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Column: ALC is more than it appears

WORTHINGTON -- When you hear Worthington Area Learning Center (ALC), many thoughts go through one's head. Some of these thoughts may be positive, but in the past these thoughts may have been negative.

However, the ALC is more than it appears -- especially once you see what it has to offer students not only from Worthington but from surrounding school districts. Students today are faced with many challenges, which sometimes get into their way from finishing high school. The ALC is able to offer a wide array of programming options/services for students who are experiencing difficulty in the traditional system, or who have fallen behind in high school credits, or are struggling with various issues.

The Worthington ALC offers a daytime program, where students in grades 9- 12 can enroll as full-time students and work toward completing their high school diploma. These students are required to complete the same coursework requirements as Worthington High School or the home high school; for students outside of District 518. Students are also required to complete all testing requirements needed to receive a diploma. Upon completing both of these requirements students who graduate from the Worthington ALC receive a Worthington Public School diploma or a diploma from their local school district. Currently, there are about 70 students who are enrolled as full-time students. There are another 12 students who take classes during the daytime, but are enrolled as part-time students. Why is this? The ALC can take students up to age 21 who have taken coursework toward their high school diploma. Many of these individuals have full-time jobs, families or other issues which makes it difficult to attend school all day long. In addition to the daytime students, there are another 40-60 students who are enrolled in night classes each term. Many of these students are not only from Worthington High School or ALC, but from surrounding school districts such as Round Lake-Brewster, Fulda, Adrian, and Southwest Star. These students may take a night class in English, math, science or social studies, and need to complete these classes so they can stay on track to graduate or so they can graduate in May. The ALC also offers summer school during the month of June.

The ALC offers core classes in English, math, science, social studies and health/physical education, service learning, work experience, as well as attending the high school to take elective courses such as art, industrial tech courses, agriculture and other elective courses. