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South Valley Riverton Journal

Community leaders help school prepare for future curriculum, career skills through focus group research

Jan 05, 2023 02:46PM ● By Camille Emmer

Summit Academy hosted focus groups to help students prepare for life post-graduation. (Photo contributed)

Jim Moran is quoted to have said, “the future belongs to those who prepare for it.” This is exactly what Summit Academy High School was doing on Tuesday, Nov. 29 2022. The event was a Community Portrait of a Graduate focus group. This focus group was the last of a long series of groups including students from various grades, parents, teachers, and this final one with leaders from the business community, local government and university leaders. The goal was to discuss the knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes diverse groups believe every graduate needs in order to be prepared for the future.

“Our community wants to improve the school’s approach to better meet the individualized needs of students,” said Principal Diana Brantley. “We are setting the stage for students to have more ownership over their development of the skills and attributes they need for the future. Together, with our entire community, we are building the next generation.”

Although it is impossible to predict the future, it is possible to predict trends and focus on important skills to best prepare for it. Summit Academy is well positioned to do this because they strive for excellence and encourage their students to do the same. Summit Academy has a 16 to 1 student/teacher ratio, 47% of the student body are in advanced courses and they also have dual immersion opportunities. Educational ambition and achievement are familiar to the school. 

Summit Academy was created in 2004 by a group of parents who wanted to have more control over their students' curriculum.  In fact, the mission of Summit Academy is “to provide a rigorous educational environment based on the standards of high academic achievement and individualized instruction for the benefit of all students.” They also encourage parent involvement, technology and 21st century career exploration through curriculum, assessment and student-tracking. 

As an estimate, U.S students spend roughly 5,700 hours in class in four years of high school, where they must learn math, English, a foreign language, history and fine arts, among numerous other subjects. These focus groups help Summit Academy guide their students to optimize each minute of high school for the greatest benefit of the students and help them prepare for the future.  

The organizers wanted to start with broad concepts and whittle it down as the evening went on. The first activity started with having participants write the purposes of education. There were many responses, but some were to prepare for future careers, to teach how to think, to encourage curiosity, as well as softer skills like teaching social skills, empathy and confidence. 

Next, participants were asked to continue brainstorming the qualities and knowledge that businesses value in employees. Some of the answers included ability to problem solve and find solutions, communication, ability to write, leadership skills and technological skills. 

Lastly, participants combined these two categories into what they felt were the most crucial to learn by the end of high school and that would be valuable skills for careers. By the end of the focus group, participants had finalized the categories as mindset, leadership skills, social skills and general skills. Each group had slightly different priorities and results,  and the school will now take these results and analyze and research the best way to incorporate the results into the Summit Academy curriculum next year and in the future. 

The result of these focus groups benefits the students the most directly, but they also benefit the teachers and the community. Nelson Mandela said it best when he said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  The world needs to be changed for the better and Summit Academy is helping their students be prepared for it.