Showing Support For What We’ve Helped To Create

While we happily accept donations for the Graduate Higher Education Fund at any time, there are several times during the year when Eagle Rock staff and students really go all out and “work” for it.

Take, for example, the start of the summer and fall trimesters when we set time aside for Graduate Work Day. During the first week of these trimesters, our students and staff members devote a day to serving the Estes Park community through yard work and other chores.

photo 1These folks charge an hourly rate — but instead of pocketing the money, they turn the proceeds over to administrators of the Graduate Fund. This year our community earned $1,500 sprucing up areas of the town on May 15. Charging a flat $12 per hour per worker, 10 staff members and about 40 students divided themselves among 16 projects around town. One group headed off to the historic Stanley Hotel to weed and perform other gardening tasks on the resort hotel’s expansive 55-acre grounds. Other groups headed to private homes to rake leaves, clean windows, stack firewood, shovel snow and complete other chores.

The funding program had its origins in 1997 when Eagle Rock staff realized that they had a lot of grads that wanted to go to college and had the grades to get into college, but lacked the money to do so.

The Graduate Higher Education Fund award was gradually increased over the years and now stands at 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…

How Restorative Circles Are Helping Eagle Rock

As a part of our ongoing efforts to implement restorative practices into school culture, Eagle Rock’s faculty and staff met on a recent Friday morning to explore incorporating more restorative circles into our campus culture and instruction.

A restorative classroom practice strives to promote community, acceptance and belonging in a safe environment that works at strengthening relationships and repairing harm.

Beverly Manigo from the International Institute for Restorative Practices led a workshop for us that featured reading, discussion, and practical simulations for how we might implement circles.

After reading an excerpt from Restorative Circles in Schools: Building Community and Enhancing Learning by Bob Costello, Joshua Wachtel, and Ted Wachtel, the group explored the meaning in using different types of circles. “The circle represents a fundamental change in the relationship between students and authority figures,” the book explains. “It creates a cooperative atmosphere in which students take responsibility for their actions. Students respond because they feel respected and realize that what they say matters.”

While Eagle Rock has used reactive circles for years, our faculty and staff were excited to learn more about circles that are used proactively and during academic classes. With the trimester just starting, some of our House Parents also expressed interest in using proactive circles to build trust and provide a foundation for future conversation.

Several of our faculty members said they already use proactive circles in their classes and are interested in strengthening that practice.

“We use them on Mondays to gauge where the students are and look forward to the week,” said our Public Allies fellow in language and literacy, Jake Sund. “Students express concerns, talk around their metacognitive skills, and discuss what’s working and what’s not.”

Holly Takashima, Sund’s co-teacher and our language and literacy instructional specialist, wants to build on that ritual at the start of the new trimester. “I’m going to use it on the Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Graduates Four More Good Citizens

Editor’s Note: In today’s post, our own Public Allies Fellow for the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center – Mary Reid Munford – introduces you to Eagle Rock’s latest graduates: Diego Matamoros, Grace Huang, Tiana Matos, and Tehya Brown.

Growing up in Miami, Diego Matamoros switched schools often. When he finally settled on a local public high school, he didn’t do well. “I was never one of those straight A students,” Diego said. “I was always getting Cs and constantly getting in fights with my mom about it.”

Diego was making music, skateboarding, hanging out with friends, and progressively doing more drugs. “The more I used drugs recreationally,” Diego explained, “the more anxiety I would have in school, and the more I would rationalize not being a good student and blame it on the school.”

His counselor recommended Diego enroll in an Outward Bound course, and although it provided a good break and school credit, he slipped back into his old habits when he got home. After his mom caught him skipping school during his senior year, she pulled him out.

It was at that time that he considered attending Eagle Rock, an option first suggested by his Outward Bound instructors. He was already 18 years old and two weeks away from earning his GED, but after a “great conversation” with our own director of students, Philbert Smith, Diego began seriously considering a move across the country to enroll and complete his high school education.

The transition to life at Eagle Rock was far from seamless, Diego admitted. He suffered several setbacks, including leaving early one trimester due to medical issues and then skipping the next. In the end, he credits the supportive community and the help of key figures like his houseparent, Jesse Tovar, who also serves as Eagle Rock’s health and wellness counselor. “Jesse has always been the most supportive figure,” Diego said. “He’s helped guide me, helped me maneuver through the system — but he’s also helped me remain myself while going through this transformation.”

Eagle-Rock-School-ER61It was during an internship over breaks from Eagle Rock that Diego learned about aromatherapy and living a holistic lifestyle. And he says he might return to this work in the future. He also credits music as one way he’s learned greater life skills. “Living according to Eagle Rock’s ‘Eight Plus Five Equals Ten’ philosophy… it emphasizes the super important things,” Diego explained. “One of them for me is nurturing being an artist. I do that by playing music. It’s a whole kind of way to practice the techniques of life – carefulness, listening…”

Diego plans to combine these interests next year as he applies to colleges in New England and the Midwest to learn more about music therapy.

Grace Huang was 11 years old when an American family adopted her. After spending her childhood in La Paz, Bolivia, she flew across the globe to start a new life in Boston, Mass. She attended school there until two years ago, opting to make another move — this time across the country to boarding school in Colorado.

Grace transferred to Eagle Rock for a more individualized and less distracting learning environment than her home school could offer. “I came to Eagle Rock to have a place to be able to learn at my pace and really understand what I’m learning,” she explained, “And also to really focus on personal and academic growth instead of everything else.”

As with most students, the transition to communal living was the most challenging aspect of Grace’s move. “The hardest part was having to be in a community with people I’m not used to or want to be around,” she said.

After six trimesters spent attending courses and living on campus at Eagle Rock, Grace cites her academic learning as one of the most powerful ways she has grown here. “Teachers have forced me to Continue reading…

Eagle Rock an Active Participant in Recent CES Forum

Nine of our staff members actively took part in the recent 2013 Fall Forum hosted by the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES). The conference was held earlier this month at Mission High School in the heart of San Francisco, with this year’s theme titled “Making the Invisible Visible: Stories and Counter Stories for Educational Equity.”

Our Eagle Rock staffers got the long weekend off to a good start by facilitating a two-hour meeting with directors from about a dozen CES Affiliate Centers — including our hosts, the San Francisco Coalition of Essential Small Schools — at the Clift Hotel.

That meeting presented a great opportunity for directors to check in with each other and explore the nature of their collaboration.

In addition, Eagle Rock staff members led three of the longer workshops on Saturday afternoon, including Michael Soguero and Dan Condon co-presenting “The Ten Principles as the Lens for Implementing the Common Core.”

CES is celebrating more than 25 years of what it terms “creating and sustaining personalized, equitable, and intellectually challenging schools.” The 2013 gathering saw representatives from schools and organizations from as far away as the Netherlands and Japan — all eager to explore how the CES 10 Common Principles apply to their practice.

Each year, the fall forum presents an opportunity for educators to continue “a conversation among friends,” as CES founder Ted Sizer once said.

Richard Carranza, superintendent of San Francisco’s Unified School District, started Saturday’s sessions off by addressing the need for Continue reading…