After fifteen years of operating as a successful district-level charter school, Vista Grande Charter High School is preparing to take a leap forward, according to director Isabelle St. Onge. 

“In the collective best interests of our students and community, we are working to become a state-level charter school,” said St. Onge. “This is primarily a financial decision but the rewards will also include more efficiency and less replication of efforts.”

Vista Grande is focused on holistic learning models that include creative thinking, portfolio presentations, and community involvement in a culturally inclusive and supportive environment. With a mission to open the doors for students to develop their fullest and most engaged potential, Vista Grande takes the educational experience to another level.

For example, the school works in concert with Tribal elders of the Taos Pueblo to ensure that history and culturally significant teachings are accurate and respectful. For students who may miss school due to cultural activities, Vista Grande works with them to provide credit for the authentic and community-centered experiences that other schools often overlook. At Vista Grande Taos Pueblo students take Tiwa language classes to ensure that Pueblo students are supported in maintaining the language of their community

and ancestors. 

Amanda Flores, community schools coordinator, is at her core, a youth activist. This bodes well for the 100 or so students who attend the school. 

“We focus our community of students on four integral pillars for success,” said Flores. “They include cultural equity, community schools, restorative justice, and social and emotional learning. When combined, these pillars create who we are as

a school.”

The pillars that sustain the Vista Grande vision and mission go beyond academic learning. 

“Ours is an eco-system of support that extends to afterschool programs, health and wellness, youth leadership, parent engagement and summer

initiatives.” 

“They are high school students but we also want to encourage students

to see themselves as community

leaders, capable of making real change,” noted Flores. 

Indeed, youth leaders currently enrolled at Vista Grande reflect the demographics of Taos County. The diversity of students and staff ensure that there is a focused effort to de-colonize educational spaces. 

“We expand the narrative taught in conventional schools to include perspectives of other cultural groups in all content areas,” explained St. Onge. 

“We don’t hear the age-old, ‘Why do we have to learn this’ question,” added Jenny Lewis, assistant principal. “Our curriculum is relevant and the success of our school is due to the strength of the student-teacher relationship. It would be very hard for a student to slip through the cracks here.”

The students have a range of opportunities to learn and let their voices be heard including the Youth Council, the Wilderness Adventure Program, and the Vista Grande Gardens Project. The gardens, located at Taos Land Trust, are cultivated by the students and each summer hundreds of pounds of vegetables are produced which end up distributed throughout the community to families in need. Students not only learn sustainable farming techniques but they also gain the experience of feeding their community.

“Our students are learning how to make change and take an active leadership role in the changes they want to see,” noted Flores. 

Vista Grande’s classes are capped at 24 students and according to the students, it is the one-on-one support that they like. Whether the student thrives on standardized testing or not, the Vista Grande staff is dedicated to creating engaging learning experiences for all students. 

Vista Grande High School • vghs.org • 575-758-5100 • 213 Paseo del Cañon E, Taos

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