Posted On: 2017-09-06 03:34 PM
Cara O'Donnell, for Edkey® Inc
While it's fun to reminisce over yearbook photos, prom dresses and homecoming games, the real point of a child's education is preparing them for the future. Helping students become responsible members of society is no small task but Edkey® Inc. has proven that it's up to the challenge.
As the support organization for the Sequoia Schools throughout Arizona, Edkey® Inc. operates a diversified group of K-12 schools that emphasize excellence. Sequoia School's students can choose specializations, get extra one-on-one instruction and prepare themselves for college and beyond. It's all part of a mission to reconnect teacher with student, and to eliminate the structure and red tape from the learning process. And based on their progress, Edkey® Inc. CEO Mark Plitzuweit said that parents and students are enjoying the results.
"Typically we run a 90-plus percent graduation rate," Plitzuweit said. "We had 250 graduates this past academic year, and they made us very proud."
No matter the grade, students at any of Edkey® Inc.'s 18 Sequoia Schools quickly learn that excellence is expected. And as the years pass and more and more students complete high school, the results speak for themselves.
Edkey® Inc. offers Sequoia Schools across Arizona, with physical locations as far north as Snowflake all the way south to Maricopa. Students have the freedom to choose a curriculum that matches their aptitude or career goals.
Those 250 graduates in 2017 earned high accolades more than $3.1 million in scholarships and grants and five Division I athletic scholarships. Perhaps even more impressive, 23 students achieved an honor typically reserved for students far older.
"We had 23 students who had earned college degrees, and several more that had earned college credit, by the time they graduated from high school" Plitzuweit said. "This doesn't include a significant number that completed post-secondary certification programs as well, and that's the end result we're aiming for. We adjust the curriculum to meet their demands. We have partnerships with colleges and universities who work with our students. Dual-enrollment is something that's very important to us."
Getting to the point where a high school student can simultaneously achieve college credits takes not only high standards, but also preparation. That's why Edkey® Inc. focuses on excellence early in the Sequoia Schools.
"We typically start the college conversations with them right around the sixth grade," Plitzuweit said. "What we're finding is that we have gifted students who were being held back by a grade level designation in some situations (in traditional public schools). Some students transfer to us in seventh or eighth grade, expecting the same structure, while they should have been taking high school courses."
Edkey® Inc. works with teachers and parents to identify those students early, through testing and interviews. Teachers, because of their one-on-one involvement with students, can quickly identify whether a student is ready to move up to trigonometry or physics.
"We're not wasting our students' time," Plitzuweit said. "I would like to see, eventually, that we're at the point where all our high school seniors already have college credits. They're doing the work. They should be earning the credit."
Equally important as helping students get the credits they need is guiding students toward careers that match their interests. Plitzuweit said that Edkey® Inc.'s mission extends beyond pairing a student with a major. It's also about finding a vocation and helping students see how their skills can be marketable.
"If we have a student who shows a specific talent, we want to help them achieve," he said. "That includes exposing them to certificates in the various trades, such as welding. The key is to allow them to experiment. Don't tell them what they're going to do. Show them what they can do."
Plitzuweit said that students' eyes can open wide when they imagine the possibilities.
"They need to explore," he said. "We offer exposure to them, including meeting people from various trades. As an example, after a guest speaker finishes their presentation, the students may say, If you're an underwater welder you can earn up to $250,000 a year I can do that!' We help them imagine the possibilities."
To aid in the process, the Sequoia Schools place added importance on inviting guest speakers to classrooms, taking field trips and expanding learning beyond the classroom.
"It's just one more reason why parents choose our schools," Plitzuweit said.
To learn more about Edkey® Inc. and the Sequoia Schools, and to find a school near you, visit Sequoiaschools.org.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.