“Successful,” “college/career ready,” “prepared” are all words that we use frequently when we talk about what we want for our students. But how do we define these words and what do they look like in our students and high school graduates? 

Chris Vanden Heuvel

Chris Vanden Heuvel

Thanks to a partnership between the Career Technical Education Foundation, Sonoma County Office of Education and Cradle to Career Sonoma County, parents, educators, business leaders and community members from across the county have come together over the last several months to help us answer this question and paint a “Portrait of a Graduate.” The collaboration has produced a vivid image by articulating and clearly defining six attributes that we want for ALL of our students and need for the future success of our community.

Curiosity — To thrive in the future, our graduates will need a sense of wonder about the unknown, an interest in what’s new, and a hunger for engaging with the world. 

Empathy — To succeed, our graduates will need to understand the experiences, perspectives and needs of people around them.

Communication — To find and share their voice, our graduates need to be able to make their point clearly and persuasively in writing, speech and body language. 

Collaboration — To get the best work done and bring out the best in each other, our students need to learn to join forces with others and make room for a diverse range of voices, skills and perspectives. 

Ethics — To be powerful in our community, our graduates must be honest and respectful of differences in matters of equity, decency and appropriateness. 

Initiative — To think and act for themselves, our graduates must learn to seize opportunities to grow, explore and lead by combining hard work and determination with purpose and critical thinking.

Now it is our turn as a community to talk about how these traits show up and play out in our day to day lives here in Healdsburg. For the next four months, Healdsburg Education Foundation (HEF) and the Healdsburg Unified School District will be highlighting how these attributes are being instilled and encouraged in our students in the classroom. We will be hosting tours and lunch-and-learns at each of our school sites for you to see first-hand what a Portrait of a Healdsburg Graduate looks like and how we as a community can become more involved to support our hardworking teachers and staff as they equip our students for the future.

We invite you to join us as we roll out information through our websites, social media, a town hall meeting and during the lunches and tours. We want to hear what you think about these aspirations and your ideas about how we can all be supportive. Together, it is our hope that we will be able to build a strong understanding of what these attributes mean to our community and how we can collectively realize them in all of our graduates. To sign-up for a lunch tour, please email us at info@hefschools.com.

Chris Vanden Heuvel is the superintendent of the Healdsburg Unified School District. Sally Purnell Mackin is the executive director of the Healdsburg Education Foundation.


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