WESTMINSTER -- The Vermont Agency of Education has awarded a $10,000 grant to Bellows Falls Union High School to create individualized plans for its students as a way of enhancing their learning experience.

Dr. Missy Wilkins, the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union Family Liaison & Student Advocate, explained that a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) is one each student creates for his or her own education. The Vermont Legislature recently passed Act 77, which will require all students in grades 7 through 12 to create a PLP based on their interests and goals.

"It's where our state is headed," Wilkins told the Reformer. "It really links your learning to what you want to do after high school."

Wilkins said the grant money will pay for teachers' professional development in regards to the implementation of Act 77. The money must be used between now and the end of the year.

"We're really excited about this grant," Wilkins said. "We don't want this to be just another initiative. We want it to be meaningful and to help our students."

Wilkins will work with Bellows Falls Middle School Guidance Counselor Cathy Morris to make sure each BFMS eighth-grade student and all BFUHS ninth-grade students have the resources and support they need to create their own PLPs.

According to a statement from BFUHS, Wilkins used the grant proposal to describe a field test she and the BFUHS guidance counselors conducted. They began by meeting with small groups of freshmen over the course of two weeks last fall. Each student was asked to map out their future plans and were then able to participate in the creation of their own PLP. Feedback from students was very positive, according to the statement, and many felt their PLP helped them better understand how their education works.

Vermont has launched a website to help educators and students with the PLP process and Gov. Peter Shumlin spoke about the site's launch in January.

"Today's Personal Learning Plan launch is a critical step toward providing individual students with the specific path to graduation -- and beyond -- that best meets their learning styles," he said. "There is no one-size-fits-all plan for teaching our children. These learning plans enable us to adjust education to meet the needs of all students, and ensure they have the skills they need to find good jobs after graduation."

Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont Secretary of Education, stated in a recent e-mail to the Personal Learning Plan Working Group (of the state agency of education) that this is an "exciting step forward for our schools and students." She said the challenges pertaining to engagement, relevance and student responsibility cannot be addressed without taking on this issue of personalization.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.