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Some Say Problem, We Say Opportunity: Thoughts on Being A New and Innovative College & Career Prep School

Friday, October 21, 2016

There are four core mindsets at Nazareth Prep, one of which is Problem Solver. To become a good problem solver, one needs to be a critical thinker, writer and speaker, as well as someone who designs solutions. Another is being a Resilient Learner, one who is optimistic and persevering. One way to practice these mindsets is to take a perceived problem is to make it into an opportunity. Highly innovative schools like Nazareth Prep are without a doubt on the cutting edge of education. These schools are able to identify not only the needs of its students, but also the needs of the community and the job market, by looking at current trends and assessing the gaps for the years to come.

Just as any school, it is our responsibility to prepare students for their post-secondary world. Project Based and Blended Learning, Field Based Learning, our Work Study Program, and our holistic approach to education and preparation through advisory gives our students the skills that aren't taught or measured at "traditional" schools, but are necessary for collegiate and career success. Yet, change does not happen overnight, and sometimes new and highly innovative schools like Nazareth Prep are faced with the perception that because our school is designed differently, our students are not as effectively prepared for the rigors of college. However, college is a new and challenging environment for everyone, requiring people to perform their best. From the first day of school when a 9th grader takes his or her first Cultural Literacy course, or starts their very first job through our internship program we call Work Study, to the 11th graders using Duquesne University's organic chemistry lab, at Nazareth Prep, we are challenging our students and exposing them to new situations in many different ways. They are learning and practicing communication skills everyday. They are resilient. They are problem solvers. College would be another stop on their journey towards their goal. We are confident they will have the skills required to persevere in the face of barriers.

In the coming months, I will be getting to know the students even better as we work together to design their personalized post secondary plans. We will talk about their strengths (they all take the Gallup Strengthsfinder), their interests, their skills, and their values. It’s my mission to best prepare them with the tools they will need to follow their path, whatever their goal may be. This will include one on one meetings, visits from colleges, universities, technical schools, trade schools, and industry professionals. They will explore different career paths, as well as be continuously reflecting on themselves and their experiences.

Although Nazareth Prep has not had a graduating class yet, schools like ours have. High Tech High Chula Vista alumni Rafael Rosas (2016), who currently attends Dartmouth, wrote in a recent post that he was placed in classes that his peers from different high schools had taken Advanced Placement in high school to get into. And while surprised by having his first exam so early in the semester, he studied hard, got a B+, and learned a valuable lesson at the same time. Another model to look at is Big Picture Schools, where we are affiliate members. Big Picture Schools have recently been named as the all-stars with regard to project based learning and personalized education. Part of our affiliation allows us to have access to Big Picture tools and consulting from its leaders. Our model of education is working. Not only to meet our students goals but also the requirements of higher education and the needs of America’s workforce.


Rosas, R. (Sept. 30, 2016). The Disadvantage of Being an HTHCV Graduate in College. [Web log post]. Retrieved from