Meet the Team: Mackendy Blanc – Program Director of Public Allies at Eagle Rock

Mackendy Blanc, Eagle Rock’s Program Director of Public Allies, was drawn to our school by its progressive curriculum that he says enables fellows to “oscillate between in-classroom instruction and real-world experience” through our Professional Development Center.

The Director of Public Allies at Eagle Rock position allows Mackendy to level the playing field for young professionals by creating an environment where they can take a leap of faith, find their voice, and develop and hone their skills based on passion and ability. Mackendy calls that a jumpstart for their professional journey.

Before coming to work at Eagle Rock, Mackendy launched Katalyst Konbit — a training ground for Haiti’s next-generation of entrepreneurs. Under Mackendy’s leadership, Katalyst Konbit has become a go-to organization for aspiring entrepreneurs on the Pearl of the Antilles to catalyze their entrepreneurial journey while learning how to innovate at scale.

We asked this purpose-driven leader, who now leads the successful Public Allies program here at Eagle Rock, to share a bit about his career — and his personal life. Here’s what he had to say: Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Karla Vargas-Ochs, Health Care Coordinator

Karla Vargas-Ochs, who is our health care coordinator, comes to our Colorado campus with a boatload of experience, highlighted by 14 years as a combat medic in the United States Navy. In addition to her career in the Navy, Karla considers herself a mother first, a daughter, a niece, a feminist, and a college-educated registered nurse with a specialty in medical case management.

She is a 2019 graduate of Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she majored in Nursing and Medical Case Management. Before that, Karla studied Biology and African American Studies at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Va., and Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Prior to joining us at Eagle Rock, Karla chalked up more than two decades of medical experience, including work as a private nurse in the home health sector. While in the Navy, she worked in primary care, emergency room, public health, surgical services, and ancillary services. In 1999, Karla deployed to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba; worked at a field hospital unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009; and in 2011, worked aboard the United States Naval Ship Comfort in support of a global humanitarian mission that provided assistance to 11 countries in Central and South America, as well as throughout the Caribbean.

We asked Karla to take a few minutes to answer some more questions about her career, her life, and what she does in her free hours, and here’s what she told us:

Eagle Rock School: What attracted you to Eagle Rock?

Karla Vargas-Ochs: I struggled as a teen, eventually dropping out of high school. I would have benefitted so much from the experiences Eagle Rock provides its students. Joining the military is really what saved me. It showed me I was stronger than I ever thought I could be, taught me discipline, and gave me a jumping off place. I see those same values here at Eagle Rock — only wrapped in a different package. Our students have to opportunity to build on all of that, while receiving the nurturing and guidance every teenager deserves to have. After I was discharged from the military, I missed the camaraderie of being a part of something bigger than myself. Eagle Rock gives me an opportunity to experience that again, and I feel very privileged to be a part of this community.

ER: When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time? Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Welcomes 7 Public Allies Fellows to Our Community for 2020/2021

Joining us remotely at Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center this trimester is a new cohort of Public Allies fellows, each with eyes set on their own personal growth and professional development while learning about and directly supporting alternative approaches to engaging students in their own education.

This cohort is the 18th since Public Allies first came to Eagle Rock in 2002 and will be the first to ever start their fellowship from their homes instead of our campus in Estes Park, Colo. That’s because of the health pandemic and because on campus learning remains paused and remote for the time being.

Each of these five new and two returning Public Allies Fellows are either beginning or continuing a year-long commitment of service within our residential and community-based experiential education program between now and next August.

Funded largely by AmeriCorps, Public Allies is centered around the notion that everyone has the ability to lead, and anyone can be an inspiration to others. Each of our new and returning fellows has already demonstrated a passion for progressive education and social justice, and each has participated in our Fellow Core Training program held Aug. 28 to Sept. 11.

The focus of that training was to support the fellows in preparing to serve students at Eagle Rock by building relationships with the community and getting to know the Eagle Rock way, even as that way forward evolves during the health pandemic. They will now become integrated into the staff team and co-teach or co-counsel with our full-time staff online.

But more about that later. Below, we present a brief overview and some interesting facts about each of these young leaders: Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Stephany Subdíaz — Math Instructional Specialist

From time to time, we set posts aside that deal with new classes and schedules and programs and events, and instead focus on the individual instructors and staff members that make up the diverse and unique members of the Eagle Rock community.

