My day at Rocky Mountain High School.

2015 Rocky HS 076The halls were a buzz at Rocky Mountain High School. It signified the end of the school year coming and school check-out for students who were graduating the following weekend. I was invited to visit the Alternative Cooperative Education 2015 Rocky HS 077or ACE class and learn about gardens they were planting collaboratively with student council for the community. Instead of slowing down in anticipation of the end, RMHS teachers were not only continuing with their great work, but also starting new projects to teach job skills and how to give back to the community. I went into the day already completely impressed by the opportunities they provide for students and their future but I had no idea what a special culture they have created.

ACE at Rocky Mountain High School consists of many moving parts. There is an etching machine, where students make a variety of merchandise which they are 2015 Rocky HS 081able to sell for a profit; there is a concession stand, The Rock Stop, which students in the ACE program run and operate. The list of employment experiences goes on and on. There will be time to talk about all of the wonderful work and real life education opportunities within the program, but that will come at a later date. This article is focusing on the staff who create the amazing experiences for students at RMHS.

Through the many hallways of Rocky, tucked away you can hear the hum of an 2015 Rocky HS 093etching machine and fans. This particular day was filled with excitement for those that were moving on and a sigh of relief for those whose fate had been up in the air. In a classroom full of life I found the desks of Kim Nigro and Patti Haugen.  It feels like visiting old friends, even though these are woman I have just met. They are beyond welcoming.

I had an opportunity to witness students coming and going, completing check out sheets which would release them from high school as they knew it. It felt like… a home. The busy day did not stop; work had to continue so that products would 2015 Rocky HS 085be on time and schedules would be kept but when students came to say goodbye work paused. Kim and Patti, as proud as though the students were their own children, gushed over each one who came through. It was sincere and loving. Students had found a home and people who loved them in a critical time between youth and young adulthood. Many who may have little support and encouragement at home came to this room, with these people, and found exactly what they were missing.

Kim pointed out a few young men whom she had known since they were in elementary school. Years ago, when the young men were in elementary school, Kim had been their teacher. Over the years Kim moved on to teach in the high 2015 Rocky HS 084school. The last of those K-5th graders she had once known were bringing sheets for her to sign, signaling the end of their time together. As Kim and Patti talked about their students, I could see their heartbreak for what some students had been through and pride for how far they had come.  They beamed as they discussed each student. As students walked away Kim would say, “just keep moving forward, not back.” These simple words carried weight as students knew what she meant and with that left with smiles and two cheerleaders beckoning “we love you”.

When I eagerly accepted this position with Integrated Services, I did so because I believe Poudre School District has some of the finest programs, with teachers 2015 Rocky HS 111who care about students and their futures. Yet this day, I was blown away at how much that love for people drives these two individuals. Kim and Patti chose to finish the school year strong, giving all that they have to their kids. I hope with all of my heart that their students remember that day forever and when the time comes, they reference it as a time they were loved and valued, remembering it with the clearest details.

– Virginia Chevalier

2015 Rocky HS 087

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521


Coffee Roasting– 2014 SPIE Grant

“The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things.”                                                                                                        – Temple Grandin

ACE Supported Employment Program

The goal of any educational institution is to prepare students for post high school Michael Woodruffalso known as “the real world”.  Here is the thing, the real world looks different for different people. Sometimes it leads to continued education, sometimes vocational work, other times it can be entrepreneurial work. As educators it is our responsibility to help guide students to where they can be most successful.

Michael Woodruff, the coordinator for the Alternative Cooperative Education Supported Employment program for Integrated Services in Poudre School District, supports students in developing employment skills. The students he works with have a disability and are served through the Integrated Services program with a high level of special education supports. The wonderful part of this ACE Supported Employment program is that it provides students with opportunities to learn job skills while in school instead of waiting until they have finished! Together students and coordinators work to find the best fit by providing job trials in various places.

coffee bagThe ACE Supported Employment program has wonderful success stories of students finding, keeping and loving employment positions.  Often, these positions continue after the students formal education with Poudre School District has concluded. Even with great success stories, there was a piece of the puzzle missing. There needed to be a place for students who were not emotionally prepared for work in the community.  Sarah Belleau, Director of Integrated Services, challenged Mr. Woodruff and his team to create an environment within the safety of Poudre School District where students could explore what it is like to be self-employed, with a real monetary product. This environment would allow students with more significant needs to be in charge of all of the ins and outs of running a business including time and money management, ordering, roasting, grinding, bagging, labeling and distributing an end product – coffee!

The 2014 SPIE Grant Mr. Woodruff received granted $3,755 toward a Coffee Roaster, Baratza Encore Coffee Mill, Jenning CJ-4000 Scale, 1 lb. Kraft Tin-Tie bags, 20 + pounds of coffee beans, and a switch Relay Device to operate the roaster and grinder.

The coffee roasting entrepreneurial option creates an environment for students who may have job placement difficulty otherwise. In addition it creates a partnership between a few student run enterprises in Poudre School District including Poudre High School’s Poudre ACE Sign Shop.  The Poudre ACE Sign Shop creates the labels for the coffee packaging.

Mr. Woodruff is in the process of setting up production materials and soon the roasting will begin. Keep an eye out for more information on our Facebook page and Twitter. It may be your new, favorite place to buy coffee.raw coffee beans

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                     2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521