What does “Alzar” mean?
Alzar is a Spanish verb which translates to “to rise,” “to elevate,” “to lift,” or “to boost.” It is used in many different expressions, such as alzar el vuelo (to take flight), alzar la carpa (to pitch a tent), alzar la vela (to set sail). As a verb, it indicates action, and Alzar School students are full of action.
What makes Alzar School unique?
The Alzar School is built on our “Six Foundations”: leadership training, academics, outdoor adventure, service learning, cultural exchange, and environmental stewardship. It is our unique combination of these six foundations that makes the school stand out. We are a small program that places emphasis on really challenging high school students to become leaders. We don’t think that “someday” they can make a difference… we know that they can make a difference today and we want to give them the tools to do so. Having seen many different schools around the country, we are confident that there are not many places that allow students to invest in themselves as a leaders as intensively as they can at the Alzar School.
What is the mission of this school?
The official mission of the school is: to educate and facilitate the leadership development of high school students.
That mission statement might be summed up as “The Alzar School is trying to mold the next generation of leaders, the people that will go out there and make significant change in the world.”
Why does the Alzar School exist?
The Alzar School is helping to fill the leadership void. The world needs more leaders to tackle the social and environmental issues. Many students think that the point of an education is to prepare them for a job, to make a living, or for more education (college, med school, etc). We believe that students can be expected to do more, that education is meant to prepare you to make the world a better place. We know that our students will be well prepared for university challenges and that they will be able to make a living in a career of their choice. They will be able to achieve these things and have the leadership skills to direct their energy and talents toward improving their local communities and confronting the global issues that they are passionate about.
Is the school a non-profit?
Yes, the Alzar School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that is officially registered with the state of Idaho and the IRS. That means that contributions to the school may be tax deductible (check with your accountant to maximize your donation). It was approved as a 501(c)(3) in April 2008.
How is the school funded?
Currently, the school relies on a variety of sources to fund the school. First, private donations make up a significant portion of our funding. Additionally, we are applying for numerous grants to support the school. At this point, we do charge students a tuition. However, our courses are heavily subsidized by the donations we collect and because we utilize volunteer labor as much as possible.
Who runs the Alzar School? Who works for it?
The Alzar School is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.
That Board consists of: Kim Tanabe (President), Katie Basham (Vice President), Cailin O’Brien-Feeny (Treasurer), Turin Dickman (Secretary), and Katie Hawkins (Liaison to Advisory Committee). Additionally, the two Alzar School administrators, Sean Bierle (Head Teacher) and Kristin Bierle (Executive Director), sit on the board ex oficio (because of their positions). We also have a volunteer Advisory Committee made up of experts from the fields of education, outdoor recreation, business, medicine, service, etc. These Advisory Committee members are located throughout the United States and offer their guidance to the school. A full list of these members can be found on the Alzar School website.
Sean and Kristin Bierle are also full time employees of the school. For the 2012-2013 school year, there will be an additional 4 full time teachers and two interns. The Alzar School recruits some of the most professional and passionate educators as teachers and staff on its programs.
How long has the school been in existence?
The school has been in existence since 2004, when it was founded by Sean and Kristin Bierle. After being founded, the school offered three-week long expeditions within the United States and in Mexico and Chile prior to launching our semester program. Our first full semester was the Fall 2012 semester.
Are there any parents or students that have been a part of the Alzar School that I could talk to?
Definitely! We have several families who have been a part of the school who would be excited to share their experience with you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for their contact information.
Academics & Curriculum
Is the Alzar School accredited?
Yes! The Alzar School is accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission. This is the same institution that accredits all the major public and private secondary and post-secondary schools in the region. It is one of 6 regional accrediting agencies.
Will credits from the Alzar School transfer to my/my student’s home school?
As an accredited school, it is much more likely that the credits earned at the Alzar School will transfer directly onto the student’s transcript at their home school. However, it is the responsibility of the student and his or her family to confirm this before enrolling at the Alzar School. The administrators of Alzar School are happy to help you communicate with your school to educate them about the many educational benefits from investing one semester of a high school career with us.
What is the school’s core curriculum?
The Alzar School’s curriculum is centered around developing young leaders. We have designed our curriculum to be college-preparatory, for students in their sophomore or junior years of high school. While on a semester with the Alzar School, students can expect to take all their traditional core classes (Math, Science, English, History, and Spanish). In addition, our curriculum is integrated through our leadership program, which includes our “10 Elements of Leadership.” This unique curriculum, which was developed in-house, is based on a variety of leadership training models and philosophies. We have researched leadership in a variety of settings and created lessons relevant to high school students. Not only do students study leadership academically… they also apply these lessons through multiple designated leadership roles throughout their semester and they receive feedback from peers and teachers.
What courses are you offering students for the upcoming school year?
