“For many students, she is the one thing that connects the dots from school to life success. She has the magical skill of meeting students where they are at and then keying into their specific needs,” Sandy Schroeder boasts about this month’s difference-maker, Amanda Spannagel.
Amanda earns the title of Difference Maker due to her devotion, passion, and commitment to help young people make the best choices for their future. This passion developed while she was teaching English to seniors at Battle Mountain High School. Like most other teachers, Amanda fostered the mindset that every student should go to college, and if they do, there is a successful future for them. This belief is true for many, but not for all. Amanda said that she received a “punch in the gut” when a former student came back from college drowning in debt, still unsure what they wanted to do with their life, saying that college was the worst thing Amanda pushed them to do.
This was a hard pill for Amanda to swallow, but this lesson led to a meaningful path. Realizing that there must be other options for students, Amanda was approached by Philip Qualman, superintendent of Eagle County Schools, where she was asked to help develop and head the CareerX program. CareerX pairs young people from Eagle County with local companies, allowing them to explore jobs, learn about local businesses, and build college and career plans that suit their interests.
She single-handedly cold-called countless community partners and built opportunities for youth to prepare for their futures. Amanda had 59 youth internships during her first year in the CareerX program. She also collaborated with Colorado Mountain College to offer opportunities to receive certification while in high school to help students join the workforce directly.
Multiple avenues were created to provide students with a wide range of skills to prepare them for an unknown future. Another way these students learn these skills is through the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. The AVID college readiness program is the only elementary through higher education instructional system. This program teaches students academic and social skills to develop the habits and behaviors needed to succeed in a rigorous curriculum.
Amanda measures success not in numbers, but in young people who come from internships, job shadows, and apprenticeships knowing that they don't want to be in that particular profession. It is the students that are the first to graduate from high school or college in their families. The students that come back and become intricate parts of our community. Those are success stories, but she credits the success not to the work that she has done but to the fantastic partners she works within the valley. She says she couldn’t accomplish anything without her assistants Kristen Ludlow and Ellen Sirico-Filmore, along with the high school counselors and community partners like Christy Beidel, Ben Dodds, Chris Romer, Erik Williams, with Vail Valley Partnership, Christine Albertson with Vail Health , Jen Martinez,and Brittany Kinney with Youth Power 365, Sandy Schroder and Anabel Johnson with Mountain Youth , Mark Hoblitzell with Colorado Workforce, My Future Pathways and Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, to thank a few!
Amanda is amazed by everything our youth have to offer. They give her hope for the future. We are amazed by everything she does to provide successful opportunities for youth in the valley. This article is only a short list of the incredible work Amanda does for our valley.