Grand Mesa Choice Academy's innovative approach draws kudos

By Pat Sunderland


Grand Mesa Choice Academy's innovative approach draws kudos | Grand Mesa Choice Academy,

Photo submitted Representing Grand Mesa Choice Academy on a student panel were (left to right) Anthony Giron, Tristan Schaaf, Dustin Coe, Isaac Jones, Edith Mendiola and Braden Lee. Not pictured: Martin Perez and Aliyah January. "These students were absol

Grand Mesa Choice Academy, the recipient of a student re-engagement grant from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), hosted a site visit from seven CDE officials and representatives from and Jefferson County Schools and Montrose County School District last week.

GMCA is a public school designated as an alternative education campus with programs designed to give students at-risk of not graduating from high school an alternative route to earning their high school diploma.

CDE scheduled the personal visit to witness firsthand the innovative efforts in the re-engagement arena of Delta County School District. Grand Mesa Choice Academy was described as an "exemplary example of re-engaging students and preventing dropouts," in addition to having in place programmatic practices introduced to serve all learners in the community.

The event began with dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 18, with GMCA staff members Jay Ritter, principal; Amelia Baldwin, dean of students; and Kelly Scheid, counselor.

District officials Caryn Gibson, Jim Ventrello and Connie Vincent, and school board members Tammy Smith and Ron Germann also participated in the site visit.

Following an overview and walking tour on Thursday morning, participants chose between three breakout sessions. At Bill Heddles Recreation Center, Wilma Erven, Nick Streza, David Torgler, LaDonna Gunn and Don Suppes spoke about the importance of providing options for kids. Torgler, Erven and Streza praised a work-based learning experience where GMCA students are learning construction skills and establishing connections within the community, by partnering with the city parks department and the Cedaredge Area Chamber of Commerce to complete building projects.

As county commissioner, Don Suppes said any effort to keep at-risk kids from becoming "a number in the system" is money in the bank.

A second breakout session was titled "Career Readiness - Jobs in Delta County," and included Tony Bowling, assistant director of Technical College of the Rockies; Kim Klouser, internship coordinator; Sarah Triantos, Colorado Workforce Center; Ann Hasse, Montrose Workforce Center; and Gail Srebnik, GED coordinator.

Because college is not the only path to success, efforts are being made to educate students about technical and career training that can lead to a rewarding job locally. At GMCA, students can not only learn construction skills, but also outdoor leadership and forensic science.

A highlight of the event was the Grand Mesa Choice Academy student panel in which students were asked many questions ranging from their opinions on the school to where they would be in their lives without this school. Many of their responses moved audience members and attendees to tears.

A follow-up message from Roseyn Hood, special assistant to the Colorado Department of Education commissioner, spoke of how she was "inspired, motivated and humbled" by her visit. She expressed her commitment to the school and its students.