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Beyond the Classroom

Our students’ learning transcends the school building.
Aeronautics Program team members hold up the airplane they've been building at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools.

St. Vrain’s 21st-century learning experiences stretch far beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom environment. Our students carry the lessons they learn from teachers, coursework, and books into community service projects, work-based learning opportunities, and design-thinking initiatives. Through real-world, hands-on engagement, our students stretch their imaginations and realize their true potential, as current students and future citizens. 

10 years of leading the future

The spring of 2023 will mark a decade of Silver Creek Leadership Academy (SCLA) graduates. “I think the most important thing we do is interact with the community,” shares Carrie Adams, SCLA Program Director. Throughout her leadership of the program, she has seen students make direct connections from their capstone projects to their current careers. For example, a student whose project focused on introducing young women to STEM through her Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science (GEMS) Project currently works as a software engineer in Boulder County and remains focused on recruiting more women into the field of engineering. Other students may have pivoted from their capstone project themes, but their early lessons in leadership guided them to other noble pathways, as was the case with another alumnus who graduated from Harvard Law School and now clerks for the Colorado Supreme Court.

A key component of the SCLA program is to partner with local organizations and make a positive impact. This year, senior Max Scherer is collaborating with e-NABLE, a nonprofit that uses 3D printing to create prosthetic hands for those in need, to open a local chapter in Longmont. Meanwhile, senior Miranda Beasley is creating and publishing a cookbook of special family recipes supplied by community members to benefit victims of the Marshall Fire. 

Adams sees her students make direct connections from what they are learning in the classroom to the projects they are working on in partnership with local organizations. She attributes the success of the program to the commitment of business and nonprofit leaders in the area. 

“I think our community is really focused on investing in kids,” shares Adams. “They see the value of being mentors and partnering in education, and that speaks volumes to the kind of community we have across our school district.”

Realizing career paths early on

Guiding students to gain real-world experiences and prepare them for a successful career trajectory is a core belief for St. Vrain educators. As a member of the first graduating EagleTECH class, Frederick High School senior, Crystal Rojas, will earn both her high school diploma and an associate degree with a focus on biochemistry from Aims Community College. 

Crystal looks ahead to her future where she will be a first-generation college student with hopes to continue her biochemistry studies and reflects on when she first learned she was accepted to the program. “I was very excited and it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” shares Rojas. 

Crystal spent last summer interning at KBI Biopharma, a biopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization, where she learned how KBI helps clients in developing and manufacturing proteins. She shadowed 13 departments and took part in hands-on jobsite activities. Her experience with EagleTECH and the internship further piqued her interest in the field of biochemistry. “My experience was really positive and it was a great introduction to both the workforce and the field of biochemistry.” 

As an open-enrolled student to the district, Crystal’s unique experience is not lost on her. “St. Vrain has completely changed my life. The opportunities that are found here are amazing.”

The sky’s the limit – literally

Instilling the belief that there is no limit to what our students can achieve is paramount for their success as contributing citizens. Twice a week after school, you’ll find a group of students building a 20-foot, two-person RV-12 airplane at the Innovation Center. Yes, you read that correctly. As part of the Aeronautics Project Team, students are sifting through thousands of pieces of plane material and learning about the various instruments, engine systems, and electrical wiring required to complete the build kit that was purchased through a $100,000 grant from Boeing. Once finished, the plane will be inspected by the FAA and cleared for flight use.

The build project is led by Aeronautics instructors Colin Dielmann and Josiah Slaydon, both of whom are licensed pilots and have extensive experience working in the aviation industry.

“The overarching philosophy with the Innovation Center is to offer learning experiences that are nontraditional and are pushing the boundaries,” shares Dielmann. “We want to provide students with real-world, hands-on, invaluable industrial skills.”

A second build kit is already on the way. The plan is to sell the first completed plane to continue to buy new kits, which will create a sustainable model for the program. Students are paid for their time working on the plane, but even more valuable are the skills they will take away from their participation in the project. 

“I hope they realize that they don’t need to limit themselves,” shares Slaydon. Students begin the year with limited knowledge and ultimately play a significant role in the project. “Having this experience removes that barrier of fear for students and allows them to pursue excellence in whatever they choose.”

Dielmann’s wish is for participation in the project to build students’ confidence. “I hope students really take the world by storm and say, ‘This is what I want to do and this is what I’m going to do,’ and I hope we’ve empowered them enough that they do exactly that.”