Guest column | Tony Byrd: Profile of a Summit School District graduate

Tony Byrd
Summit School District superintendent

While reading, writing and math certainly do matter, our students will need much more than these skills to be successful in a rapidly changing world. As was so brilliantly noted during our strategic planning process, a graduate from the Summit School District needs to be courageous, curious, globally-aware, growth-oriented and prepared. But what do these traits actually mean?

To be courageous means to take informed risks, persevere through challenges, and advocate for the needs of themselves and others. Today’s youth face enormous issues ranging from mental health, to an incredibly large wealth gap that continues to grow, the cost of higher education and a deeply polarized nation. They will need to know how to push through all of this and we need to prepare them for that.

To be curious means to ask questions, think critically, and problem-solve using a variety of strategies. As anything posted on social media seems to take on its own “fact-based” life, the students of Summit County will need to know how to discern what information actually represents. They will also need to be adroit at thinking about issues from multiple angles and finding a myriad approaches to solving complex problems that are often much, much deeper than they appear in a tweet or a post.

To be globally aware means to participate in local and global communities, embrace different cultures, welcome the perspectives of others and communicate effectively across lines of difference. We live in a deeply international world. In Summit County we are gifted with people from nearly every continent and this gives our students the unique opportunity to learn about each other’s backgrounds and beliefs. It also helps them develop the skill it takes to understand that we each have our own unique worldview — often shaped by our cultures.

To be growth oriented means to remain flexible and open to possibilities, adapt in changing circumstances and pursue passions. Students graduating today are much more likely to shift careers multiple times in their lives than when many of us were young. This means they need to be incredibly open to options and ready to adjust. Knowing the issues they care about most will certainly help them through this. 

To be prepared means to be academically, socially, emotionally and financially ready for life after high school. They must be able to read, write and manage the complex language of mathematics. However, just knowing these skills will not be enough. They need to be socially and emotionally prepared for a sometimes very frightening and angry world and they need to know how to manage their resources to persevere.

As a district, we have significant responsibilities with respect to preparing our students to graduate with these traits. With respect to courage, we must create rigorous learning spaces with both high expectations and the safety to fail. Anyone who has moved from green to blue to black on any one of these gorgeous mountain trails knows that falling down and getting back up was key to that growth. 

On curiosity, we must ask our students questions about themselves, about the community and the larger world. We must create lessons that include complex problems which require a variety of strategies to both approach and solve. 

On global awareness, we must create opportunities for our students to participate in local and global communities. They must also learn to embrace a range of cultures, seek others’ perspectives and communicate with those who are very different from themselves.  

On being growth-oriented, we must create environments that are flexible in design and develop a deep sense of possibility in each of our students. We must also help our students learn to adapt and adapt quickly. 

On preparedness, we must ensure that each and every student has the opportunity to pursue a rigorous academic program. While being academically ready is wonderful, our students must know the basics of managing and growing their finances. 

It is our honor as a district to do this work. We also know we need to do this in partnership families and the larger community. You told us as much through our strategic planning process. I believe, as I noted in an earlier column, if we come together across the county in the name of our students we have the opportunity to be one of the best districts in the state.

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