This time around, we’re going to learn a little about Stephany Subdiaz, a math instructor who enjoys designing courses that are fun, engaging, growth inducing, and relevant to our students. She uses dice game to teach statistics and multiplying fractions. Students learn order of operations through her loan-related math challenges. And they receive fundamentals in exponents through the latest infection rates associated with COVID-19.

For Stephany, like all Eagle Rock School instructional specialists, the key is to engage students critical thinking and creativity skills. And, because math is all around us, she asks students to think of it as a language.

Prior to Eagle Rock, Stephany worked at Colorado Outward Bound for two summers as an outdoor education instructor. She also worked several semesters at the High Mountain Institute, and before that, the UC Santa Cruz Wilderness Orientation program. In fact, it was at UC Santa Cruz where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences.

What attracted Stephany to Eagle Rock was our mission  of Implementing effective and engaging practices that foster each of our student’s unique potential. Growing up in Lennox, Calif., a poor neighborhood next to Inglewood, Stephany said she knows the impact a school like Eagle Rock could have on the population of students that were her own high school peers. By her own admission, Stephany says she was fortunate to be scooped up by a scholar’s program that sent her to a private school, but she saw how many of her neighborhood friends were left behind. She sees her work at Eagle Rock as a way to help others.

We asked Stephany to let us in on a few details about her job and her life. Here’s what had to share: Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Eagle Rock’s Director of Curriculum Janet Johnson

Today, we come full circle with Janet Johnson, who has been our Director of Curriculum since mid-June, and now becomes the first Eagle Rocker to be profiled for a second time on Meet the Team.

Back in August of 2014, in a post titled Meet The Team: Eagle Rock’s Science Instructor and House Parent – Janet Johnson, we spotlighted Janet, who at that time was well into her 13th year at Eagle Rock, serving as a science instructor and one of the house parents at Aspen House. She later supported the school’s new instructors for two years as they transitioned into our community.

Janet left Eagle Rock four years ago to become Director of Competency-based Learning and Director of Curriculum at RiseUp Community School in downtown Denver. While there, she helped develop and direct RiseUp’s learning competences — Think, Advocate, and Grow — as well as supported teachers in their efforts to create classes that push students’ learning and growth.

Now back at Eagle Rock as our Director of Curriculum, Janet leads an academic team made up of nine instructional specialists and their Public Allies Instructional Fellows, as well as recruits, hires, supports, and mentors new instructional specialists. She also conducts performance reviews with all of our instructional specialists, coordinates course scheduling and instructor workloads, as serves on our in-house leadership team.

Recently, we sat down with Janet — for a second time — to find out a little more about her professional background and some personal stuff. We love the personal stuff. Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Athletics Coordinator Jocelyn Rodriguez

This trimester marks the beginning of Jocelyn Rodriguez’ second year at Eagle Rock, where she formerly served as our Public Allies Fellow in Human Performance. Recently, she was asked to return as a full-time staff member, working in the new adjunct position of Eagle Rock athletic coordinator.

In her now role, Jocelyn is teaching several classes, including Changing the Game, a class that focuses on what it means to be a coach in professional sports. In addition, she is the new house parent for Spruce House.

As the athletics coordinator, Jocelyn continues to sustain our basketball program while also coordinating athletic events for the Eagle Rock community. Earlier this year, we highlighted Jocelyn’s work in this area in a post title ‘MoreThan a Game’ Shines a Light on More Than Basketball.

Jocelyn also now manages Eagle Rock’s Sports Challenge partnership with Strive at Haverford College, and will be attending Sports Challenge next year — a two-week program — with two members of the basketball team at Eagle Rock.

We recently caught up with Jocelyn between Eagle Rock tasks and asked her to fill us in a bit on her work experience, personal life, and some of her favorite things. Here’s what she had to say: Continue reading…

New House Parents Settling in at Ponderosa House and Spruce House

We’re not sure if it’s the result of good luck, or skill, or just longtime experience, but it seems every time we have the need for a new house parent for one of our six student housing complexes here at Eagle Rock School, we always end up with staff members who are perfectly suited for the role.

Each of the six houses within our on-campus Living Village accommodates up to a dozen co-eds in two separate sleeping wings, with common areas and shared community values being the focus in between. And our house parents are there to support the community, act as a sounding board, make sure the house chores are done, and so, so, so much more.

That being said, we are proud to introduce new house parents taking over this trimester at Ponderosa and Spruce.

