For decades, high school students like us have chosen some of their classes — electives, Advanced Placement courses, and so on — based on their talents, needs, and interests. If students can choose their own classes with advice from their parents, they should also have the power to select the schools in which they attend classes. We recognize the power of school choice to improve students’ lives — because we have seen it ourselves.
Having both attended traditional schools, we ultimately decided, with the advice of our family, to enroll at Pathways in Education, a charter school. Charter schools, which have more flexibility than traditional schools, represent but one form of school choice in Idaho. Students can also select magnet programs, which offer courses focused on particular subjects like science, online classes through Idaho Digital Learning, or open enrollment in public schools other than those in their assigned neighborhood.
For both of us, Pathways in Education provided a better fit for our needs than our prior schools. Because our school doesn’t have thousands of students enrolled, we don’t get lost in the crowd, or have difficulty selecting the elective classes we want.
Just as important, Pathways in Education gives us very personalized learning options. We get the extra help we need to understand our course lessons — we absorb the material, rather than just reciting it back to our teachers. The curriculum allows us to learn at our own pace; we can learn independently, but also have support should we struggle with some concepts. The teachers and staff show they care through their encouragement, guiding and nurturing us along the way.
In our traditional schools, it seemed as though everything happened so quickly and everything was out of control. At Pathways, we have control over when we take what classes and what works best for our learning. It is really up to us how long it takes to complete a class; we decide whether we want to earn our credits and graduate. It is because of this control that we feel encouraged to do our work, complete our courses that would normally be a struggle, and graduate from high school, and we are supported by our teachers and administrators to find what’s in our best interests.
Teenagers face many pressures during their high school years. We have to balance our studies, social lives, extracurricular commitments, and our first jobs. We face all kinds of sources of stress — preparing for and selecting a college, dating, peer pressure, even the temptations of alcohol and drugs.
That’s why we are both so glad to have found Pathways in Education. For us, the school just “fits.” At a difficult time in our lives, we finally have a warm, comfortable environment, one that has provided us with important lessons — inside and outside the classroom — as we move from childhood to become young adults.
During the week of Jan. 20-26, Pathways in Education, along with other groups nationwide, hosted more than 40,000 events celebrating National School Choice Week. We celebrated with other students nationwide, because we believe that every student and family should have the right to select their own school, just as we will select our own college a few years from now.
We understand that Pathways in Education may not work for everyone, and that some people fit best in their traditional schools. We just know what worked for us — and we’re thankful that we had the chance to pick the right school for our needs. Here’s hoping that every student can be as lucky as we are.
Written by Sierra Tanner and Tanner Lynch, high school students at Pathways in Education in Nampa.