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Tiger Talk: Small program has big impact

The Pine River-Backus Area Learning Center (ALC) continues to be a busy, productive and highly structured learning environment, focused on the needs of at-risk learners ages 16 to 21.

We partner with the Pequot Lakes School District and serve some of that district’s at-risk students at our site.

The program is designed to help struggling students receive their high school diploma. The program runs an independent study format where students must attend a minimum number of set hours per week for instructional time, but they are able to self-determine the exact amount of time spent on site according to their individual learning style and needs.

Students complete additional coursework independently, off site.

Courses are available in conventional book format and in a hybrid online format. The staff works to meet the needs of individual learners while providing support for successful completion of credits so students can earn a regular high school diploma.

We typically serve more than 30 percent of each graduating class at some point during their educational years here at Pine River-Backus.

Keeping students connected and progressing toward the graduation goal is a high priority of our staff. According to new state programming guidelines, once students drop out of school, they are unable to re-enroll in most circumstances. Some students need more time to accomplish this goal, but their success is celebrated as having accomplished their goal.

The staff has developed many programs over the past few years to enhance student academic skills, improve test scores, develop work/career knowledge and skills, set career goals and increase the student use of technology.

The iPads have been used in the building to enhance courses and add additional curriculum. Staff members work to build the skill sets of students, after determining the at-risk factors, such as poor organization or memory skills, which resulted in alternative placement.

Improving these skills helps to ensure greater success in their future after graduation. The future success of our graduates is an important part of our programming.

To help students maintain interest in their education and succeed in the future, the Pine River-Backus Area Learning Center staff has developed a wide variety of more than 35 elective and short outreach courses. A few of our current electives include: Human Biology, Conceptual Physics, Environmental Science, Forensic Science, Work Experience, Career Exploration and Work Readiness, Photography, Psychology, Spanish, World Cultures, The Vietnam Era, Food and Nutrition, Parenting, Mechanical Drafting, Keyboarding, Office Applications, and Technical Reading-Using an Auto Mechanics Repair Textbook and other applicable technical manuals.

Our Learning Outreach program includes short courses taught weekly or biweekly. Current topics include: Gardening and Self Sufficiency, Building Healthy Relationships, Parenting, Life Skills, Career Readiness Skills, Understanding Your Responsibilities as an Adult, and Being a Smart Consumer.

All of these courses include instructors from our community partnerships with the Pine River Family Center, Happy Dancing Turtle, Access North, Rural Minnesota CEP and the Minnesota Work Force Center.

Our program is the funding source for the much needed and beneficial Power Learner’s programs in the elementary and junior high school and funds most of elementary summer school. We serve students from both school districts weekly after school and during the summer to recover any credits failed in the regular high school setting.

We also serve students from Pine River-Backus High School who come over during the school day to make up credits, resolve scheduling conflicts or take the Work Experience course that is supervised by one of our instructors.

Our goal at the ALC is to build solid academic skills in our students to help them achieve a successful future. This school year we have had six past graduates complete the requirements and receive their diploma.

Over the past 20 years, we have had more than 600 students earn their diploma through our program. The Pine River-Backus ALC is a small program that we believe has a big impact on students in our school district.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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