Education Center’s Silver Star Celebration — 25 years of lifetime learning

By Rosalind Marshall
Special to The SUN

Photo courtesy Rosalind Marshall Staff at the Archuleta County Education Center. Left to right: Julie Loar, Mark Wardell, Candace Coombes, Pat Attanasio, Jane Reseigh and Rosalind Marshall.

Photo courtesy Rosalind Marshall
Staff at the Archuleta County Education Center. Left to right: Julie Loar, Mark Wardell, Candace Coombes, Pat Attanasio, Jane Reseigh and Rosalind Marshall.

On Wednesday, March 20, the Archuleta County Education Center will celebrate 25 years of lifetime learning at the “Silver Star Celebration” fundraiser luncheon. The venue is Centerpoint Church in Aspen Village, from noon-1 p.m., and this year’s luncheon will feature a speaker who is an expert on new educational research.

Finessa Ferrell is the director of health and wellness at the Colorado Legacy Foundation, overseeing work in school climate change, equity, best practices in healthy schools, student behavioral health, healthy school indicators and social emotional learning.

Before joining CLF, Ferrell led the National Center for School Engagement and the Colorado office of Homeless Youth Services; she worked as an evaluator for Search Institute, as a policy analyst in school violence prevention for the National Conference of State Legislatures and as a college professor.  Finessa’s career has focused on the intersection of social-emotional health, academic achievement and school safety and she has a substantial background in research and policy.  A graduate of the University of Oklahoma and the University of Wisconsin, Finessa holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in political science, communication arts, and education policy and education administration.

Ferrell’s presentation is entitled, “The Heart-Mind Connection:  Helping Students Achieve Success.”

Research is increasingly clear that learning is not a passive act but an active one.  It is a function of the mind working in tandem with the heart and they are inextricably bound up together in that effort to take in information, apply it and demonstrate it.  In fact, the developing adolescent is geared — by biological design — to be heavily influenced by emotional impulse rather than rational decision making.  By looking more carefully at how the adolescent brain works, in combination with recent research on grit, academic mindsets, stress response, motivation, anxiety and trauma, we can begin to understand the fundamental misalignment between how we traditionally have structured student learning and how students actually become engaged in learning.

Student speakers from our many programs at the Ed Center will also have the opportunity to tell their stories, and lunch will be catered by the Alley House Grille.

ACEC first existed as an adjunct of Ruby Sisson Library in 1988. The initial program was adult literacy, funded by a single federal grant, taught by volunteers, and 173 students were enrolled. In 1989, ACEC was incorporated as a private, 501(c)3 non-profit education agency, and leased the old La Plata Electric building, on the corner of Fourth and Lewis streets. The first executive director was Ginger Swartz, replaced in 1990 by Thomas Steen. In 1992, the 500th student enrolled at ACEC, as the range of new programs and educational offerings expanded. In 1993, Sandy and Roger Wickham purchased and donated the LPEA building to the ACEC; it is named the Wickham Building in their honor. In 1994, ACEC hosted the first Pueblo Community College classes for 24 students, and ACEC began a community-wide assessment to identify educational needs. In 1997, the Archuleta County High School was created, as a high school dropout recovery program, with Mark DeVoti as the director. ACHS began participating in the El Pomar Youth in Community Service program.

The Youth Crime and Prevention Grant Program awarded a grant in 1999 to provide after-school activities and support, and Pueblo Community College had 41 students enrolled in 12 classes. By 2000, ACEC had added 2,000 sq. ft. of teaching space, aided by a grant from the Gates Family Foundation. Livia Cloman Lynch replaced Tom Steen in 2000 after his 10-year stint as executive director. Thirty-two ACHS students graduated in 2002, and ACEC held the first, very successful, fund-raiser luncheon. Doug Bowen became principle of ACHS in 2003, and programs for at-risk students were expanded. In 2004, the ESL program provided English instruction to 29 adults in the community. 2004 also saw GED tutoring for jail inmates, and the first GED graduation ceremony at ACEC had 28 graduates. The El Pomar Foundation named ACHS the outstanding school in the Four Corners Region in 2005 and 37 teens were also mentored in the Youth to Work program. Don Goodwin became the new executive director in 2007, and in 2008 the Education Center held its first independent graduation ceremony for the Alternative High School graduates. In 2008, ACT WorkKeys was added to the alternative high school curriculum and GED program to enable students to earn a National Career Readiness Certificate. Worldwide Interactive Network (WIN) was also offered for remedial skills. The ACEC website was created in 2009, to make information about our programs more accessible in the surrounding rural community.

In 2010, a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant and support from both the town and county facilitated the purchase of equipment to create a high-definition video conference center for distance learning. In 2011, ACEC became an additional location of PCC/SCCC through a Memorandum of Understanding with ACEC, PCC, and Archuleta County School District 50 Jt. A new Alternative High School Diploma Program was initiated as part of this MOU. Also in 2011, a new program, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) was introduced for grades 5-8 as an after-school enrichment class. Due to its success, this program has now become an elective in the middle school curriculum. Julie Loar became director of operations in 2012, and the website was expanded to offer online registration and payment via PayPal. In 2013, the Education Center celebrated 25 years of providing comprehensive education opportunities to the community. Come and help the Ed Center continue to offer a wide range of unduplicated educational services in Archuleta County by attending our fund-raising luncheon and perhaps becoming a sponsor.

For more information, visit our website,, where you can purchase your luncheon tickets via PayPal. You may also become a sponsor of the event at levels from $100-$500 by donating online, requesting a sponsor form from our office, or dropping by the office. The ACEC office is located on the corner of Fourth and Lewis streets. Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Friday, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Phone number is 264-2835.

This story was posted on March 7, 2013.