MinnPost, By Erin Hinrichs | 11/14/16
During a recent round of morning check-ins, Principal Derek Davidson called over one of his ninth-graders who’d been absent a few days.
Setting his backpack up on the table, the student showed Davidson some of the gay-pride buttons he’d received from a workshop he’d attended, where he was able to safely explore his gender identity.
Beaming while he recounted the sessions, he told Davidson, “I feel confident in who I am.”
They took a moment to celebrate the proclamation, then Davidson brought their conversation back to academics. The student admitted he was feeling really behind and was struggling to find motivation.
Davidson coaxed the conversation along, asking him to self-reflect and figure out what was draining his motivation at school.
After fidgeting with the buttons on his backpack for a bit, he offered up an honest answer in a lowered voice. “I’ve been having a really huge problem at home and it’s affecting my school work,” he said.
Davidson gets it. He grew up with an alcoholic, drug-addicted father, who spent time in prison. But he found a way to manage the feelings of anger that threatened to hold him back and eventually started pouring his energy into the things he did have control over.
“There is hope your life can be yours, aside from those problems,” Davison told his student.
It’s the sort of advice he offers up often at Venture High, a Minneapolis public charter school located on University Avenue that serves students who, typically, have had an adverse experience with school elsewhere. Here, strong educator-student relationships allow for a unique approach to student learning that prioritizes personalized learning and entrepreneurship.
“We believe there’s an acceleration of learning when kids feel safe; and we’ve seen it,” Davidson said.
A new high school
Venture High currently serves 72 students in the ninth grade. It’s an extension of Venture Academy, the 6-8 middle school housed in the same building that opened its doors for the 2013-14 school year.