Students Close the Achievement Gap

Work-Based Learning, Engaging Environment Bring Success for Alternative School Students

Fall 2015 Newsletter - Alternative SchoolsBridget felt invisible. Lost in the crowd of a traditional school setting, she found it difficult to get the help she needed from teachers. She started cutting class and wondered if it mattered.

“I felt no support, like I could quit and no one would notice,” Bridget remembers. “I did not see myself graduating.”

Bridget had bounced from school to school when she came to PPL’s Loring Nicollet Alternative School (LNAS) looking for a new start. PPL’s Alternative Schools (LNAS and MERC) provide an award-winning education for high school students, featuring small classes and an engaging environment to help those who don’t have success in mainstream school settings. Bridget saw the difference at LNAS right away, and it’s changed her life’s direction.

“I felt welcomed by the teachers,” Bridget remembers. “If you were missing, they would notice, call you, and find out what was going on. It was the support I didn’t get at other schools. I started wanting to go to school again.”

Bridget thrived at LNAS and was one of 50 students who graduated from PPL’s two Alternative Schools this spring. She began college courses this fall, knowing that what she learned at LNAS will help her in college, and beyond.

“Today I’m more resilient, I’m comfortable asking for the help I need, and I know how to accomplish something if I stick to it,” Bridget said. “The support of my teachers at LNAS and their dedication helped make all this possible.”

What’s Learned at Work Now Helps at School

Having a job wasn’t helping Desiree have success at school. Working since she turned 14, full days in the classroom followed by a shift at work meant coming home late, tired, and without energy to do homework, causing her to fall behind. A new PPL  program is helping Desiree to succeed at both school and work.

A senior at PPL’s MERC Alternative High School, Desiree is part of a new Work-Based Learning program, which focuses on career and leadership development for high school students and gives elective credits for on-the-job experience.

“Their job isn’t the typical teenager’s job,” said Becky Clark, MERC teacher and Work-Based Learning coordinator. “The majority of Work-Based Learning students have to work to support themselves and their families. The program supports students so work is not a barrier to getting their diploma.”

MERC’s program has helped Desiree learn skills to succeed on the job, even in hard times. One day at her fast food job, three of five scheduled coworkers called in sick. Short-handed and tempted to give up during a lunchtime rush, she and her remaining coworker instead leaned on each other and served all their customers.

“It was a hard day, but I wouldn’t give that day back,” Desiree said. “It gave me perspective and improved my leadership skills.” Her performance has been noticed. Desiree is in line to be promoted to a management position in the coming months.

While working, the program has also helped Desiree make strides in the classroom at MERC, ensuring her job won’t get in the way of her future academic goals. She’ll graduate this spring and has already begun taking college courses.

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