Life on the reservation can be difficult for students. Poverty and other issues are prevalent. But, a teacher in Durango believes teens' lives can be changed by offering a new class.
"Really, just all kids, girls and boys from all socio-economic levels, we want all kids to know that they can successful in rigorous curriculum," Tara Haller, a Durango High School teacher, said.
Haller is one of 450 teachers from around the world attending the Advanced Placement for All Summer Institute put on by the Colorado Legacy Schools Program within the Colorado Education Initiative.
"Basically, we help schools recruit more and more diverse students," Greg Hessee, Colorado Legacy Schools Program director, said.
The organization also helps teachers develop professional skills to be more effective teachers in Advanced Placement courses. Haller is in Denver to prepare to offer a new AP class to her students in Computer Science Principles.
"I need to brush up on my programming skills. I need to learn more about what the College Board expectations are," Haller said.
Part of the population at Durango High School comes from the Navajo reservation where Haller says there is a socio-economic divide. She hopes that by making this type of class available to Native American students can open their eyes to new academic possibilities.
"Being invited into the community of learners and feeling like they belong and feeling like they can be successful there," Haller said.
Hessee says the federal government and several national organizations are paying close attention to their project to see if offering more AP classes to Native Americans will help improve academic performance overall. He says, so far, it is working.
"It gives me a great deal of optimism about the opportunity this has on a national scale," Hessee said.
Haller thinks that pushing students towards the fields of computer science and engineering can change the trajectory of their lives and maybe even future generations.
"If you don't see yourself in that career or if you don't even know that career exists, then you're not going to reach for it," Haller said.