Highview Alternative Program Offers a Personal Approach
The story inside Robbinsdale Area Schools’ Highview Alternative Program is always a personal one. It’s a program where instructors know their students by name.
“Every kid who walks through this door has his or her own story,” says Dawn Kalina, one of the instructors at Highview Alternative Program. She finds purpose and satisfaction in seeing a potential drop-out student turn his or her academic career around. Often, teachers must find a way to connect the student to a desirable career path. “All of the sudden, they have a plan and a direction,” says Kalina. “It’s fabulous and it’s tear-jerking at the same time.”
What is the Highview Alternative Program?
Highview serves about 180 students ages 16 to 21. The program is currently housed in Sandburg Middle School. Students at Highview can work at their own pace and focus on earning the credits they need to obtain to graduate with a high school diploma.”Highview is a wonderful place,” says Mary Haney, director of alternative learning. “It is often misunderstood, but once a student connects with Highview, they love it here.”
Once students earn the credits they need to graduate, they can walk at their home high schools’ graduation and also receive a certificate from Highview. Many of the classes push students to think beyond high school. For example, an English class works on college and career readiness. A graphic design class incorporates how to use spreadsheets, Google Docs and other workplace savvy skills. “Our approach is to work personally with the student and see what their goals and aspirations are,” says Haney. “Then we connect the personalized high school program with their talents and strengths.”
Highview Alternative Program success stories
Students come a long way in a short time in the program, which is rewarding for teachers to see. One of Highview’s success stories recently participated in a speed networking event. Jake Ripley says he was expecting to drop out of school before a Highview teacher intervened. “You can definitely accredit it to Mrs. V and this program,” says Ripley.
“Mrs. V” is Linda Valentine, who teaches graphic design and also teaches career and tech education courses. She remembers Jake Ripley well. “When he came here he said he was going to quit school,” says Valentine, who saw potential and pushed him to do better. She remembers the turnaround moment when she handed back a paper that she knew wasn’t his best. “I told him, ‘I’m not taking this. Do it over,” remembers Valentine. “He was really mad at me for a week, but I got good stuff from him from that week forward.”
Now, Ripley is a scholarship recipient at Hennepin Tech and a point of pride for Valentine. “He is a straight A student. He is president of the Student Fluid Power Association at Hennepin Tech,” says Valentine. “The day after you interviewed him here, he took second in the state skills at the college level.”
Ripley makes no bones about it. He points to his teachers at Highview as the reason why he’s doing well in college. “Had I not come here and met some of the people I did, I wouldn’t have had some of the opportunities I’ve been afforded,” says Ripley.