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Unearth an Excellent Education in Grand Junction

Mesa County Valley School District earns high marks for diverse programming and services.

By Teree Caruthers on February 3, 2023

The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education program in the Mesa County Valley School District 51
D51 Communications

A diverse menu of programs and services sets the Mesa County Valley School District 51 apart and gives Grand Junction, CO, and the region a distinct advantage when attracting and retaining new business and talent.

The school district in Grand Junction works to embrace the diversity of its student population, offering a wide range of educational opportunities to meet the needs of all students, no matter their skills, interests or abilities.

“The district has put a renewed effort toward fostering a sense of belonging for each student. In addition, we are working as staff to have some deep discussions about inclusion and what it truly means to have each student feel welcomed in the classroom,” says Linnea Hulshof, the district’s coordinator of culturally and linguistically diverse education.

“When students bring their true identities, including their language and culture, into schools it enriches all of our lives.”

Linnea Hulshof

The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education program serves multilingual learners through two instructional models – dual language education and English language development. Hulshof says both are essential in building strong academic language for multilingual learners and providing access to core content.

“The ultimate goal of these language supports is to empower multilingual learners with the academic skills they need to access any opportunity they’d like to pursue and to equip them to improve the world with their knowledge of languages and cultures,” she says. “Academically, we are examining student growth and achievement data to identify any gaps that might exist for diverse students and making efforts to address barriers and adjust instruction appropriately.”

Hulshof says incorporating language and culture into learning sends the message that all students matter and are valued for exactly who they are.

“Celebrating diversity within our learning environments allows all voices to be heard and gives an opportunity for each student to contribute in powerful ways,” Hulshof says.

The InSteps program also provides fun activities for students with special needs, such as cycling and canoeing.

High-Quality Education for All

Another example of the district meeting students where they are is the Individual Student Centered Transition Employment Program Services (InSteps) program for students with special needs. Part of the District 51 Career Center in Grand Junction, InSteps helps equip students, ages 18-21, with the skills needed to live independently and successfully after high school.

“The first and probably most important element of the Career Center is that we teach all kids,” says Cam Wyatt, principal of the Career Center. “Whether you have a learning disability or not, we expect you to achieve. When you go into the real world, into the workforce, employers may not be concerned with your learning disability.”

“What they want to know is are you prepared? Are you polite? Are you productive? Are you professional? Those are what we call employability skill sets that anybody can master. We focus on finding students’ strengths, and the nice thing about the D 51 Career Center is that we have multiple programs that help us do just that.”

The Career Center also partners with other community organizations, such as STRiVE, a nonprofit that provides support and services to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in Mesa County.

“We have really strong relationships with community agencies like STRiVE that have an understanding of kids with special needs, and they work with us to help place them in good placements,” Wyatt says.

The Career Center is across the street from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore retail outlet. Students from the Career Center go there to practice their employment skill sets, Wyatt says. The center also places students at the local hospital and at other local businesses.

The Outdoor Wilderness Lab (OWL) is yet another example of the district’s diverse and innovative programming. The OWL program, which operates out of the Gateway School in Gateway, is a school within a school and welcomes sixth graders from across the district for a week of immersive, hands-on learning.

The curriculum explores science topics as they relate to land and natural resource conservation.

“OWL is not only a first-class opportunity for our students to live out the science they are learning in the classroom but an even better opportunity for them to build meaningful relationships with themselves and one another,” says Thomas McCause, speech language pathologist at Fruita Middle School.

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