Boulder Valley School District

BVSD graduates earn first-ever Grad Plus medals and acknowledgement this spring

Grad Plus Medal
Erin Rain

En Español

Boulder Valley School District’s Grad Plus framework was built on the idea that every student should graduate from high school in BVSD with more than a diploma. This graduation season, students have a way to show that they’ve gone above and beyond the piece of paper.

Beyond the diploma
A traditional diploma signifies a student has achieved the basic requirements of course completion and state performance measures in math and language arts. Grad Plus aims to expand graduate’s skill sets by providing every student with learning opportunities and credentials that offer a head start on a career or postsecondary education. The goal being that BVSD graduates are exceptionally prepared for an ever-changing workforce.

For the first time, spring 2024 BVSD graduates who have completed one or more of the Grad Plus Quadrants: which include earning College Credits, Industry Certifications, the Seal of Biliteracy, and or Work-Based Learning will earn a Grad Plus Medal with a pin or pins that represent each quadrant or quadrants that the students have completed. The pins will be added to the ribbon portion of the medal to distinguish which GRAD+ Quadrants the students have achieved and will be worn by the achieving students during graduation ceremonies.  

2,028 graduates earned the Grad Plus medals this spring, with 670 of those earning industry certifications, 1907 earning college credit, 209 with work-based learning experiences and internships, and 563 Seal of Biliteracy recipients.

students holding medals

BVSD graduates pick up their medals at senior checkout

“The Grad Plus framework celebrates successes outside of the basic requirements for graduation,” says Dr. Bianca Gallegos, BVSD Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships, and the lead of the BVSD Grad Plus team. “So when you see students wearing these medals, know these graduates went above and beyond. We know these students will be more competitive applicants to colleges and jobs because they have completed these additional steps to better equip themselves for their future careers.”

Grad Plus is intended to break down barriers between traditional academics and career and technical education, allowing students to maximize the credentials they earn across multiple quadrants. All of the credentials are viewed as equally prestigious, and the credentials a student decides to pursue are often driven by their Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP), established during high school with their counselor. 

The Grad Plus framework supports a variety of career paths, including those that require college and or technical education.

“Our hope is that these offerings by the district intentionally connect students to opportunities they’re interested in pursuing,” said Nettie Welk, BVSD Post Secondary Success Coordinator. 

College Credit and the new Accelerate program
One of the quadrants of Grad Plus that saw the biggest increase in achievement this school year is college credit earned before graduation.

“College credit is exploding among our BVSD graduates because of the expansion of our concurrent enrollment programming (which allows students to earn college credits while enrolled in high school),” said Welk. “This year we worked to offer additional advanced placement (AP) courses and expanded concurrent enrollment (college credit) options both within BVSD high school classrooms and at Front Range Community College.”

Welk notes that with the planned expansion of BVSD’s career and technical education (CTE) pathways in the coming years thanks to the Accelerate program, industry certification and work-based learning opportunities for students should continue to grow.

Learn more: Bond investment leads to cutting-edge career acceleration at BVSD

ASCENT program
The focus on Grad Plus courses, internships and experiences has led to an impressive increase in the amount of BVSD students qualifying for ASCENT,  a program that provides free tuition for the first year of college at either Front Range Community College or Metropolitan State University Denver. If a student plans appropriately and begins taking concurrent enrollment courses their junior year, the ASCENT program can assist in completing two years of college tuition free. To participate, students must have a minimum of 9 college credits completed by May of their senior year.

“This can create a life-changing trajectory for students,” said Gallegos. “Especially first generation college students. We’re thrilled to see so many more students taking advantage of this opportunity thanks to the assistance and encouragement of our Grad Plus TOSAs and support staff.” 

Get to know your Grad Plus TOSA
One of the most important reasons behind more students achieving beyond traditional high school diploma requirements are the efforts of the BVSD Grad Plus TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment) that rotate throughout BVSD’s traditional high schools. 

The TOSAs support the high school counselors in connecting students to opportunities within the Grad Plus framework. They reach out to students, and specifically underrepresented student populations, to ensure they are aware of opportunities of interest or that may benefit them and help remove barriers to applying and following through to completion of their courses, internships and testing. 

“The Grad Plus TOSA role is where the rubber meets the road. They serve as the conduit between our district initiatives and our schools,” said Welk. “They are able to sit down with teachers and help them submit their credentials to teach concurrent enrollment, track down students to complete their paperwork to take college credit classes and sign up for the ASCENT program, suggest internship programs, and so much more. They wear many hats in ensuring this work gets done in conjunction with our school counselors.”

Summer Leadership Academy
Another exciting Grad Plus opportunity for rising BVSD high school students is the upcoming BVSD Summer Leadership Academy. The academy will engage rising 11th and 12th grade students in leadership and work-based learning activities, through mentorship and partnership with industry professionals. Twelve of  the selected BVSD student interns will earn a $500 stipend thanks to donations made by BVSD industry partners. Workshops will take place June 17, 18, 20, & 21 and internships will take place on a flexible schedule from June 24 - July 19. Students can learn more and apply on the BVSD website.

A Grad Plus Continuum for All Grade Levels
The BVSD Grad Plus framework encompasses all grade levels, beginning in Pre-K through graduation. At the earliest stages, students begin learning about work, are exposed to career pathways, participate in work-based learning, earn certifications and more. The full grade level continuum can be viewed here: Grad Plus: A career and/or college advantage for every student.

Learn more about the Grad Plus framework and options for students on the BVSD Grad Plus webpage.


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