If life is a garden, Community School senior Jera Shipp is doing a great job tending to hers.
And if that seems like a metaphorical stretch, consider this: Before landing at The Community School, Shipp attended Lewis and Clark and Rogers high schools, was homeschooled for a time, was enrolled in the Spokane Virtual Learning program, and took classes at Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College as part of the Running Start program.
By the way, she also manages the school garden, planting and looking after that project. It’s an internship position she secured by a process that included an application, cover letter, résumé and interview.
Six months ago, she’d never heard of The Community School, but she has thrived there in an environment which promotes project-based learning and allows students to choose the subjects which they’re most interested in exploring. Time management is key, and Shipp considers that one of her strengths.
She’s on track to graduate in June, but there was a time when that wasn’t necessarily a sure thing. Shipp was always determined, but she had changed schools frequently, and the homeschool program didn’t award some of the credits she needed.
“Then I couldn’t afford the books at the community college anymore,” she said. “So back in November my mom and I sat down and looked at the other options offered by the district. This just seemed like the best fit.
“My mom and I agreed that this is where I needed to finish, and I’d been to so many different schools that I wasn’t nervous about coming here. When I first started, things kind of felt the same as my other schools, but it grew on me when I started researching the topics I’m interested in.
“I’m working hard, finding my niche. The Community School has allowed me to explore myself and my interests.”
Those interests include anthropology and archaeology, which Shipp plans to study next fall at SFCC. Her ultimate goal is to be a college professor in one of those areas.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the past,” she said. “I remember when I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a paleontologist. I’m really interested in the history of human civilization, and it was exciting to find out that there are careers that address my interests.”
Community School teacher Gay Boyer spends more than two hours daily with Shipp in the classroom, and praises Shipp’s maturity level and vision of what she hopes to accomplish.
“Jera’s got a global perspective which many kids don’t,” Boyer said. “She’s very quiet, but she has great ideas. We were a great fit for her because of our size. I think that helped her to be comfortable. We really try to focus on relationships and communication, and our small size gives us the flexibility to help kids overcome difficulties in a variety of ways.”
And summing up what she’s learned from her educational journey, Shipp said, “I can be stubborn about getting things done. The most important thing I’ve learned, though, is that things don’t always go according to plan, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work out.”