Elizabeth Rivera and Carlos Perez are new house parents at Ponderosa House but not new to Eagle Rock. This married couple arrived in Estes Park in the fall of 2017 from Miami, where Elizabeth worked in the hotel and hospitality industry for more than two decades, and Carlos served as a cook at a variety of Italian, American, and Latin restaurants for more than 15 years.

Elizabeth is originally from Lima, Peru, and Carlos hails from Maracay, Venezuela. At Eagle Rock, Elizabeth is a business office administrative assistant, assisting parents and students with Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Cedric Josey, Culture & Societies Instructional Specialist

Here at Eagle Rock, Societies and Cultures is our equivalent of Social Studies, and Cedric Josey, who has taught in middle schools and high schools in Massachusetts, is our new culture & societies instructional specialist.

While his new position makes Cedric the person on our campus primarily responsible for curriculum objectives related to world and U.S. history, physical and cultural geography, U.S. government, and civics, it’s his love and pursuit of original works of music that we’d like to highlight in introducing him to the Eagle Rock Community.

(Image courtesy of NewBedfordGuide.com)

Cedric’s love of music began while singing in a church choir as a child, and he later remembers driving his neighbors a bit crazy while learning to play the saxophone. So, years later, when he found himself living alone in a New Bedford, Mass., apartment, he picked up a guitar and quietly learned to play and write music in order to avoid disturbing those around him.

Most impressive, while working with Destination New Bedford — an effort of the City of New Bedford’s Office of Tourism and Marketing to highlight that seaside town’s unique attributes — Cedric wrote and produced a song called “Being in New Bedford,” that was used extensively in the city’s promotion efforts. (Scroll to the end of today’s post for a video featuring Cedric performing this song himself).

Beyond his love for music, and in addition to teaching in public middle and high schools, Cedric has worked with the Youth Corps within the State of Massachusetts’ Trustees of Reservations, which owns and cares for more than 25,000 acres across the Bay State. There, he provided youth in his community with an opportunity to learn in-depth leadership skills in an outdoor environment during the summer months. Ask him about it and Cedric will tell you it was an opportunity for him, as an African American male, to mentor youth in a way that highlighted an alternative path to success — outside of what society or peers might suggest.

For today’s post, we asked Cedric to fill us in on some additional details of his life and career to date, and here’s what he had to say: Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Eagle Rock’s 2019/2020 Public Allies Fellows

Summertime will soon be just a memory as Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center’s students, instructors, staff members, and campus administrators make their way back to Estes Park for our 79th trimester.

Among those new and returning Eagle Rockers is a cohort of instructional, professional development, and student services fellows. This time around, our Public Allies Fellows includes a total of 12 new and returning charges, each either beginning or continuing a year-long commitment of service to the Eagle Rock community.

Public Allies Eagle Rock

Beginning next week, our dozen fellows will jump onboard and participate in everything we have to offer when it comes to education and professional development. And each of these fellows will be responsible for supporting alternative and progressive approaches to teaching and learning, with an emphasis on engaging students in their own education.

Claiming the title of Fellow is no walk in the park. Helping to mold fair and equitable societies takes work, and the task requires a stubborn passion and the courage to take action. Funded by AmeriCorps, Public Allies is centered around this concept… that everyone has the ability to lead and anyone can be an inspiration to others.

With that conception at the forefront, each of the fellows featured below has committed to becoming active participants in our unique residential and community-based form of education between now and next August. Each has already expressed or demonstrated a passion for teaching and youth development, as well as an interest in progressive education — which is very much what Eagle Rock School is all about.

Below, we present a brief bio and some random facts about each of these young leaders: Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Chris Lamar — School Counselor/Life After Eagle Rock Instructional Specialist

Chris Lamar joined us in November of 2017 as a part-time mental health therapist and admissions support specialist and is now our school counselor and Life After Eagle Rock instructional specialist.

His primary responsibility here at Eagle Rock is to empower students to overcome their internal and external obstacles, as well as ensuring that they fulfill all requirements necessary to graduate and move toward whatever post-graduation opportunity they’re seeking. In addition, Chris works in admissions, interviewing incoming students to assess whether they’re a good fit for Eagle Rock. He says it’s also an opportunity to discover their personalities, their strengths and the ways in which they might need support.

Chris_Lamar_Eagle-Rock

We asked Chris to flesh out his school and job experience in an informal Q&A setting and here’s what he had to say: Continue reading…