We have tried to design our course list based on what most motivated sophomores and juniors would be taking at their home school. If the Alzar School does not offer a course that your son or daughter needs, it may be possible for them to take that course as an independent study under one of our teacher’s supervision. For the full listing of courses for the 2013-2014 school year, please see this Curriculum Guide.
How big are class sizes at the Alzar School?
Each semester will host a cohort of 16 students (approximately 8 male and 8 female students). With 6 full time faculty and 16 students, the ratio of students to teachers is a 2.7:1. On top of this, each semester features two teaching fellows who serve as additional adult mentors around campus and on outdoor expeditions.
What are the “10 Elements of Leadership?”
The 10 Elements of Leadership are: 1) Character, 2) Technical Proficiency, 3) 360˚ Thinking, 4) Resiliency & Resourcefulness, 5) Communication Skills, 6) Accurate Awareness, 7) Personal Leadership & Follow-through, 8) Community Membership & Service, 9) Inspiring Vision, 10) Continual Learning & Improvement. These elements give students and teachers a common vocabulary with which to discuss leadership.
My son or daughter is participating in a rigorous curriculum at home, will he or she fall behind?
They shouldn’t! The Alzar School teachers are committed to helping students excel in school. During their time at the Alzar School, your son or daughter will benefit from one-on-one time with our teachers. We will help you work with your son or daughter’s home school to make sure that they are covering all the same objectives as their peers.
What about college? How will this look on my son or daughter’s application?
We believe that participating in an Alzar School semester will add a very unique component to both college applications and résumés. The culminating leadership project is an aspect to be especially proud of… not many high school students can say that they led and implemented a significant project to make the world a better place! Alzar School alumni are lifelong learners. They go on to continue their education at some of the finest institutions in the country.
Here is a sampling of schools our graduates have gone on to:
Appalachian State University
Augusta State University
Boise State University
College of Idaho
George Washington University
Idaho State University
North Carolina State University
St. Mary’s College
San Diego State University
Universidad de Desarrollo (Santiago, Chile)
University of Mary Washington
University of Puget Sound
University of Montana
University of the South – Sewanee
University of Washington
What sort of student excels at Alzar?
The Alzar School is designed for highly motivated teenagers who want to make a difference in the world. Students should do well in a traditional classroom, but also desire to do something more. Our admissions department looks for leadership potential. This might be demonstrated by community service, participation in school clubs and teams, or other civic involvement. Once at the Alzar School, the most successful students are those who keep an open-mind, those who are willing to work hard when needed, and who generally have a positive attitude.
How will I be able to stay in contact with my son or daughter?
During his or her semester at the Alzar School, your son or daughter will have access to the internet and their cell phones while at our base campus. There will be times while on expeditions (both in the mountains and while in Chile) when you may not be able to reach them every day. During these times, the school will still check in regularly and we often post blog reports sharing what we are up to. For most of the semester, you will have plenty of opportunities to call and hear about the amazing experience they are having. Each semester also has a “Parents Weekend,” which is a great time for you to visit them at our campus in Idaho.
Where do Alzar School students come from?
Alzar School students come from all over the United States. Check out this Google map showing our network of alumni. The list of places we draw students from continues to grow. We also have a scholarship fund called the Jean Bierle Scholarship Initiative which provides scholarships for young women in the countries we visit (Chile and Mexico so far). The fund has provided scholarships for 10 young women to date.
What is the daily schedule like?
One of the strengths of being a small, independent school is the ability to have a flexible schedule that adapts to our environment as we explore different “classrooms.” However, while no day at the Alzar School is typical, a day at our Idaho campus might look something like this:
7:10 – 7:40 AM – Breakfast
Eat family style with the community. Breakfast is prepared by rotating cook crews made up of students and staff. Today, omelets and fruit salad are being served.
7:50 – 8:30 AM – Whole school community meeting
Check in as a community about upcoming expeditions, events, and projects. Some mornings this may be a quick meeting with your mentor.
7:50 – 8:30 AM – Math
Work on your math skills in a small group setting. There are different levels available to meet most sophomores and juniors needs. Apply what you learn to real life situations.
8:30 – 9:10 AM – Independent Study period
Each day, students have one or two independent study periods. This time gives them the opportunity to work on assignments and projects throughout the school day, and is similar to the unstructured time found in a college schedule (making for great practice for life after high school).
9:15 – 10:10 AM – Science
Several different science courses are available each semester. Today you head down to the river to study macro-invertebrates and their life cycles.
10:15 – 11:15 AM – English
In English, you look at how Latin American writers have influenced contemporary novelists in the United States. You’ve been reading “My Invented Country” and have selected passages to share.
11:20 AM – 12:20 PM – History
Today, you review the history of the colonization of Chile in preparation for your six-week expedition there later in the semester. The Alzar School offers US and World History courses.
