Ukiah Unified School District

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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk: Redefining Alternative Education

In the heart of Ukiah, a new approach to teaching and learning is unfolding at Big Picture Ukiah at South Valley, challenging the conventional image of continuation high schools. Historically perceived as a last resort for disengaged young people, our school is a vibrant community where each student, in partnership with school staff and mentors,  has agency to define their own unique educational path.

Big Picture Learning, the framework guiding South Valley, is about crafting education around the students’ passions, leveraging real-world experiences, and nurturing strong relationships. Our approach includes breaking the traditional notion that learning primarily happens within the walls of a school building, and instead provides opportunities for young people to engage in hands-on learning through internships in areas of their interests, with experts in our community. We partner with more than 50 local businesses and organizations, who are an integral part of our student’s education.

Our guiding philosophy is simple yet transformative: education should be personalized, interest-driven, and rooted in the world beyond the classroom. This ethos is embodied in the diverse pathways South Valley students embark on, from internships with local businesses to community projects that solve real issues. Here, learning is not confined to textbooks but is alive in the passions and projects of students and the community. In addition to a diploma, students graduate with career skills, confidence, a sense of purpose, and community connection.

At South Valley, our commitment to an equitable, student-centered education is evident in our diverse, inclusive environment. To embody our values of community, empowerment, belonging and wellness,  we consciously work against the historical legacy of exclusion in education, to bring marginalized communities to the center. We are committed to closing the opportunity gaps that plague our country.  We see every student as the author and artist of their future, who has the sovereignty to determine their own education. 

We believe that alternative education can be adaptive, inclusive, and forward-thinking. South Valley is not just preparing students for the next stage of their education or career; it’s inspiring them to become lifelong learners and active members of their communities. It’s a place where students are empowered to lead lives of their own design, supported by a community that believes in them.

As we look to the future of education, Big Picture Ukiah at South Valley stands as an example of innovation. By debunking myths about alternative education, South Valley is not only changing perceptions but also changing lives. This new vision for education at Big Picture Ukiah at South Valley is a testament to what’s possible when we reimagine the boundaries of learning and teaching. It’s a call to action for all of us to think creatively about the purpose and potential of education in our evolving world. 

If you are interested in learning more, connecting, or mentoring amazing young people,  call our office!