IT was an afternoon of motivational speakers in the auditorium, team-building games in the gymnasium, and classroom work focused on how to plan for life after high school.

The setting was Ortega Middle School in Alamosa, and it was the start of OMS Power to demonstrate to the 500-plus middle school students that now is the time to think about career pathways, not when you’re in high school and about to graduate.

Ortega Middle received a $30,000 grant from the Nathan Yipp Foundation, which is focused on improving these outcomes specifically in rural settings like Alamosa and the San Luis Valley, to help with its efforts. 

When OMS eighth-graders graduate into high school, they will begin to develop an Individualized Career and Academic Plan, aka ICAP, as part of their high school years as all high schoolers in Colorado are required to do.

The work OMS Principal Amy Ortega and her team started Wednesday, and will continue through the school year, will help with the transition as well as give younger OMS students an early understanding of how to think about an ICAP when they get to high school.

“Every high schooler has a plan or should have a plan. What we’re doing is exploring those now with our middle schoolers,” Ortega said. “We are supporting that through team-building exercises, motivational speakers on how to do well in school, and some lessons that are ICAP-based – things that kids in the Valley never think of.”

Over the course of the school year, Ortega Middle School students will hear from motivational speakers like Lamarr Womble, who delivered a session Wednesday on “Redefining Student Leadership.”

While Womble was talking to one set of OMS students, another set was in the gymnasium participating in team games, and a third set was doing classroom instruction. The groups then rotated through the afternoon.

OMS has planned for five different days like Wednesday over the course of the school year. Wednesday’s was the kickoff, with students in different colored OMS Power T-shirts thanks to the Nathan Yipp Foundation grant. 

The effort to get Ortega Middle School students planning earlier for their own success is part of the whole new look and attitude that permeates OMS. Read more.

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