I was lucky to attend a high school that prepared me for life beyond graduation by walking to the beat of its own drum. When I learn of other schools taking a non-traditional approach, I get excited. Today’s sponsor, the Don Tyson School of Innovation is one of these schools. As always, thoughts are my own.
Lately people have a whole lot of opinions about Arkansas and let’s be honest, the word innovative probably isn’t one of them. Yet when it comes to The Natural State you’ll find world-class museums, a major university on the cutting-edge of technology and towns with monikers like Chickendale changing the way we think about secondary education. The fourth largest city in Arkansas, with a population of 70,000, Springdale hasn’t been known for much more than chicken. Until now.
It seems Springdale is experiencing a Renaissance of sorts. No longer just pasture and chicken houses, a new children’s hospital has broken ground. Craft breweries and hand-crafted coffee labs are bringing attention to the area, too. Through their generosity and vision, the Tyson family recognized a need to prepare area students with essential skills to enter Arkansas’ booming business industry. At the intersection of collaboration and creativity now sits the 145,000-square foot Don Tyson School of Innovation (DTSOI).
Don Tyson School of Innovation
Completely free to students in Arkansas, DTSOI is a public school available to any 8th through 12th grade students in the state. With virtual, in-class and hybrid approaches, the curriculum is developed by teachers and state business leaders not only preparing students to succeed whether they stay in Arkansas or move across the globe following graduation, it allows them flexibility to partake in activities outside of the classroom while fulfilling their course requirements.
Their one-size doesn’t fit all approach is brilliant; whether a high-achiever or a struggling student, the kids work on engaging projects that excite them about learning. With the ability to work at their own pace, students aren’t pressured to perform or “keep up”.
For the college-bound, students get a jump start. Associate Degree programs are available at a fraction of traditional tuition costs ($50 a credit). Students attend class four days a week and spend one day with a business leader experiencing real-world situations. Because they “get it” DTSOI also considers students who don’t feel college is for them. By providing certifications such as Business Management, Welding and Certified Nursing Assistant, whether it’s entering the work force or heading to college, all students are prepared for their next steps.
Three Years of Success
It was 2014 when the school opened with its first class of eighth graders. A few years later, they’re making good on their namesake as they continue to innovate the classroom. I think Don Tyson would be proud.