Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair for Gifted Education and Full Clinical Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver, was awarded the United States Department of Education’s Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education 2020 Grant Program grant of $2,845,155. Dr. Kristina Hesbol, Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at the Morgridge College of Education, is co-principal investigator. Dr. Robert Reichardt, Senior Associate at APA Consulting, serves as project evaluator. The grant will span over five years, October 2020 – September 2025, to implement I-REECCH: Impacting Rural Education through Expanding Culturally responsive curriculum, Computer science training, and Higher order thinking skills.

The goal of I-REECCH is to significantly increase identification of and services to underrepresented gifted and talented student populations in rural Colorado. This includes students eligible for free and reduced lunch, English language learners and students who identify as Hispanic or Native American. Classroom practices will be improved through increasing rural faculty ability and implementation of culturally responsive pedagogy, computational thinking, higher order thinking skill development, and talent and giftedness recognition. All students in I-REECCH elementary schools will participate in a computer science/computational thinking module by the end of fifth grade.

Dr. Hafenstein stated, “Consider the Spanish speaking little boy who has taught himself to read in English…clearly a demonstration of ability! How do we recognize his giftedness and talent? How do we serve his strengths so that he may reach his potential? As educators, our purpose is to improve the lives of children and families. We recognize the disproportionality of gifted and talented student identification and service. This Javits award supports collaboration with rural partners for cooperative tangible action in identification of and service to rural Colorado gifted and talented students learning English, who are Hispanic or Native American, or who are under-resourced. We look forward to partnering with rural educators in implementing this important work.”

I-REECCH will partner with Fort Morgan School District, Santa Fe Trails Board of Cooperative Educational Services and schools in rural southwest Colorado. Advisory Board members include Dr. Rebecca McKinney, Director of Gifted Education at the Colorado Department of Education; Dr. Terrence Blackman, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics at the Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York; Dr. Joy Esquierdo, Associate Professor, Department of Bilingual and Literacy Studies and Director of the Center for Bilingual Studies at The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, and Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, Professor of Educational Administration and Executive Director of Urban Education Initiatives at The Ohio State University. Dr. Kimberly Schmidt and Dr. Brette Garner, both professors at the Morgridge College of Education, will serve as faculty consultants and content advisors.

Cecilia Orphan, PhD, assistant professor in the Morgridge College of Education’s Higher Education Department, is co-leading a Joyce Foundation grant-funded study totaling $101,000 with the newly-launched Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges to identify how rural public higher education institutions are being impacted in real-time by COVID-19 budget shocks due to state funding cuts and rising costs associated with virus mitigation.

“Many rural public higher education institutions were vulnerable before COVID-19 due to enrollment declines and chronic underfunding from their states,” said Orphan. “These institutions are vital to their regions, because they serve students who would be unlikely to leave their regions to pursue education and educating public health workers and teachers to fill shortages in rural communities.”

The study will showcase the contributions of rural public higher education institutions, focusing on access, attainment, equity, public health, and regional wellbeing, and then shift to explore how such contributions are at risk due to COVID-19. By studying rural postsecondary institutions in real-time, the findings will inform policy recommendations for federal and state policymakers so that they can ensure these institutions survive and continue to fulfill their vital missions in rural regions. At the close of the project, the research team will also create an interactive website with data about rural public colleges that will be available to policymakers and the public.

To conduct the study, Orphan will work with collaborators Kevin McClure, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education, Andrew Koricich, associate professor at Appalachian State University and Alisa Hicklin Fryar, associate professor at The University of Oklahoma.

The study is currently underway. Findings will be described in a policy brief and website set to be released in November, 2020. For more information, visit the Open Campus Weekly Dispatch.

The Center for Rural School Health & Education (CRSHE) at the University of Denver (DU) has a vision for happy, healthy children and families living in vibrant rural communities. The Colorado Health Foundation has stepped in to “Make it Happen” with a $4.9 million grant awarded to CRSHE to increase healthy eating and physical activity among high poverty, rural students and school staff. CRSHE, already a known partner in rural Colorado, will build on existing partnerships with 27 rural school districts to support them in implementing community-driven comprehensive health and wellness plans. CRSHE’s involvement in this process is key; it helps rural districts identify and successfully implement culturally relevant evidence-based practices. The Make it Happen grant period kicked off in October with expected completion in Oct. 2021.

“I’m excited for our rural school district partners. They’ve worked hard to develop thoughtful health and wellness plans and now have both financial resources and CRSHE support to put those plans in place,” said CRSHE Executive Director, Elaine Belansky, PhD.

According to Belansky, one of the top concerns of rural districts is mental health. With that in mind, CRSHE is also launching The Resiliency Project, specifically designed to complement Make it Happen by promoting youth mental health and resiliency. This effort is also generously funded by the Colorado Health Foundation and makes it possible for CRSHE to continue providing hands-on support in rural Colorado through in person meetings with rural educators to discuss mental health promotion strategies and a regional convening to share the latest best practices and school success stories. CRSHE will capitalize on DU’s state-of-the-art ECHO-DU technology, a virtual professional learning tool, in order to provide rural educators information about the latest best practices on topics such as social-emotional learning, suicide prevention, and bullying prevention.

“I’m thankful to the Colorado Health Foundation for recognizing that youth mental health is a top priority in rural Colorado school districts,” continued Belansky. “Allotting funds to address that need allows all of us to keep the momentum going.”

As a leader in Colorado’s Creede School District, Grants Manager and Health and Wellness Coordinator Lauren Sheldrake is looking at ways Make it Happen and the Resiliency Project can impact her constituents.

“In the past year, we have seen a significant increase in the mental health needs of our students and staff,” Sheldrake said. “The grant and these partnerships can open a door to addressing Colorado’s mental health crisis, creating the vibrant communities CRSHE envisions.”

Over the weekend, Elaine was able to chat with Colorado Public Radio about the project and ways the funding will be used in rural districts.

PUEBLO, CO – On Monday, September 9, experts from the University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) Center for Rural School Health & Education (CRSHE) went to Pueblo to work with rural wellness coordinators to shared district-level comprehensive health and wellness plans and prepared for the implementation process. The event, held at Pueblo Community College, signified a milestone in CRSHE’s commitment to rural communities.

CRSHE is a research and education institute housed within MCE. Its vision is happy, healthy children and families living in vibrant rural communities. CRSHE partners with rural schools and communities to improve health and education outcomes through four focus areas: comprehensive health and wellness planning and implementation in schools; social-emotional health for students, teachers, and service providers; workforce development for professionals working with children and families; and economic development.

“This event brought together wellness coordinators from 21 districts across southeastern Colorado and the San Luis Valley to celebrate their completion of 5-year comprehensive health and wellness plans,” said Shannon Allen, PhD, Director of Community Services and Resources with CRSHE. Allen is the project manager for the project, designed to help coordinators identify areas of need in their district and work to create evidence-based solutions.

“The top student health problems that districts are focusing on include poor mental health; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; physical inactivity; bullying and violence; nutrition; and sexual health and healthy relationships,” she said. “Over the next 5-years, districts in these regions will be working on strategically improving student health by implementing evidence-based policies and programs in their districts.”


Copyright © 2018 University of Denver. | All rights reserved. | The University of Denver is an equal opportunity affirmative action institution
X