Animas High School pays particular attention to potential first-generation college students from the day they arrive on campus.
It’s something that AHS Head of School Sean Woytek credits with keeping the school’s four-year graduation rate, which was 86 percent for 2018, healthy. The statewide average four-year graduation rate for 2018 was 80.7 percent. AHS’s four-year graduation rate dipped from 88.6 percent in 2017.
Woytek said efforts with first-generation students also helps to keep the school’s dropout rate low, 1.3 percent for 2018.
“In ninth grade, we ask students to think about college and career, and for potential first-generation college students, the information they receive can be overwhelming,” Woytek said. “If no one in the family has gone to college, when the first road bump hits – a failed test or class – it often becomes a big deal.”
He said an effort is made to ensure students are assured there is always a path to redemption.
Woytek said families with college backgrounds frequently reach out for help when their children are struggling. But for many students without that familial experience with higher education, a failed class, even a failed test, can be seen as catastrophic and often serves to impede recovery and further academic progress.
“The biggest part on our part is to work with teachers on how they help kids (after a failure). How do you learn from this? How do we move forward on a college or career path?” he said.
For untraditional students, Woytek said AHS works closely with Pueblo Community College Southwest’s Gateway to College program that offers college credits along with credits toward AHS graduation.
Gateway allows students to be done with school by noon if they need to hold down an afternoon job.
Animas also received a grant to provide prep classes for the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and almost 30 percent of students attend.
“They’re classes similar to those families with monetary resources pay to get,” Woytek said. “Families that don’t have resources don’t have money to pay for a tutor.”
Animas works with Durango Academic Coaching Center on the PSAT and SAT prep classes.
“The classes give students more confidence, even if the skill level is already there,” Woytek said.