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Your Education, Your Choice: Consistency in academic, extracurricular options across campuses offers students ability to personalize their EMS ISD journeyYour Education, Your Choice:

This word has become popular in recent years among parents, educators, and even politicians when talking about public education. But choice is not a new concept in EMS ISD, where students are offered both choices in their education as well as a variety of opportunities to explore. And they don’t have to move to a specific attendance zone, submit applications for acceptance, or languish on a waiting list to access these opportunities.

In EMS ISD, choice is a foundational belief that drives decisions about academic program offerings as well as extracurricular opportunities. At each level — elementary, middle and high — students have access to the same core opportunities. The goal remains to ensure that every student has the opportunity to explore their unique passions and personalize their educational experience — no matter which school they attend in the district.

This belief is important to long-time EMS ISD parent Paula Harwell, who has two children who have graduated from the district and two currently attending. From theater to coding to cheerleading to bowling to student council to National Honor Society, in addition to advanced academics and special programming, the Harwells have experienced programs across six different schools in the district.

“That’s what I love about EMS ISD, we have something for everybody,” said Harwell, whose children currently attend Chisholm Trail High School and Ed Willkie Middle School. “My four kids are so very different in so many ways, but no matter which school they have attended, there’s always been something that has helped them excel and be the best that they can be.”

Creekview Middle School Teacher Amber Weaver said EMS ISD has worked very hard to create consistency among schools while providing a variety of options both in and outside the classroom to appeal to students’ interests. Some of those choices also offer additional benefits, too.

“One of the things that I truly appreciate about EMS ISD is our vast array of course offerings — everything from AP Computer Science to Phlebotomy or Forensics,” said Weaver, who teaches Advanced English/Language Arts/Reading. “Giving students opportunities to graduate with college credits or certifications in specific fields is a game changer and can save students so much time and money in the future. 

“And opportunities are not just limited to the classroom,” she continued. “As one travels the halls of EMS ISD, they might see students knitting in the crochet club, designing projects for STEM showcase, or planting flowers for a gardening club. Although we are growing rapidly, we try to find a place where everyone can belong. There truly is something for everyone here.”

Finding a place to belong is important to students Jason Roseberry and Eva Tsopna, who both agreed that having choices in their education is critical for not only their school careers, but their futures.

Roseberry, a senior at Saginaw High School, has attended EMS ISD since kindergarten. Currently he plays varsity basketball, is a member of the SHS acapella choir, and is in advanced courses. He also is in the PALS (Peer-Assisted Leadership Program), the EMS Student Voice Committee and was crowned Homecoming King this past fall.

“We have a lot of choices to find where we fit in and what we want to do,” he said. “[Being involved] helps you because later in life you will be able to connect with people of different cultures and in different types of jobs. It’s important to me because I’m making memories and doing stuff I might do for the rest of my life. It sets you up to go further.”

Roseberry wants to attend a Division 1 university to play basketball and major in forensic science. He is already taking an anatomy class at SHS to get a head start on his future career. He has been accepted to several of his college choices and is waiting on a few more before making his final choice.

“Involve yourself with the things you love the most,” he advises. “There are limitless opportunities at each school. One of the things you’re doing now could be what you end up doing in life. So try new things and enjoy it.”

Meanwhile, Eva Tsopna is looking forward to transitioning to ninth grade next year at the district’s newest campus, Eagle Mountain High School. Currently an eighth grader at Prairie Vista Middle School,
she came to EMS ISD in fifth grade and wasted no time maximizing her options
for involvement.

Currently she takes all advanced classes and is involved in the campus Renaissance program, track, cross country, theater, tennis, volleyball and is learning French. She also is a member of the student leadership committee for EMHS, helping to build school traditions and culture for the new high school.

As she prepares for high school, she is excited about the choices she will have to continue pursuing her passions and even try new things. She encourages everyone to get involved.

“It’s very important to have options,” she said. “This helps us be prepared for the outside world but also have a great experience throughout our school career. And when you’re 20 or 30, you’ll have those big life skills and you’ll be
glad you did.”

Katie Keyes, who teaches Advanced Chemistry and Physics at Boswell High School, said offering students a variety of choices to find connections on their campuses is critical to the overall development of society’s future leaders.

“EMS ISD models the view that every child deserves equal opportunity to develop as a person, be involved, and learn to be concerned and involved citizens,” she said. “Every child deserves every opportunity that helps them grow into the person they were created to be and to feel connected to their school community.”

While offering choices helps students personalize their experience and make valuable connections, providing consistency across campuses also is a benefit to families. It provides convenience so families do not have to drive outside their school community to access school programs, and it helps build connections with other families with shared experiences. 

Parents Marcie and Jarrett Silva currently have one daughter attending Chisholm Ridge Elementary School and another who graduated in 2018. Their oldest was heavily involved in music and band, then transitioned to the SHS Color Guard competition team.

“The experience of color guard over her high school career helped drive home what hard work, consistency, teamwork, and grit could help her achieve,” Marcie Silva said. “It also provided our entire family with lifelong friendships, which was a beautiful bonus we didn’t go
in expecting!”

Their youngest daughter, Laurel, is now in fifth grade at CRES and involved in programs including elementary PACE for advanced learners and CRES’ Team of Excellence student leadership committee. She also participates in a variety of EMS ISD Summer Enrichment Camps. Next year, she plans on joining band at Highland Middle School and has also expressed interest in color guard in
high school.

“In the past two decades since our first daughter started in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, we have watched the schools, campuses, academic options, and extracurricular programs grow,” Silva said, adding that while it is important to provide choices, it’s the people in charge of those programs who make the difference.

“The value in the programs and opportunities only comes with educators that care and want to help bring value to our kids’ lives,” she continued. “We have been beyond blessed with the outstanding educators EMS ISD has provided us over the last 20
consecutive years.”

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