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District 51 Schools Prepare Students for Future Careers

Mesa County Valley School District 51 is helping students put their best career foot forward

By Livability on December 8, 2022

Courtesy of Mesa County Valley Schools

The journey toward a thousand career choices has to begin with a single step somewhere. 

Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Grand Junction, CO, is working to ensure that its students are in full stride before they get to college, career and life beyond K-12. 

District 51 offers a wide variety of opportunities, through partnerships with Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado Community College for students to receive college credits while still in high school. During the 2021-22 school year, 812 students earned a total of 8,042 credits. 

“This includes classes to be a welder, teacher, doctor, engineer, chef — almost anything,” says Cheryl Taylor, D51 director of Career and College Readiness. “Whatever a student’s passion might be, there is an opportunity to earn college credit paid for by the school district through state grant money.” 

In addition, D51 can help students with funding even after they leave for college. The P-TECH program pays for the first two years in most STEM professions, and the new Teacher Recruitment Education program does the same for students interested in an education career. Meanwhile, the first year of college toward any career choice can be funded through the ASCENT program. 

“We’re trying to ensure that finances are not a barrier to a student pursuing the career they want,” Taylor says. “Our goal is to help our kids have every door and opportunity open for them.” 

And D51 wants those doors to be open early. Taylor says career-readiness and preparation should be as important as the old three “Rs” (reading, writing and arithmetic) during a student’s high school years. 

“We believe you need to start exploring your career pathway in high school so you’re not waiting until you get to college and just floundering, wondering what to do,” Taylor says. “We want our students to explore and, during that exploration, find out what career is best for them. 

“High school is a time when students should be taking classes and getting hands-on information about the career they might like,” she continues. “We want to get them engaged early on in starting down that career pathway.” 

To find out more about these programs and what District 51 offers, contact your school counselor. 

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