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Worthington ALC students shine in STARS

Student Lupita Dominguez prepares a spicy papaya salad during the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs STARS Spring Events Conference in Bloomington.

WORTHINGTON -- Students at the Worthington Area Learning Center were offered a chance to show off their skills earlier this month as part of the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs' (MAAP) STARS program.

"The ALC is usually about credit recovery," explained ALC teacher Jerusha Lowe. "But with this, we're trying to get students to be well-rounded and to express the leadership skills we know they have."

On the MAAP website, the STARS program is described as a vocational organization for students in secondary alternative programs in the United States. The Worthington ALC started participation the program this year, and about 30 students have taken the class so far.

MAAP STARS aims to help students "develop employment, academic and social skills; experience career related activities; build a cooperative and competitive spirit through individual and team activities and competition; strengthen social skills and build an appreciation for the responsibilities of citizenship, brotherhood, and the American free enterprise system; develop self-confidence; increase motivation, and create a desire for life-long learning; and to meet students and staff from other alternative program."

Five STARS participants competed against 400 students from around the state at the Spring Events Conference April 15-16 in Bloomington.

Junior Yasmin Chairez was awarded eighth overall after completing two events: she demonstrated the procedure for volumizing hair on a live model and also developed a complete profile of El Azteca restaurant, where she works as a waitress.

"I had a list of rules, the restaurant history. I wrote down what I do," she said. "Just everything about El Azteca."

Senior Lupita Dominguez prepared a papaya salad for the judges.

"I love Asian food. I like the spice of Asian food. I thought it would be good for them to have something different for them and it was something different for them," Dominguez said with a laugh.

Senior Casey Sanwick is currently working on a presentation she hopes will bring awareness to the nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization dedicated to finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

Junior Marisa Mireles and senior Brenda Rendon also participated in the conference. All five girls worked together on the parenting decision-making part of the competition, where they were asked to find solutions for a pair of struggling teenage parents.

Earlier, the students attended a Fall Leadership Conference in St. Cloud and also worked together on a service project to provide kindergarteners at Prairie Elementary with personalized morning chore charts.

STARS members will present their activities for the year to the Optimists and Kiwanis Club later this spring.

Lowe hopes to grow the program next year.

"We like what it offers; we like the curriculum," she said. "Our goal this year is to offer the course earlier in the year so kids have more practice time before the April competition."