School Spotlight: Park Center High School
Since opening its doors in 1971, Park Center High School has grown into a school with unique distinctions among the three high schools in the Osseo School District.
Park Center Pirate pride runs deep at this school, and if you’re telling the school’s story, setting the stage in the school’s new auditorium is a good place to start. The recently renovated theater is a jewel at this Brooklyn Park high school. It’s also where Park Center Principal Heather Miller-Cink got her start as the school’s musical director in 1996.
“That really is where my love for Park Center and the students here started, and it’s kind of when I knew this was home, and it’s where I wanted to basically spend the rest of my career,” said Miller-Cink.
If life is a stage, the goal at Park Center is to help students prepare for their biggest role.
Take for example, a new class called Hmong for Native Speakers, where students Emily Lee and Sabrina Vang are learning to read, write and speak the language of their parents.
“It helps me because I’m able to actually learn more about my culture because I feel like kids these days, they don’t really know much about it. We mainly do speak English,” said Vang, a junior at the school.
Many of the Hmong students at Park Center were born and raised in Minnesota, so there can be a disconnect with their culture.
“Because I didn’t know a lot of Hmong, I really got criticized for it a lot from my own culture saying, ‘you are not a real Hmong daughter if you do not know Hmong,'” said Emily Lee, a freshman. “The fact that I was able to learn it, really meant a lot to me.”
Students of the World
Students at Park Center come from different backgrounds and walks of life. Eighty-three percent are students of color, 17 percent are white. The way principal Heather Miller-Cink sees it, every single student is loved.
“I talk about a lot with the staff how important it is for them to remember that each one of our students is someone else’s whole world,” said Miller-Cink.
Park Center students are students of the world. At this International Baccalaureate school, 16-year-old junior Koffi Amegble is pursuing a full IB Diploma, which will likely earn him college credits.
“By completing the full IB Diploma, not only will I be going through rigorous academic work, but also helping the community at the same time by undergoing our creativity, activity, and service hours,” said Amegble.
With more than 2,000 students at Park Center, it’s important to connect and make education relevant. A seven-period day allows kids the chance to try different classes and explore subject areas.
In Katherine Hutchinson’s culinary arts class, making gingerbread muffins opens the door to cooking as a lifelong skill or even a career.
“They can put things into practice, and then they can know if it’s a career, but you don’t know what you’re career is until you have some smaller experiences,” said Hutchinson.
Sometimes up-and-coming local chefs visit the class too and provide a real world view.
“I always like it when the real world chefs say exactly what I say,” said Hutchinson with a smile.
At the end of the day, Park Center High School aims to ready students for every stage of life.
“We want them to know that we’ve prepared them for the world,” said Miller-Cink.