Rapid City High School data shows positive growth, says supportive school culture is the reason

RAPID CITY, SD — Recent data indicates that Rapid City High School has seen a 74% reduction in school arrests since the 2016-2017 school year. Disciplinary references also decreased by 76% compared to the same year. Test scores have increased, as has the graduation rate.

The reason, according to some staff, is the positive culture that has been created over the past few years.

“The culture here is very welcoming,” says RCHS chemistry professor Sabrina Henriksen. “It’s very friendly, the students who come here come for different reasons. I always tell people that the number of students we have is why they decided to come here. “

Alternative education can often be associated with stigma without fully understanding the type of education or the children.

“Stigma is often, I would say, unfairly put towards and put on children, and they are children,” said RCHS US history professor Jesse Sporrer. “A lot of fake stuff revolves around stigma, and I want to know who my kids are, where they’re from and where they want to go.”

Some of the ways teachers and staff build on the positive culture are by coaching and advising students, who may be focused on school or home life.

“I think the mentoring program, the counseling program at our school is what has had the biggest impact on dropout and discipline,” RCHS director Shane Heilman said. “Because when you give kids that go-to person, a go-to adult at school that they trust to build a relationship with, who monitors their progress…it’s just a powerful thing for kids.”

There are on-site laundry services, an on-site pantry, and additional services that are available to students. Heliman says they offer a connected set of carriers that can flexibly meet children’s needs.

“We came with a mission,” Heilman said. “The mission was to create the ultimate learning environment for students, and when you create the learning environment that children need, learning comes quite naturally afterwards.”

Martha K. Merrill