News & Stories

Education meets The Trailhead – a new path to graduation

The virus-ridden winter presented many challenges, perhaps most impactfully to the students sent home to screens for online learning. In an effort to make up for lost benefits of the classroom, the Loppet Foundation provided an alternative learning environment for students of Patrick Henry and North High school. 

On Wednesdays in January and February, around 50-60 students convened at the Trailhead for an in-person educational opportunity; building relationships with teachers face-to-face, fostering community, and providing a reason to get outside. Students had the chance to explore the cross country ski trails, go tubing, walk, lift weights, or socialize in the chalet with peers. Along with opportunities for regular physical activity, teachers were present to facilitate engagement with required academic material – all with the goal of supporting students on their path to graduation.

In Minnesota, high school students are required to fulfill a specified number of credits in language arts (4), mathematics (3), science (3), social studies (3.5), the arts (1), and electives (7) for a total of 21.5 course credits. The idea is to equip students with the skills needed for postsecondary education, skilled work, and civic life. However, the road to graduation does not look the same for every student. Research shows that socioeconomic situation, demographics, attendance, and student engagement are some of the many factors that influence graduation rates, and there are measures in place to help support students regardless of their situation. Some of these measures include the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. These acts include protections for disadvantaged students, requirements for teaching high academic standards, information flow between educators, families, students, and communities, access to preschool, identification of areas of need, and emphasis on accountability, and have been proven influential in increasing the nation’s graduation rates.

The initiative to leverage the Loppet’s resources toward educational success was driven by Ray Aponte, the Adventures Director at the Loppet Foundation and former Minneapolis Public Schools principal. Aponte aimed to offer another path for students as they worked toward graduation and to provide extra support as students worked to complete required course credits in their altered academic settings. 

“We wanted to offer a unique opportunity to help motivate students and support teachers in a new setting, as well as improve engagement and contribute to the social-emotional aspects of education.”

Ray Aponte

The program aimed to engage and motivate students, as well as encourage attendance amid a socially-distant winter. The Minneapolis Foundation supports the program, allowing teachers, coaches, and staff to bring the goal to fruition. Among this support were Loppet High School Ambassadors who contributed peer support and guidance. 

High School Ambassadors are trained by Loppet staff to provide structure to lessons, help motivate their peers, and offer advice and experience to those who are new to Loppet activities. 

With backgrounds in Loppet programming, the ambassadors worked to give back and offer additional support to staff. The Loppet looks forward to continuing this programming in the upcoming school year!