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Board activity benefits Idaho youth

Director’s Corner | Roger Quarles

Executive Director, J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation

It has been an eventful few weeks at the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. We’re proud to be a part of several exciting developments in our communities.

For starters, there’s the recent re-opening of Rhodes Park, a world-class skateboard park in downtown Boise. It’s already become a bustling hub for the community with extraordinary sights. No matter what time of day, you’ll find the park full of skate boarders of all ages enjoying the challenging terrain at this state-of-the-art skateboard park.

Last week, there was board activity of a different kind. The Albertson Family Foundation’s board of directors approved two important grant proposals. Each will have revolutionary impacts on students and learning in Idaho.

The Board approved a one-million dollar grant to Nampa School District for a new public high school that will serve mostly low-income students—up to six hundred when the school is at full capacity. Nampa is modeling the school after top performing national charter schools to create a learning environment that will innovate at all levels. Students will set the pace for their own learning at this new high school, progressing and graduating based on the standards they master. Attendance is mandatory, but a student’s schedule will be based on their individual goals.

This school is also expected to be part of the new Local Innovation Schools Act passed by the Idaho Legislature during the 2016 session. The Act allows selected public schools to operate outside some state and district regulations so they can provide more innovative learning environments for students.

As with many successful grant proposals leadership is key. David Peterson, the Nampa superintendent, has transformed the district in just two years since arriving from Washington State. Peterson not only rescued Idaho’s third largest district from a financial crisis, he has also brought forth a new vision for Nampa founded on the fundamental truth that all students can learn if given the right opportunity.

Our second grant represents another promising opportunity for education innovation. The Albertson Family Foundation board of directors approved funding for One Stone to establish a student-led, design thinking-powered learning model for high school-aged students in the Treasure Valley. One Stone will be an independent, tuition-free “unschool” in downtown Boise that will serve thirty-two sophomores this coming fall. It will be the first learning environment of its kind in the nation.

The idea for this next-generation learning center had its genesis in the 24 Hour Think Challenge in 2013 and 2014. One Stone created and led this Albertson Family Foundation-sponsored event which brought students from high schools across the Treasure Valley together for a twenty-four hour crash course in design thinking to solve Idaho’s most pressing challenges in education. The students spoke loud and clear. They want more relevant, real-world experiences in their learning—and they want to learn by doing.

One Stone also studied innovations in learning and toured the nation’s most innovative schools from the Silicon Valley to Boston to create a radical model that has no classes, no grades, no teachers or classrooms. Instead One Stone will use coaches who will collaborate with learners to help them find their passion and success in life whether that be pursuit of a 1-, 2- or 4-year degree, a trade, the military, internships, apprenticeships or starting a business.

One Stone is a Boise-based student-run non-profit with a mission to make students better leaders and the world a better place. For eight years, One Stone has used project-based learning to deliver twenty-first century skills to hundreds of Treasure Valley teens. Created by Joel and Teresa Poppen, the evolution of One Stone from an after school program to a full-time learning center is an idea whose time has come. And we’re proud to be a part of it.

Whether it is public or private, traditional or charter, inside or outside of the classroom the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation will support high performing learning models that have the potential to demonstrate what is possible. Idaho students and their families deserve nothing less.

Nampa School District and One Stone are great examples of how our work supports the vision of the Albertson Family Foundation.

We envision a world in which there are limitless learning opportunities for all Idahoans. We support high performing learning models that smooth the pathways between high school, college, and career, and we believe strongly in the student voice. Idaho teens have spoken and we are listening.