student. He had to overcome his loss of personal space and relearn the advantages of living in a close-knit family. “Instead of withdrawing into myself, I’d put myself further out there and it would offer me more space to work on myself,” Lyons said. “I was starting to develop self awareness, which grew into self control.”

Music played an important role in Chance’s personal growth. In learning how to collaborate with other musicians, he saw how it could give him an “immediate look at yourself, an insight into who you are and who they are.” He started to play everything, beginning with the piano but soon expanding to accordion, synthesizer, bass, guitar, vocals, and drums. “I played the trumpet last night,” he said, laughing.

He learned a different type of self-reflection in the classroom, particularly through Societies & Cultures Instructor Berta Guillen’s “Facing History, Face Yourself.” Lyons reflected that “Bee’s classroom provided a place to look at myself, race, culture, and the realities of the world with open eyes.”

Chance wants to go into the healing arts, explore Canada and Iceland, and get involved with the hip-hop community in Denver. He acknowledges that he has come a long way since arriving at Eagle Rock.

“I feel way more centered. I definitely have a better idea of what my place is in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “Before it was all about me, and now life is not all about me. Once you start taking responsibility for your own stuff, it’s easier to walk the path.”

In some ways, Tobee Malinzak’s background is not so different from that of his friend, Chance. While he grew up far away in Continue reading…

ACIS Accreditation: A commitment to continuous improvement

When I describe Eagle Rock School to folks who might be unfamiliar with our work, I often get a quizzical look and the question, “So do students get a high school diploma?

Frequently, because we adults choose to live in the past and therefore fall victim to our own experience with school, it’s difficult to understand Eagle Rock’s unique and innovative approach. Eagle Rock is not alone in the quest to engage young people creatively and deeply. There are many schools – public, private/independent, charter, etc., – who are doing innovative work, and we partner with many of these around the country.

So how then do people know whether any of these schools are legitimate? Who ensures they are meeting the latest professional standards? Who governs their behavior? Who verifies what occurs on their campuses is worthy of a high school diploma?


The answer varies from state to state but the consistent theme is that schools meet a set of standards laid out by an accrediting agency. And accrediting agencies can be governmental, or they can be private entities.

While accreditations differ from agency to agency, becoming accredited is typically a multi-faceted process that involves the following steps:

  1. Self Study: The program seeking accreditation – in this case, Eagle Rock School – conducts a self-study and reflects on how it is doing based on a set of standards from the accrediting agency. When complete, the self-study is submitted to the accrediting agency.
  2. Site Visit: The accrediting agency assembles an evaluation team of educators and school leaders who are familiar with its standards. The team spends an average of four days on campus conducting interviews, reading documents, observing classes and other school activities – all with an eye toward developing its own assessment of the school’s strengths and weaknesses. In particular, the team is looking for areas of congruence and incongruence with the school’s self study. Every accrediting agency has a set of standards and the team will also be looking for evidence of compliance with those standards.
  3. Evaluation Report and Accreditation Status: The accrediting agency generates a report based upon Continue reading…