Vista offers new perspective

Vista offers new perspective

Dylan Brady

In a small, colorful classroom, Marcus Lambert, senior, sits at a computer where his lessons are displayed. He studies in one of four classrooms at Vista, a middle and high school for Kirkwood and Webster students. Vista has a front desk, a counselor and poster projects on the walls, but it is no ordinary school.

Vista officially began two years ago in an attempt for KHS to boost its graduation rate. According to edweek.org, a website providing weekly news on American education issues, three of every 10 students will slip through the cracks and fail to graduate this school year, adding up to 1.3 million students in all.

Julie Redington, Vista principal and former KHS assistant principal, is positive about the effect the school has already had on the percentage of KHS students who graduate. Along with a group of dedicated teachers, she works every day to help struggling students finish their high school education and graduate.

“[Vista] has a huge impact on the graduation rate,” Redington said. “Last year Vista accounted for 7 percent of KHS’s graduation rate, which is a big deal.”

Students attend Vista for a number of reasons: if they have medical or family problems keeping them from going to school regularly, if they have a long-term suspension, if they must hold a full-time job or if they are behind on credits. Students can also request to attend Vista rather than KHS.

“[Vista] is really designed for kids where the traditional school setting is not working for them,” Kim Sweesy, freshman counselor, said. “It’s just a different environment.”

School days at Vista are three hours long, but lack passing time, lunch periods, introductions or lectures. Instead, students arrive and begin work on a computer, moving at their own pace. There are quizzes, tests and projects. Homework is optional, but recommended. Students can do as much work as they need to in order to acquire credits.

Lambert first came to Vista his senior year because he did not have enough credits to graduate on time. He did not walk across the stage and receive a diploma with the rest of his class; instead, while many of his classmates are in college, he is completing his final year of high school. He is now enrolled in biology and chemistry and is determined to graduate by December.

When it looked to the counselors like Lambert would not be able to graduate on time, he got a phone call that KSD hoped would change his life.

“They called my house and told me not to come start school. I had a meeting to come up [to Vista], and I didn’t know anything about it,” Lambert said. “It was a surprise.”

At first, Lambert was skeptical of Vista because the class sizes were small compared to those at KHS. But after studying for more than a year inside its classrooms, his opinions have changed.

“I didn’t want to be [at Vista]. I thought it was just stupid, a waste of time,” Lambert said. “But now I see that this is better. It’s one-on-one, and they try their best to get you on track. It’s just up to you if you want to do it.”

Khadijah Russell, senior, was suspended her sophomore year for fighting with another student. She reluctantly attended Vista until her sophomore year ended, then returned to KHS at the beginning of her junior year. Now Russell is back at Vista to finish her senior year because she does not have enough credits to graduate on time. Currently, she is studying biology and psychology. The passing of these classes will move her one step closer to graduating. Even so, she has mixed feelings about her return.

“I like it and I don’t like it at the same time,” Russell said. “I don’t like it because it’s boring, staring at the computers all day, but it’s helping me graduate on time.”

If a student does not like using computers, they can opt for a teacher to sit down with them and teach them the lesson in person. Most students enjoy being in control of their own classes and feel that Vista is innovative and helpful.

“[Students] come in to Vista and they think, ‘Oh, this is going to be horrible,’ and then they get here and it’s like, ‘Oh, I really like this’ because they do have a lot of freedom,” Redington said. “It’s just a really cool place to be.”