Pathways provides alternate learning options

Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, the Rockwood School District launched its Rockwood Pathways program that provides alternate educational options.

Rockwood Pathways is an Alternative Education Committee that emphasizes the importance of students having the ability to have different educational opportunities and provides resources and opportunities for students beyond the traditional high school setting. Director of non-traditional learning Todd Minichiello said that he wants to make it so students in the program are able to have a variety of different ways to learn since they recognize that students learn differently.

“Not every student learns best the same way, so we want to make sure Rockwood offers lots of different pathways to success. Pathways Center is one more menu choice for students who need something non-traditional,” Minichiello said.

Minichiello also said that at Pathways, their main focus is on the student’s health. He said that in the program, they also focus on academics but students’ mental health is more heavily focused on.

“[Our goal is] to educate the whole person – mind, body, heart, and spirit. At Pathways, of course, we value academics, but we concentrate first on health and wellness,” Minichiello said.

Minichiello also says that Pathways is a calmer environment for students who feel overwhelmed in a traditional high school environment, it provides them with a break from their regular schedule.

“Students get therapeutic resources and support at school, in conjunction with academics. Also, we are a small program, and lots of students like the feel of a smaller community. We can be less overwhelming than a large high school, we are ideal for students who need a temporary change in environment, like a school vacation or timeout from their normal routine,” Minichiello said.

Minichiello said that joining Pathways is a tough decision for students to make because they are leaving friends behind and don’t have quite as many classes to offer compared to their traditional high schools.

“Most students do not like to leave their friends at their schools and that can be a bummer when they have to make a tough choice. Also, while there is not much we can not offer, there are a few things like band, choir, theater, shopt courses that work better in bigger classes such as at their home high schools,” Minichiello said.

Minichiello says he believes that Pathways won’t continue to grow as a program, but rather that it becomes included in traditional school programs to assist students’ mental health.

“If there is a growing need, I believe Rockwood and maybe all school districts will try and incorporate social-emotional needs like mental wellness into traditional high schools. That would be the best of all worlds if students could stay with their friends, and in their schools, and still, concentrate first on their health and safety and emotional skills and second, on their academics,” Minichiello said.