12:20 – 1:00 PM – Lunch
Again, head to the dining hall to grab a healthy lunch. You snag a deli sandwich and a side salad. Since it is a nice fall day, you decide to eat out on our porch overlooking Snowbank Mountain.
1:05 – 2:05 PM – Capstone Leadership Course
You and your classmates are researching effective leaders throughout history. You present on Ernest Shackleton’s incredible task of keeping all his men alive while stranded in the Antarctic ice.
2:10 – 3:10 PM – Spanish
Expand your vocabulary in anticipation of the upcoming expedition to Chile. Today, you focus on terms dealing with the river and kayaking because you’ll soon be teaching Chilean children about river safety.
3:30 – 5:30 PM – Afternoon activity
Participate in local community service, go kayaking at the whitewater park just 3 miles upstream, or practice an instrument.
5:30 – 6:00 PM – Community tasks
Help out around school to keep the community running smoothly. There are several different rotations, but today your job is to restock the firewood for many fireplaces and wood-burning stoves around campus.
6:30 – 7:15 – Dinner
Last meal of the day! Enjoy homemade enchiladas and a bowl of ice cream. It’s getting cool out, so there is a fire in the dining hall’s stone fireplace.
7:30 – 9:30 – Study hall
Spend two hours keeping up with your out-of-class work. Find a quiet nook in the library or loft to get the practice in that you need.
9:30 PM – Return to student yurts
Relax in your student yurt. Put the finishing touches on any homework and gear up for another day at the Alzar School!
What is the school calender like for the upcoming school year?
For the 2013-2014 school year calendar, please see this 2013-2014 School Year Calendar. Please keep in mind that this schedule is subject to change.
Tuition & Scholarships
How much does a semester at the Alzar School cost?
We realize that attending the Alzar School requires a significant financial commitment on the part of your family. It is our goal to make these semesters available to as many deserving students as possible. We have several financial aid options available. Tuition, room, and board for the 2013-2014 school year is $21,000 (USD). You will be asked to pay a non-refundable deposit of $1,000 upon acceptance and return of the Initial Registration Form. This deposit is applied to the cost of tuition. The remainder of the tuition will be due 30 days before the 1st day of your son or daughter’s semester. Besides tuition, room, and board, there are several other expenses you should be aware of. We ask that you set up a student account with us to cover these expenses, with an initial deposit of $3,000. This deposit will be used towards transportation between our Idaho campus and Chile and for necessary supplies and equipment. Total: Without financial aid, you can plan to invest roughly $24,000 in your son or daughter’s semester at the Alzar School.
Are there any scholarships available?
There are numerous financial aid options available for prospective students. When students complete their application for admission to the school, they will also be given the option to apply for financial aid. There are several specific funds available, including the Jean Bierle Scholarship Initiative, Alumni Fund, and Board Scholarship.
What is the Jean Bierle Scholarship Initiative?
In 2007, the Alzar School created the Jean Bierle Scholarship Initiative as an effort to engage young women from the developing countries we visit in leadership training. It is very rare in Chile or Mexico (or many countries outside of the US) for women to participate in outdoor activities. These young women benefit greatly from the boosts in confidence that climbing a mountain or exploring a river can provide. The fund was named after Jean Bierle, an avid Alzar School supporter who exemplifies the spirit of adventure we hope to instill in the recipients of this scholarship.
What is the Alumni Fund?
In July 2008, students graduating from an Alzar School course decided to start a second scholarship fund to benefit US students. This fund is known as the “Alumni Fund.” Fundraising for this program is driven by the leadership of students who have graduated from the Alzar School. Alumni who sit on our Advisory Committee select recipients of this scholarship.
What is the Board Scholarship?
In July 2010, the Alzar School Board of Directors decided that board members’ annual contributions would go first to creating at least one full scholarship for US students to attend the Alzar School. A small subcommittee of the Advisory Committee selects each year’s recipient of this scholarship based on a separate application that can be requested when a student applies to the school.
What kind of outdoor activities are available to students at the Alzar School?
Our campus is located on the North Fork of the Payette River, just over 2 miles downstream of the world-class Kelly’s Whitewater Park and 8 miles upstream of the Class II-III Cabarton Section. Students will live within an hour of two ski resorts, where they can carve through some of Idaho’s great powder. They will also spend an extended period of time in the Chile, which provides the majestic Andes for mountain sports and the might Pacific for ocean sports. They will learn to backpack, kayak, raft, climb, surf, and more.
Are outdoor adventure activities dangerous?
