OSMRE / VISTA Team Projects
Mountain Valley School
OSMRE / VISTA: Megan Cleaver
Supervisor: Yvonne Morfitt
Address: 403 Pitkin St., Saguache, Colorado 81149-0127
Voice Telephone: 443-370-9469
Web site: mountainvalleyschool.org/
Bureau: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE)
The project will address lack of access to high-quality technology education by providing educational resources and hands-on town projects for local students, and will address lack of food access by continuing the greenhouse project, which provides students and the community access to healthy produce and to the skillset needed to grow and understand the gardening process.
The Mountain Valley School District includes most of northern Saguache County, which was in the past home to several mines and mining communities. Those mines are now mostly inactive. As the mines closed, high-paying jobs, some of which required technical expertise, left the area. The mines also left a legacy of environmental degradation with yellow creeks and tailings piles in some areas. The OSMRE/VISTA’s activities will address those issues by creating opportunities for students to gain skills in other technical fields and by building environmental stewardship through partnerships with local public lands professionals and through greenhouse programming.
About the Surrounding Community
The town of Saguache as well as the surrounding communities served by Mountain Valley School District RE-1 face a shortage of available food shopping options and a dearth of preparedness for high tech jobs among high school graduates. The nearest large market is over twenty miles away, with the nearest supermarket closer to 35 miles away. In town there are two small markets, but their selection of healthy, low-cost foods are extremely limited. Within the district, around 70% of students qualify for free and reduced lunches.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming had not been emphasized at Mountain Valley prior to the OSMRE/VISTA position’s creation. This school year saw the first technology classes in middle and high school in recent memory and the first physics class in nearly fifteen years. As such, the district lagged behind state testing averages in these areas in past years. Specific statistical data about the impacts of the current STEM initiative will not be available until the end of standardized testing in mid-May.
These issues are symptoms of greater poverty in the region. Mountain Valley School District, located in Colorado’s northern San Luis Valley, is a remote, impoverished school district. The county-wide rate of youth living in poverty is around 45%. The rate of homeless and mobile youth as defined by Title X of the McKinney-Vento Act comprises between 20% and 30% of the student body served by the district. This population is typically underserved in both food access and access to high-quality technology education.
Mountain Valley School District, located in Colorado’s northern San Luis Valley, is a remote, impoverished school district. The county-wide rate of youth living in poverty is around 45%. The rate of homeless and mobile youth as defined by Title X of the McKinney-Vento Act comprises between 20% and 30% of the student body served by the district. This population is typically underserved in both access to high-quality technology education and food access.
This project will provide educational resources for local students to have the best opportunities to learn core STEM subjects, connect their classroom experience with knowledge from industry mentors, and utilize those skills to help their community through service-learning projects. A community needs assessment performed in the winter of 2013 informed school stakeholders about potential project areas around town that can be addressed by student projects. The VISTA will work with staff and community members to continue those projects which provide hands on experience and mentorship to Mountain Valley’s entire high school population. The goals of these projects are to address community needs stemming from endemic poverty and to give students insight and incentive to pursuing STEM careers and post-secondary study.
The greenhouse project will serve to alleviate poverty by providing fresh, healthy, local produce to the school’s cafeteria and, depending on yields, to the community as a whole. The amount and quality of this produce will eclipse that which is normally available in town. This aspect of the project will also provide students with more hands-on science learning and provide a sense of ownership for their education and their alimentation. This project will also assist in students learning how to cultivate their own gardens to produce a lifelong appreciation for organic produce for their own consumption.