November 6, 2019, 11:02am | St Vrain Valley School District
In 2008, Skyline Principal Patty Quinones was faced with a monumental task – transforming the high school experience for her Skyline Falcons. “It was a time of incredible change and innovation. We knew that the world was changing quickly and we had to keep up. As we looked at the industries in our community, we realized that STEM offered our students that strong competitive advantage.” Together with a team of dedicated teachers and staff, Quinones set about creating the district’s first high school focus program, STEM Academy. Built in partnership with CU Boulder, the program focused on STEM and engineering skills, offering students a path to STEM careers. To complement the new explicit focus on STEM, the school also added a Visual and Performing Arts Academy to provide even more opportunities for students.
“We really did start small. We needed help from industry on a whole host of issues, but technology was at the center.” As the team began implementing the school’s first computer science coursework, they lacked something key: laptops. Western Digital had recently opened an office in Longmont and was dedicated to supporting its new community. “Western Digital stepped in and donated a laptop cart and set of laptops. In those days, 1:1 initiatives like we have now didn’t exist, so with that investment, we could suddenly provide a huge increase in computer science programming to our students.” With those laptops, Skyline was able to add its first course, Advanced Placement Computer Science. The STEM Academy blossomed, ultimately helping to earn the district a $16.6M Race to the Top District grant. In 2016, based on the success of the STEM Academy, Skyline added the district’s first Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH).
Built on early successes at Skyline and across the district, St. Vrain has since implemented a nationally recognized learning technology plan, focus programs at every high school, a second P-TECH program, and an Innovation Center. A decade after its first investment, the Western Digital Foundation recently awarded a $10,000 grant to St. Vrainnovation, the district’s future-ready mobile innovation lab. With the mobile lab, St. Vrain will not only be able to provide innovative, technology-driven programs to students, but also demonstrate to educators across the country how technology-enabled and personalized learning changes students’ lives.
Western Digital’s support is a story of how one investment can have far-reaching effects. “In those days, we were testing small projects to see what worked. Today, our teachers are leading the nation in their practices and taking the show on the road,” says Quinones. “We’re very grateful for longtime supporters like Western Digital, who are willing to invest in big ideas and a vision. It has been an amazing experience to see that vision come to life for students.”