Outdoor adventure sports do come with inherent risks. However, through proper training, coaching, and development of judgement, students can learn to manage risks. As an Alzar School student, your son or daughter will participate in wilderness first aid training, swiftwater rescue training, and learn to evaluate real vs. perceived risk and to weigh risk vs. consequences. The school’s goal is to help our students become a lifetime outdoor enthusiast who can recreate responsibly and respond to emergencies in the field. If you would like, please read more about the school’s Risk Management Program.
How does the Alzar School handle medical emergencies?
The Alzar School employs teachers and instructors who meet or exceed industry standards when it comes to first aid. As a minimum, our teachers have a Wilderness First Responder certification, but they frequently are EMTs as well. Additionally, we have several MDs and PAs on our Board/Advisory Committee, who review our medical and emergency protocols. The school has a set of risk management protocols which are regularly practiced and reviewed. If you would like, please read more about the school’s Risk Management Program.
What rivers does the Alzar School explore?
The Alzar School is fortunate to be able to explore rivers in California, Idaho, and Chile. Whitewater paddling composes a big part of our outdoor program. Each of these rivers have everything from Class I for our beginners to Class IV for our experts. We break into groups based on skill. In California, we explore the Klamath River, Cal Salmon River, Trinity River, and Clear Creek. We operate on special use permits from the Klamath and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. In Idaho, we will be on the Main Payette River, South Fork Payette River, North Fork Payette River (above the Class V section), Salmon River, Owyhee River, and Snake River (Hagerman – Bliss). We operate on special use permits from Boise National Forest. In Chile, we explore the Rio Claro, Rio Teno, Rio Achibueno, Rio Nuble, Rio Fuy, Rio Trancura, Rio Luicura, Rio San Pedro, and Rio Claro (Siete Tazas).
How often will students participate in outdoor activities?
Students can expect to get outside just about every day. From the door of the student cabins, students can embark on a 3 mile snowshoe hike in the winter or work on their kayak roll in the river just 200 yards away. Each semester features extended trips in Idaho, around the West, and in Chile. As a school, we take multi-day river trips, backpack into remote lakes, and work as a team to summit peaks. As students gain leadership expertise, they can expect to shoulder more and more responsibility for these expeditions, learning to pick routes, plan and organize meals, and set itineraries.
What gear/equipment will my son or daughter need?
With so many great outdoor sports to participate in, there is a lot of gear used. The Alzar School will provide some of the needed equipment, but there are certain items that students will need to acquire. See this packing list to give you an idea of what you’ll bring with you. Check out this Packing List.
How long will we be out of the country?
Each semester, you can expect to be on an international expedition for about 6 weeks. This gives students enough time to get a solid feel for the local culture, to sample the cuisine, and to make meaningful friendships.
Why do we go to Chile?
The administrators of the Alzar School have been working in Chile since 2001. The Alzar School’s first program there was in 2007. The Alzar School returns to Chile each year because it offers an amazing classroom for our students. To begin with, the culture is warm and inviting and its government and economy are stable. Students can practice their Spanish as they make life-long friends. The history of the country is fascinating, from the pre-colonial Mapuche, to Charles Darwin’s explorations, to the Pinochet era. Its geology and geography provide endless lessons. Chile offers the Alzar School an unbeatable opportunity to explore a different country, one that in many ways is extremely different from the United States, but shares many values in common with us.
Where do we stay while in Chile? What is student life like there?
Chile is a long, magnificent country and we do our best to expose students to as much of the country and culture as possible during our time there, while keeping students on track with their academic courses. For a portion of the 6-week expedition (between 5 and 10 days), students stay with families in a homestay. The school also travels together, sometimes camping in the Andes, sometimes renting cabanas at the beach. For approximately 3 weeks, the school bases out of Choshuenco, a small town in Chile’s Lake District. The extended time in one community allows students to really get to know a community and area. During the time in Chile, there is some access to Internet, but it can be irregular. Students continue to have regular classes, but afternoons are spent both exploring the Andes and participating in cultural activities (such as shopping in a Chilean market, volunteering at a small orphanage, etc).
Do students have to be fluent in Spanish?
No! Students can join the Alzar School with no previous Spanish education. Immersion is by far the most fun and effective way to learn a language. The Alzar School’s teachers will help you build your vocabulary, and then students will work towards mastery in authentic situations (like when they try to buy syrup at a Chilean market!).
What are homestays like?
During our time in Chile, students spend time in the home of a Chilean family. Generally, one student is paired with one family, though on occasion small groups of students may stay with a family. Your son or daughter will spend somewhere between 5 and 10 days living with a Chilean family, with Alzar School teachers checking in with him or her daily. The Alzar School works with schools in the communities we visit to find and coordinate the homestay experience. These families are excited to share their culture with your son or daughter, and to learn about US culture. This is a great time to for student to practice their Spanish and make friends! It is important that students are responsible, make good decisions, and understand that the Alzar School’s Code of Conduct is in place during the homestay experience.