GOAL High School another option for local students

High School is a coming-of-age period in a person’s life.  A time where teens begin to morph into the young adults they are rapidly becoming.  A time of beginning to be autonomous – students join clubs and sports and forge new friendships of their own choosing.  Today’s high school students are faced with a constant flood of information and choices to make. Technology has advanced rapidly.  Gone are the days of number 2 pencils, rulers and textbooks painstakingly covered with paper from grocery store bags.  Those were replaced by computers in schools which then gave way to individual laptops, which now are provided as early as grade school.   Along with the birth of this exciting new virtual learning opportunity (which provided instant access to almost anything) came social media and the threat of cyber-bullying.  The COVID pandemic in 2020 changed the landscape of learning dramatically.  Students and staff were forced to switch to online learning almost overnight.  That experience allowed some students to realize that online learning was a better fit for them and this is where GOAL High School shines.

I was recently invited to visit GOAL’s Lamar location by Bill Becker, Assistant Principal of the Lamar and LaJunta locations to learn about the school and what it can offer students.  I admitted that I knew virtually nothing about the school when I met with Sherri Kerr, one of GOAL’s Academic Coaches.   She presented me with a large array of material about the school and its curriculum.  I talked with other staff members and students as well while there and was struck by how well this program was working for the them all.  GOAL is not just another online school option for students.  Rather, it is considered an “online blended” or hybrid school.  Currently, this type of learning environment is only available in Colorado.  GOAL has 40 of these drop-in centers throughout the state.  They are unique in that they offer a choice of learning options.  Their students can choose to do 100% online learning (still being required to come into a physical school for testing requirements), can attend in-person at the site full time or do a combination of both.  This flexibility is key to the program’s success.

Ms. Kerr explained that the school can accommodate students who choose, for a variety of reasons, not to attend a traditional school.  She mentioned students who were needed at home to help with a family business, care for younger siblings during the day or who were teen mothers with no childcare options (these moms can bring their baby with them and do their learning in a private room inside the building.)  She stressed that GOAL “may not be a good fit” for everyone, just as public schools may not be.  Rather, it provides another option to enable students to graduate and prepare for life after school.  Students may have a history of suspensions, experienced the loss of parents or siblings or endured abuse and who blossom in a smaller environment where they can feel accepted and safe.  Students who in the past may have chosen to drop out can now get not only their high school diploma but can also participate in concurrent enrollment earning college credits, just as they could in a traditional school.  GOAL’s 2022-2023 Annual Report has some impressive statistics. GOAL students boasted a 93.6% pass rate in concurrent enrollment classes last year.  7 graduated with both a diploma and an Associate degree and 25 received a trade certificate in addition to their diploma.  GOAL was recognized by Microsoft as the “Biggest Impact School of the Americas” and is one of 3 Microsoft Showcase schools recognized in the world.  They were also recognized as one of the top 150 workplaces in the state of Colorado by the Denver Post.  State-wide, the school has seen enrollment increase in the past few years, with 5,678 students enrolled last school year.  Lamar’s GOAL location currently has 71 students from this area that includes Springfield, Walsh, Las Animas, Wiley, McClave, Stratton, Towner and Lamar.

Many aspects of the school mirror those of public schools.  They have EL, ESS and CE programs. They offer PSAT/SAT testing and STAR testing is done 3 times a year. Parents get weekly grade reports and students can see their grades online at any time. The school meets all state standard requirements for credit hours. There are parent teacher conferences each quarter.  The school has Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring breaks.  Students can participate in the school’s e-sports program but are also able to join their local public school’s sports teams and clubs if they so choose.  Music and art classes are available. GOAL receives the same state stipend per student as do public schools, which allows them to provide many of the same opportunities.

GOAL is unique in that their students are allowed to graduate as soon as they complete the required number of class credits, enabling them to enter the work force or college early.  Early graduates can also attend the graduation ceremony at the end of the school year with the traditional caps and gowns.  At graduation, rather than a Valedictorian, all graduates are allowed to speak.  A big difference is the much smaller teacher-to-student ratio and personalized attention that GOAL can provide.  Students aren’t required to attend daily, but ARE required to check in with their teachers daily and complete at least the number of required weekly hours.  Teachers remain in close contact at all times with both the students and the parent/guardians. The students who were present the day I visited all voiced the same reasons they chose to attend GOAL – less stress, no bullying, more help from teachers and flexible hours that fit their lifestyle.   Cell phones are left at the door.  There is a large lunch room with a freezer, refrigerator and microwave with a wide array of foods and snacks that students can eat when they are hungry (one student mentioned her hypoglycemia and the need to eat when necessary).  For students who may learn better on their own, a private work room is provided.  Good grades and test scores earn students “GOAL Bucks” which can be spent on school merchandise like hoodies and shirts.

One very unique opportunity for GOAL students is the GOAL Ventures program, an array of outdoor recreation trips that can be applied for.  This year saw students rock climb, ski and snowshoe in South Fork and Leadville while working on teamwork, communication and group living skills.  A current trip has a Lamar student heading to southern Arizona to learn about land use and government organizations while getting to experience camping, hiking, meal prep and service learning.  Another spring trip this year takes students to Goblin Valley, Utah to learn about geology, hydrology and regional plants and animals while earning a Leave No Trace Certificate.  The Black Hills of South Dakota trip in May will teach about political geography and how our maps came to be.  Students attending this fall’s Eastern Utah trip will learn about outdoor leadership, wilderness first aid and go on an overnight backpacking trip earning a CPR/Wilderness first aid certificate.  GOAL Ventures come at no cost to students.

Ted Del Duca, President of GOAL, states “A sense of belonging is not just a feeling, it is a key to success and happiness.  It helps students feel more confident and motivated, and students become more involved and responsible in the community.”

For parents and students who have an interest in GOAL, they can visit www.goalac.org or call 1-877-776-4626.  Lamar’s GOAL drop-in center is located at 123 S. Main Street.

By Barbara Crimond

Filed Under: City of GranadaCity of HollyCity of LamarCity of WileyEducationFeaturedSchoolYouth

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