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Leaders in Learning: The Sawtooth Story

Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are getting industry level certifications that are recognized worldwide (KBOI Staff).

Students at Sawtooth Middle School in Meridian are turning a page in education.

They are creating projects once thought to be way outside of the scope of middle schoolers; in the same software used by college students.

"We can do things that people think we can't do," said Ava Anderson, a middle school student who has one Adobe certification.

It's all part of a program called Create Idaho.

It's a first of its kind initiative to bring Adobe's creative software into the hands of students, in schools and at home.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are getting industry level certifications that are recognized worldwide, as well as the potential for college credit.

All before they even enter high school.

"Some Adobe executives have told me Idaho has changed the landscape of education due to the fact that these are such groundbreaking certifications at this level," said Roni Gilbertson, Career and Technical Educator at Sawtooth Middle School.

Sawtooth is the first middle school in the country to pilot this program.

Since its launch last year, over 200 certifications have been awarded to students.

"These are adult level certifications that these kids are taking and passing," said Dr. Angie Neal, Career Technical Education Coordinator at West Ada School District.

There are six programs they can become certified in:

The first three are Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Students who recieve certifications in all three of these programs are Adobe Visual Design Specialists.

The others are Premiere, Animate, and Dreamweaver. Students who recieve certifications in all three of these programs are Adobe Web Design Specialists.

These are the exact certification exams that industry professionals are taking.

“The certification exams themselves are extremely difficult," said Jaide Evans, a middle school student who has received five certifications. "It requires a lot of memorization and practice in order to be able to pass them and achieve the certifications.”

Now, these students are learning there's almost nothing they can't do if they put their mind to it.

"I've seen students who at the beginning of the year were struggling with self-esteem issues, all things that middle school students do, and when they get these certifications and when they get this program under their belt, they are so proud and they are so motivated to do more," said Kathleen Hodge, Facilitator for the Gifted and Talented at Sawtooth Middle School.

"When I took the Photoshop exam, at first I did not pass," said Grace Kuhel, a middle school student with one Adobe Certification. "But, the second time I did [pass]. I was like 'oh my gosh I did that! I'm so happy with myself.' It was all the hard work I did to get that certification, which takes a lot."

Program leaders say their next goal is figuring out how to advance what is being taught in high schools and colleges so these students can keep on reaching their full potential.

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