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Holyoke Chamber of Commerce members get a firsthand look at the new Center of Innovation in the former Holyoke JR/SR High School library. Modern tables and chairs, interactive whiteboards, laptops, a virtual reality station, a 3D printer and school supplies perfect for collaboration will be utilized not only by students and teachers but also by families and business people. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications

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A virtual reality station is one of the areas of the Center of Innovation that students are most excited about. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications

Center of Innovation unveiled at JR/SR high

Homegrown Talent Initiative brings students, businesses together
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Holyoke JR/SR High School took a giant leap into the future with the debut of a Center of Innovation at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Students and teachers are already utilizing the high-tech and modern aspects of the center, and this week local business people got a taste of how they can collaborate with the school and its Homegrown Talent Initiative.

Local HTI coordinator Summer Maloney gave a presentation to Holyoke Chamber of Commerce members Monday, Sept. 21, at the Center of Innovation.

Books have been moved to one corner of the former JR/SR high library to make room for the Center of Innovation’s new chairs and tables (some of which are actually whiteboards), 25 laptops, a virtual reality station, a 3D printer, two Promethean interactive whiteboards and a supply cart.

Maloney explained that the area is intented to be a place for collaboration between teachers, students, parents and community members, and the center will be growing and changing as new needs are discovered.

For example, it can be used for presentations by business people or organizations, families can work together during evening sessions and opportunities can be offered for students to earn industry certificates.

Supplies are stocked so that if students are working on school projects, everyone has access to the same materials. The laptops include options, such as Microsoft programs, that the students’ Chromebooks don’t have, and the virtual reality station is a chance for students to try out jobs in various industries.


HTI creates new opportunities for students

The Center of Innovation is part of Phase 2 of the Homegrown Talent Initiative.

One year ago, Holyoke was selected to be one of eight communities to participate in HTI, a statewide partnership that supports communities to create homegrown, career-connected learning experiences aligned to the unique needs and aspirations of local economies. HTI is facilitated by Colorado Succeeds and the Colorado Education Initiative, and Holyoke also received a generous grant from the El Pomar Northeast Regional Council.

Holyoke’s vision for HTI includes encouraging students to have a voice in their education, working closely with the business community to understand their changing demands, creating opportunities for students to develop their own unique and individualized path to graduation, and supporting students to develop their roots in any chosen path in life while also supporting their roots in Holyoke.

“There are so many different paths to get to graduation and after graduation,” Maloney said.

She added that the local HTI design team worked with businesses, parents and students to come up with a graduate profile: “A Holyoke graduate will demonstrate professionalism, career connectedness, social and emotional competence, effective communication and perseverance.”

This profile can be seen on posters throughout the JR/SR high, and students are working toward this goal in their seminar class and other classes, at internships and work-based learning, and during their capstone project.

Maloney outlined four goals of HTI:

1. Career exploration opportunities include classroom curriculum, career/employment fairs, on-site visits, virtual reality experiences and presentations from professionals.

2. Development of guided pathways includes students’ desires for other courses, working with economy demand, industry certificates and concurrent enrollment/higher education opportunities.

3. An expanded internship program includes creating work-based learning opportunities, real-world connections, exposure to necessary skills, pairing industry certificates and encouraging experiences both in and out of Holyoke.

4. Implementation of capstone projects includes projects chosen by students that encompass their high school experiences, working with a mentor for a final graduation project and encouraging critical thinking along with developing necessary skills.

While many aspects of HTI are focused on high schoolers, Holyoke will also be exploring opportunities for students as young as fifth grade, with the ultimate goal of expanding it to K-12.


Local businesses can get involved

On Monday, Maloney emphasized that for HTI to be effective, local business people need to be involved. And, in return, the program offers a number of benefits to the Holyoke community.

The nonacademic skills in the graduate profile are valuable for any working professional. Students with quality work-based learning experiences will have developed skills needed for careers, and students will be more agile as they enter the workforce. A steady stream of young talent with valuable skills who are adaptable, professional and ready to learn can accelerate the work of existing businesses, and Holyoke and the surrounding areas can retain top talent.

Given that the business community is the most credible voice on what students need to succeed in a changing 21st century world economy, Maloney said business leaders can illuminate career pathways for students that help them learn to problem-solve, uncover solutions and communicate effectively.

It’s also important for students to get exposure to the many unique jobs offered by local businesses that they may not have expected to find in a rural community.

Maloney is inviting local businesses to get involved in three ways:

1. Career exploration includes offering tours of a business, showcasing a profession, giving a presentation or a class for students/families at the Center of Innovation, participating in career/employment fairs or submitting videos for an ongoing career library that highlights which professions are available locally.

2. Work-based learning opportunities include accepting or recruiting a student intern, focusing on specific job skills during a short mentorship with a student, partnering for a technical or certification class, or hosting projects/presentations for students.

3. Feedback opportunities include serving on the HTI design team; serving on the capstone/pathway committee; or participating in regular feedback through HTI, chamber and economic development emails, surveys and one-on-one conversations.

For more information or to get involved, contact Maloney at 970-854-2284 or



Holyoke Enterprise

970-854-2811 (Phone)

130 N Interocean Ave
PO Box 297
Holyoke CO 80734