Editor’s note: This article was written by Tricia Noyola, CEO of the Denver-based Rocky Mountain Prep and STRIVE Prep charter school networks
It was my junior year of high school, and like most seniors I went to a meeting with my high school guidance counselor. I told her I was interested in going to college. She replied, “college isn’t for you.”
She thought she was helping me. We were in the Rio Grande Valley, on the border of Texas and Mexico. I had limited means and resources. My family was in crisis. One of my parents was in jail. In her eyes, a job would get me stability, even at the expense of some of my big dreams.
She thought she was helping me.
I look back on that moment a lot in my work as the CEO of Rocky Mountain Prep and STRIVE Prep. I think about what I wished she had said to me that day. I wish she had asked me about what I wanted for my future, what I loved to learn and do.
I wish she had looked at me and seen all my potential instead of reasons why I wouldn’t be a fit somewhere.
When I think about what our children deserve, it’s to be seen, loved, supported to achieve, and given access to each and every opportunity. That’s what drives the decisions and vision we have for our network, and the experiences I want our children to have in our schools.
This summer, we will mark a significant milestone for education here in Denver. Rocky Mountain Prep and STRIVE Prep will unite to become the first cradle-to-college network in Denver, offering students educational support from 12 weeks old through 12th grade.
We will work side-by-side with families and students from the moment their child starts school to the day they graduate and go to college. In a city and sector where many of my counterparts are white men, I am proud to be able to lead this network and serve families and students who grew up like I did.
This year has been challenging and unexpected, but full of bright spots that leave me so hopeful for our future. Our exceptional team of leaders and teachers have been focused on supporting students emotionally and academically. In the six months since I’ve become CEO of both networks, we have seen remarkable progress.
Our students are showing significant academic improvement over previous year’s testing results, with many of the current STRIVE schools already significantly outperforming where they ended the year last year. Our daily attendance is up, our family return rates are strong (nearly 98%), and we are seeing enrollment growth at our campuses with new families wanting to be part of what we’re doing.
We’ve incorporated teacher and leader voice into our decisions, most recently when a committee of teachers from both networks came together to select a new curriculum aligned with state standards, ensuring that students receive a rigorous education that will prepare them for success beyond the classroom.
That’s not to say everything has gone smoothly — there have been bumps in the road and challenging situations to navigate. But what inspires me again and again is the power of what we can achieve when we set a clear vision, when we support people to achieve that vision, and when we hold people accountable for delivering results for our amazing students.
This month, we held our Senior Signing Day at the Denver Coliseum, where our graduates had the opportunity to stand on stage and announce their post-graduate plans in front of their families and students from across our network. We welcomed our new families at celebratory events, and we will be appreciating our leaders and teachers for their tremendous work this year.
And together, I deeply believe we will be able to achieve a future where students like me are seen for who they are and know they belong.