LAKEWOOD - When Brandon Nguyen first got to Alameda High School, he admits he didn't think too much about his future.
"College, freshman year, I really didn't think about college that much," said Nguyen, a junior at Alameda International High School in Lakewood.
But, Alameda was undergoing a major change. It had labeled a "turnaround" school and school leaders knew something had to be done change the conversation for students like Nguyen.
"I'm undecided about college," Nguyen said. "It's a scary thought, but I want to go to college."
Alameda made a couple major moves. One, it secured a Counselor Corps Grant from the Colorado Department of Education to hire a Mary Toren-Blair, an additional counselor to support the current ones.
"The counselor-student ratio is getting larger due to budget cuts," Toren-Blair said. "So, counselors really need the support."
Principal Susie Van Scoyk also established a teacher advisement system where teachers meet every day with a small group of students to make sure they are on track.
"A student has that one-on-one adult that they know they can go to for any question," Van Scoyk said.
Keith Gille is an English teacher that runs a 30-minute advisement group every day with about 15 students.
"I think it's really important to supplement counseling with advisement so we're basically getting people involved to help kids," Gillie said.
Rachel Franks is a senior. Franks says she likes having someone to turn to on a daily basis.
"Having an advisement teacher is kind of like having another counselor to go to," Franks said. "You can talk to them about like college applications and scholarships and like really keep you on track with everything."
The results in one year are dramatic. Alameda's graduation rate increased from 74.4 percent to 89.9 percent.
"That's exciting news," Van Scoyk said. "It is. It's wonderful."
Toren-Blair says paying attention to students really does make a difference.
"I personally hounded every senior to make sure they were done," Toren-Blair said. "So, they did graduate on time."
Van Scoyk believes other schools can make similar changes to support counseling needs without having to spend any additional money. She says it just took a collaborative effort to schedule in time for an advisement period and to have teachers and counselors work together on what should be discussed during those times.
"We really had to say what are the things we need to accomplish and then how are we together going to make that happen?" Van Scoyk said.
The difference can be seen in students like Brandon Nguyen.
"My perspective is completely different now that it was my freshman year," Nguyen said. "I see things differently - like college."
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