Osseo Area Learning Center meets students where they're at
The traditional high school setting doesn't always work for every student. The Osseo Area Learning Center (OALC) offers something different for high school students between the ages of 14 and 21 in the Osseo School District.

The start of a new day is a powerful time at Osseo Area Learning Center. Each morning offers principal Kristen Hauge and student management specialist Randy Carter a chance to greet students and connect with them at the door.

"It starts at the door. Part of what we do every morning, we greet kids at the door. It's a good opportunity to look in a kids' face and see what kind of day a kid might have," said Carter.

In this small high school with 200 students, building one on one relationships is the number one priority.

"Our kids are just kids, and they've had a variety of experiences for whatever reason that have just not allowed them to be successful in the traditional school setting, and so we really just try hard to make sure that we have an individual plan for each kid, and we try to meet them where they're at," said Hauge.

Eighteen-year-old Olivia Hellwig started at Osseo High School, then tried an online school, and last year, she came to OALC.

"The plan right now is to get work done, work my butt off, and get done as soon as possible," said Hellwig

Hellwig got the encouragement she needed at OALC, and her plans now include graduation.

"It's really a much smaller school, so there is more opportunity for one-on-one with the teachers, but really, the teachers just show a lot of support for the students is what I've noticed," said Hellwig.

As a student management specialist, Carter says part of the challenge is to find out ways to connect with each student.

"It's finding ways and figuring out ways to motivate the kids, to push kids, to challenge kids, and get them to understand that there are so many opportunities out there that they may or may not be able to see right now," said Carter.

Students at OALC may also face a variety of different life situations outside of school. Many students have jobs, some are living with friends, and several students are parents themselves. An on-site daycare at OALC ensures a student's child is safe and being cared for while they take care of their studies.

The school also offers smaller class sizes, between ten to twelve students per class, and there's new flexible furniture that can be moved for group work or other configurations that engage the students in their learning.

And every Friday, thanks to community partners donating time and resources, small bags of food are given to students for the weekend.

At this school, everywhere you look, the message is clear: keep moving forward.

"What matters now is that you're right here today. And today we can move forward and do some truly special things, if you buy in, we're going to buy in, and everybody is going to win," said Carter.

The whole school works to see students across the finish line, and that's why when a student earns enough credits to graduate, there's a school wide celebration.

"We celebrate kind of a graduation ceremony within the building for each individual kid," said Hauge. "They put on their cap and gown and they walk around, and all the kids come out and the teachers come out, and we all ring bells. It's a big, fun thing, but it really celebrates that success that's a big milestone for our kids."

Alexandra Renslo reporting
Twitter: @alexrenslo

November 21, 2017


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