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Recap: Student Engagement in this Moment with the Colorado Reengagement Network

A student participant in CYC’s programs on Graduation Day.

This past week, Colorado Youth for a Change partnered with Stand for Children to bring a student engagement webinar to the Colorado Reengagement Network, in recognition of October as Dropout Prevention Month. Dr. Ashley Idrees, Director of Student Engagement at the Colorado Department of Education, presented the most recent data and key trends from Colorado’s dropout and graduation rates. Then, viewers got the opportunity to hear about shifting student needs from a panel of experts, including Marcus Pacheco, Student Engagement Coordinator at East High School in Pueblo School District 60; Tyler Nickel, Assistant Principal at Rocky Mountain High School in Ft. Collins; and Gina Yacovetta, the Center for High School Success Coach at Stand for Children.

Here are our key takeaways from the event:

Our students are “academically out of shape.”

Marcus Pacheco coined this apt metaphor for this moment. After more than a year of dealing with the impact of COVID-19, students are grappling with a lack of practice in structure and routine. This is especially true of this year’s high school freshmen, most of whom have not been in traditional classrooms since seventh grade and have not had the opportunity to properly prepare for high school settings. Educators and administrators must consider these conditions and revisit expectations while empowering students to develop effective study habits and organizational skills.

Supporting our students going forward will require more types of support than just academic support. 

All three of our panelists emphasized the importance of showing up for our students beyond the classroom. Panelists’ schools have taken a variety of approaches in this area, from training all staff on social emotional learning to requiring students to complete community service in order to help them better connect with their communities. Courage and flexibility with changing pandemic-related guidelines are essential; panelists suggested adapting in-person events as needed to build a sense of camaraderie and exploring home visits with families. 

Finding a student’s best school fit is more important than ever. 

As Dr. Idrees cited, of those students who reenroll after leaving school early in Colorado, only about half ultimately complete or persist in their education. This trend of recidivism indicates that reenrolled students are still not finding that their unique needs are being met in school. To combat the racial and gender gaps in dropout rates among Colorado students, we must deeply explore these students’ circumstances and ensure that these students understand their wide range of options for degree completion in Colorado.

View Dr. Idrees’s full presentation here.

Learn more about our work in dropout prevention and reengagement here.

If you are interested in receiving updates about or participating in the Colorado Reengagement Network, please contact Mary Zanotti at

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