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Returning grads talk about college preparedness

Cindy Ramunno
Daily file photo As Eagle Valley High School seniors prepare for the next step, last year's graduates are assessing how prepared they were for college.
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How are local high schools doing preparing students for that first year of college? Well, the results of past efforts can be seen in some of last year’s graduates, who are back from their freshman year at a college.

Eagle Valley High School’s class of 2003 had some interesting thoughts on how high school prepared them to take that big next step.

Interestingly, a common theme was that first year freshmen felt weak in language arts. “In English, I felt a little behind,” says 2003 Eagle Valley graduate Katie Lovell, who completed her first year at the University of Colorado in Boulder.



“The dual credit classes helped me a lot,” she adds.

The University of Northern Colorado is located in Greeley, where Craig Jagger attended his first year. He agrees with Lovell.



“English was definitely harder,” says Jagger. And Justin Wood — who attended Mesa State College in Grand Junction Ð says that writing and English was also a struggle for him. Yet all three say that they were did better in other areas, especially math.

“I was well-prepared for math,” Wood says.



People skills intact…

Socially and personally, the college students agree they don’t get the extra help and attention from teachers that they received at their small high school in Gypsum.

Both Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain High schools now have required classes that focus on personal responsibility and study skills.

Two years ago, Eagle Valley began requiring incoming freshmen to take a class called freshman seminar. The course, required for Eagle Valley ninth graders, is based on Sean Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” and habit No. 1 speaks to personal responsibility towards education, work and life. Personal responsibility, in fact, is the subject of the first month of the class.

Instructor Ron Beard says there are class discussions about college and career life. “We talk about the real world and in that world, there is no role call,” says Beard.

Beard says in college and in life, one must take action to achieve success.

“Eagle Valley teachers are very helpful towards students, yet we still emphasize that it’s up to the student to make up work and check on grades,” Beard says. “If you fail, there is no one to blame, but the positive side to that is if you succeed, no one else takes the credit.”

Though the class of 2003 didn’t take the freshman seminar, similar skills were emphasized in other areas at the school – in particular, extra-curricular activities.

Lovell, Jagger and Wood were all involved in extra-curricular activities during their years at Eagle Valley. Jagger says time-management skills are a must for the college atmosphere, and all three students say they have been successful in their social and personal relationships at college.

What now?

Mark Strakbein – a former principal at Battle Mountain High School and most recently Red Canyon High School – took over as principal of Eagle Valley a few months ago. Strakbein says graduating seniors can always be better prepared for college.

“Anytime we get information back from former students, we look at that information long and hard. It’s extremely valuable to us,” he says.

The more data gathered the better prepared staff members can become to help students succeed, he says.

“As students leave our high school for college or a career, they are representing Eagle Valley High,” Strakbein says. “We want them to be as prepared as they can be.”

Eagle County School District superintendent John Brendza says he was not surprised that students were weak in the area of writing skills and language arts.

“We are keenly aware and concerned about college-bound students being prepared,” says Brendza.

The district is currently working on a post-graduate survey, and Brendza says the results will be one tool used to make improvements.

Brendza also credits the area’s private high schools for making Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley better, explaining that competition in education is a good thing. The two high schools are currently offering advanced placement courses and other senior courses, along with adding challenging electives.

“We are beginning to demand high rigor in our high schools, so that every student is successful in their next step, whether that be college or a career,” says Brendza.


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