There are times when a high school student has play the cards dealt no matter how adverse they might be. This could mean deviating from traditional schooling and finding help in other means.
Rawlins Cooperative High School is one of these means. Say a student has a child, has to single-handedly support a family or simply try and crank out one of the various curveballs society throws their way – they have the cooperative to set a goal, commit to that goal and accomplish that goal.
To gain a bit more perspective into this educational world, the Rawlins Daily Times recently caught up with Cooperative Principal Travis Moore for a quick Q&A session.
RDT: Please state your name.
Moore: Travis Moore.
RDT: And what do you do?
Moore: Currently I am the principal of Cooperative High School, and I teach a little bit of English.
RDT: How long have you been the principal of Cooperative?
Moore: This is the first year. I was assistant down here, shared responsibility last year with the high school principal, then we kind of shifted our dynamic so we’d have a full-time person here.
RDT: How long have you been a part of Carbon County School District No. 1?
Moore: I started substitute teaching in the spring of ’95, and then was hired. This is finishing up my 19th year.
RDT: What’d you do before all this?
Moore: I was a wild land firefighter while I went to college, and I needed a permanent job right after I graduated and doing that kind of stuff, and the right teaching job didn’t appear for me in the right location as to where my family wanted to be, so I took a job at the penitentiary as an in-patient counselor at a treatment facility they had for three years. And then, at the same time though, on my days off, I was subbing in the district and helping out with speech and debate and some theater stuff. So, when I got hired with certified staff, I coached football, I’d do speech and debate and I’d do theater competitively and in the spring. It was a lot of coaching, and I did that for quite a while. I took my turn as head coach in football, did speech and debate all the way through, and then, when I started moving toward more graduate school and the principal-ship type studies, I stepped away from coaching entirely and went into public announcing; public address stuff for the ball games and what not.
RDT: Was the transition difficult?
Moore: It’s fantastic in that I get to see the kids perform and do well, so I’m still part of it, I’m still part of helping the kids get excited about what they’re doing and so on. But I do miss the relationship pieces that go with the hands-on day-in, day-out classroom stuff – the same thing on the field.
RDT: Where are you originally from?
Moore: Here. Graduated from Rawlins High School 30 years ago. So, 1988.
RDT: How many students attend this high school?
Moore: It varies. In terms of a traditional high school, when a student is tracked through the calendar – and ours is credit-based – so up until this point, as soon as a kid earned their credits to graduate, they just went on and did whatever they were going to do and they came back for graduation ceremonies and that kind of thing. This year, we started focusing more on post-secondary opportunities and planning those sorts of things, whether that’s college or the workforce or some specialized trade or however that goes… kids starting their own businesses, whatever it might be. So, we’re adding some structure for that part of it. Next year we’re going to have at least 20 guest speakers over the course of the year coming in and helping our kids with all kinds of different of things… personal finance… More specifically, how do you manage credit cards? How do you buy a car? How do you set up your lease agreement for your first apartment? How do you do these things? How do you inspect your dorm room or apartment for safety? And the same thing for food or whatever… give these kids a leg up to move out in the world and do something.
RDT: What are some of the implications if this cooperative high school wasn’t established?
Moore: It wasn’t established originally as an alternative type school purely as people would think about it in terms of discipline. It was established for kids with children – you know, teen parents, kids who were struggling economically so they had to work… so it was a place for them to go and still get credits and still move on with those adult responsibilities. Over time, it has shifted into a larger animal in which we help more kids than just kids who are teen parents or working full-time. So, we help anybody that the regular institution wasn’t working for. But it’s set up primarily for third-year kids in high school and beyond. They meet the state-based graduation requirements, and then we’re going to add that emphasis on the post-secondary planning for kids which will be completely individualized for their life and what they’re going to do.
RDT: When they make it to post-secondary level education, how does that reflect on this institution as a whole?
Moore: Well, the biggest thing is that we don’t want any student from any place just to kind of get dropped on their head. It’s, ‘Well, Ok, you met our stuff, now you’re done, move on.’ For our kids, we’re small enough at Co-op that we can talk to and set up different things within the community for these kids to have a real good shot at whatever it is they want to do. It’s not just, ‘OK, I’m done with school,’ and they play the question game over the summer – ‘now what am I going to do? Can I live in my parents’ basement until I’m 35?’ We want these kids to have a real shot at something. So, if you look at traditional kid going to a junior college, or maybe even a university, of course we’d make sure the kid has their FAB set up. We would make sure they understand their financial aid, we’d make sure they understand credit cards, we’d make sure that they research different schools and what they want to go into… We will provide the framework and opportunities within themselves.
RDT: May sound cliché, but when they do succeed, how do you feel then?
Moore: I think that’s what education should do, is to help people understand what options are available. Schooling, sometimes, is taken for granted that, well, these kids went through the stuff, obviously they have a plan. Well sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they might be first generation graduating from high school, some of them might be overcoming other adversities. So within that is making sure they have options and making sure they have something they can do. Having a kid graduate and saying, ‘Now I’m doing the same thing my friends are going to do and I’m just going to get stuck.’ That’s kind of a sinking feeling when it should be celebration. ‘Hey, this is the next chapter and what I’m doing is deliberate.’