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Southern Colorado school wins award for growth and achievement

La Veta Highs School wins Colorado Succeeds prize with help of their community. They use real-life experiences to get students ready for what's next

LA VETA, Colo. — The Student-Centered Accountability Program (S-CAP) was created by a group of rural school districts who wanted to go beyond the test scores to better understand their student’s growth and achievement.  

One of the districts involved was the La Veta School District in southern Colorado. The farming community is 65 miles south of Pueblo and has a population of about 800.  

The district said its goal is to expose students to resources available in the community.

“We’re lucky to have many retirees in our area, many of whom have special skills that are willing, ready and able to come into schools and mentor students and answer questions” said district Superintendent and La Veta High School Principal Bree Lesser.

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The school recently won the Succeeds Prize for Transformational Impact in high school education. The award was created in collaboration with Colorado Succeeds, 9NEWS and mindSpark Learning. Colorado Succeeds is a coalition of business leaders whose mission is to improve schools and ensure they are teaching students in a way that helps supply the kinds of workers businesses will need in the future. 

“I think that small community communication makes a lot of difference,” Lesser said. "And I think it’s something that can be copied in other schools if we focus on what can be done instead of what can’t.”

Credit: Fireside Productions

The rural school compiled a wide range of community, state and national partnerships to make sure its students have access to the hands-on experiences and opportunities their community has to offer. According to Lesser, the district is invested in the idea of local control and what’s important to their taxpayers.

RELATED: Central Colorado elementary school wins Colorado Succeeds Prize for transformational impact

“We’re a very small town and the outlying area,” Lesser said. “(There are) lots of people around who want to help, and want to be involved and want to see this next generation be successful."

Credit: Fireside Productions

“We have a lot of former and current scientists in our community,” said La Veta High School senior Anna Montalbano. “So to be able to talk to them about what they’re doing or what they’ve done is something really special that our community has.”

After graduation, Montalbano said she plans to study ecology in college and said her school offers many science courses that might not be offered at other schools.

Credit: Fireside Productions

“Last year I took an Aquatic Science course,” she said. “We went with the Colorado Department of Wildlife, and we went out on the boats and helped them get their semiannual fish samples to see how the fish populations are doing.”

The Succeeds Prize is awarded to Colorado public schools and educators that show innovation in education.

RELATED: Succeeds Prize 2019 awards ceremony honors Colorado teachers

“Of course it’s a small town, so we’re a little bit limited in what [we] can offer, but we have to be creative using distance learning and think about the capabilities that we do have,” Lesser said.

Credit: Fireside Productions

A total of $150,000 was awarded with the hope the winners will share their best practices with other schools in Colorado.

A data-driven process was used to identify and recognize innovative public schools in Colorado.

“It’s like having a family,” added Montalbano. “Everybody’s welcoming to each other, and always happy to see each other…just always having people around you who make you happy is really special.”

For more information about The Succeeds Prize, go to: TheSucceedsPrize.org.

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