East and West Grand School Districts – “The Grands” – continue to make progress in the Homegrown Talent Initiative (HTI) – a statewide project launched last year to support our community in developing career-connected learning opportunities through partnership with K-12 schools, higher education, business/industry, students, parents and families. 

The goal of our work as an HTI community is to leverage all of these partners and other statewide resources to develop and strengthen access to high-quality learning experiences in our schools, as well as create multiple pathways that would lead our students to successful post-secondary opportunities. Participation in this cohort of design teams has allowed us to learn from exemplar communities and connect locally with a vision toward our community’s future. 

Our work began in 2019 and will continue throughout the 2020-’21 school year. Most recently, The Grands Design Committee visited the Innovation Center of St Vrain Valley Schools to learn from their accomplishments and innovations in providing work-based learning opportunities to students. When discussing the district’s journey, Don Haddad, Ed.D., Superintendent of St. Vrain Valley Schools, shared, “We had to shift the way we thought about education in St. Vrain.” 

The Innovation Center is an impressive facility, but Jackie Kapushion, Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent, cautioned, “Many times people will see that we went from a $15 million deficit to this beautiful facility, but it’s not always apparent how that happened.” Our visit to St. Vrain provided crucial insight into how they developed a system that prepares today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow. 

Experiencing innovation in action is a crucial part of the HTI process. We feel fortunate to have a chance to learn from the well-documented methods that drive creative programs garnering community support in a district. “It is so key to generate community buy-in. Going through the design process as an HTI community has allowed us to draw upon unconventional partners and really dig deeper,” said Darrin Peppard.

During our tour of the Innovation Center, Jeffrey Lund – an Instructional Technologist for the Center’s Entrepreneurial Zone and Studios – explained that the district aims to provide students with, “whatever skills we can give them.” We saw many examples of this skill development in acon as we toured rooms focused on media, aeronautics, robocs, bioscience, virtual reality, entrepreneurship and more. Now, we look forward to taking what we saw in St. Vrain as inspiration to create something great for our students, educators and the entire community of Grand County. 

The energy and enthusiasm from our fellow leaders in education and business is contagious. The passion each design team participant has for their community inspires us to continue supporting high school students in finding their passions, engaging with their community in deep ways, and developing new skills and competencies. After our time in St. Vrain, we are more excited than ever to continue this important work. 

The next step in our HTI journey is to reveal our profile of a high school graduate in East Grand and a profile of a learner in West Grand, and complete a 3-year implementation plan. The graduate/learner profile will serve as a guide for the future of our district’s work-based learning program and will also help us dramatically improve access to pathways that lead to economic opportunity when students leave school. 

HTI is rooted deeply in the context of local community assets and needs, cultivating and solidifying partnerships between often siloed organizations. The program is facilitated by Colorado Succeeds and Colorado Education Initiative and supported by local and national foundations, including the Daniels Fund, Walton Family Foundation, and Gill Foundation . 

With a lack of opportunity to adequately plan going forward and a hesitancy to further burden our community business partners at this difficult time, the School Districts have decided to cancel the Grand Career Fair, scheduled for April 29th. Furthermore, the Districts will be working together with Colorado Education Initiative and Colorado Succeeds to develop feasible timelines around rolling out the profile of a high school graduate/learner as well as the 3-year implementation plan.


Photos and story courtesy Ali Williams, East Grand School District