Research shows that students try harder on their schoolwork when they care about the subject matter. If a topic seems dry or detached from their lives, they are liable to tune out. For this reason, administrators at Montezuma-Cortez High School are trying to be responsive.
A recent "Career Cluster Survey" revealed that M-CHS students are most interested in the health and hospitality/tourism sectors, and the school is responding by adding a new class next year in each area.
A total of 136 students completed the survey - only a slice of the total M-CHS population - but administrators believe the results are representative of the student body.
About 20 percent chose health sciences, followed by hospitality/tourism at 18.4 percent. Scoring the lowest - with just three, one and zero votes, respectively - were finance, architecture and construction, and management and administration. Agriculture, food and natural resources - often considered the economic heartbeat of Montezuma County - tallied 10 votes, or 7.4 percent.
"We've always been a school where a large percentage (of students) pursue health-related careers," said counselor Cindy Ryan.
She cited the ever-popular EMS and first responder classes, taught by Lori Mott, as proof of this. Mott is also a firefighter and paramedic with the Cortez Fire Protection District.
One of the two new health course will teach students vital medical terminology and how to read patient charts. so when they begin college, they have a solid base from which to work.
Ryan said the interest in hospitality also made sense, given the importance of tourism to the Southwest Colorado economy.
As part of their graduation requirements, each M-CHS student creates an individual career and academic plan, or ICAP, designed to demystify the post-high school world and help them practice skills like resume-building, interviewing, networking and filing financial aid forms. The ICAP is an electronic portfolio that can be supplemented after high school ends. Ryan said this year's senior class is the first to graduate with ICAPs.
"(Until now) there hasn't been enough consistency. This year's freshmen have a built-in advantage because they'll be working on their ICAP from the start," she said.