Coalition Spotlight: Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center

by Opportunity Nation   •  

This is a monthly feature that shines a light on the work of one of Opportunity Nation’s Coalition members. This month, we’re highlighting
Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center, a full-service not-for-profit educational reform organization that operates a year-round residential high school in Estes Park, Colorado, and offers professional development services at school and community sites around the United States.

If you’re a part of the Opportunity Nation Coalition and you’d like to be a part of our Coalition Spotlight, please contact Juanita Tolliver.

How do Eagle Rock’s current priorities align with Opportunity Nation’s goal of restoring the American Dream?

We envision this country’s youth who are in high school fully engaged in their education. We have set out on a mission to implement effective, engaging practices at Eagle Rock School — that foster each student’s unique potential and helps them use their minds well — and to support schools nationally to do the same.

How are you engaging young people and/or local communities in your work?

Eagle Rock School, located in Estes Park, Colorado, and with an enrollment of 72 students, serves adolescents who are not thriving in their current situations, for whom few positive options exist and who are interested in taking control of their lives and learning. The school serves to educate our students and to provide grounding for our professional development center work of supporting engaging, progressive education practices throughout the United States.

The Professional Development Center works with educators from around the country who wish to study how to re-engage, retain and graduate students. We provide consulting services at school sites around the United States and host educators at our beautiful mountainside campus in Estes Park who wish to study and learn from our practices.

What is something you wish more people knew about your work?

The Professional Development staffers here at Eagle Rock are organizational school change consultants. They work with schools, school districts and youth service organizations across the United States to help those entities create healthy, high-functioning learning environments with the aim to improve student engagement.

How can others can get involved with upcoming activities, reports, or initiatives?

  1. We continually recruit for students to attend Eagle Rock who are not thriving in their current high school experience and who would like to finish their high school experience. Do you know a young person looking for a new, tuition free, residential high school option? We welcome you to learn more here.
  2. If you’re a high school or education organization supporting Opportunity Youth, our pro-bono professional development center staff facilitates the work of select educators, school administrators and community leaders from around the country who wish to study how to re-engage, retain and graduate students. We invite you to inquire about our professional development services using this form. We provide ‘facilitative’ consulting services at school sites around the country and host educators at our mountainside campus in Estes Park who study and learn from our practices.  

What are some recent collaborations or partnerships that you’re most excited about sharing with the Opportunity Nation Coalition?

If we’re known by the company we keep, then we couldn’t be prouder. Here at Eagle Rock, we partner with organizations and people who are just as committed to re-engaging youth in their own education as we are, including the organizations found at the bottom of this link.


What are the guiding principles for your work?

We Are Youth Advocates— We believe that adolescence is a unique transition in a person’s life when the movement from childhood dependence to adulthood interdependence is playing out. Young people need adults in their lives to guide, support and mentor while appropriate freedom and responsibility are offered. In this transition, it is important for young people to know adults are there for them. Within this context, we advocate for young people, particularly those who have been told their dreams are unattainable.

We Are Risk Takers— In order to discover what is possible, we understand that we need to work on the edges of our comfort. Inside of our physical and emotional risk management systems, we create ample opportunities for staff and students to take appropriate risks in the name of growth. It is in the area of uncertainty that we often find solutions to the most difficult individual and organizational challenges.

We Use Judgment As A Foundation For Decision-Making— While we do set parameters in the form of policies and procedures, it is important for us to also rely heavily on professional judgment when determining the right course of action. We realize that no two situations are the same and it is in these gray areas that we find the use of professional judgment paramount.

We Focus On Continuous Improvement— We believe that educating young people is not a problem to be solved but rather a process of continual unfolding and evolution. For this reason, we consider our model, our practices and our own personal and professional growth as a work in progress.

We Are All In This Together— We consider everyone at Eagle Rock to be a learner and a teacher in the broadest sense. It takes everyone “pulling on the oars” to make Eagle Rock work. Our founding head of school, Robert Burkhardt, left many legacies, one of which is the value that all of us are in this together. He captured that ethic in the saying, “find a need and fill it.” We expect everyone at Eagle Rock, regardless of job title or status to jump in when needed. Staff members do chores and play intramurals, students teach classes and lead professional development sessions around the country – we work shoulder to shoulder.

We Are The Hub In A Network— This network supports effective practices for educators and high school students across the United States. Through our network, we are a small organization with an outsized impact. Our network connections generate an exponential impact as we support implementation of effective progressive practices within our school and partner schools around the country.

Opportunity Nation Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national campaign comprised of more than 350 cross-sector organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America. Opportunity Nation envisions the United States as a nation where everyone – regardless of where they were born – has equal access to opportunity, economic mobility, and success at all stages of life.

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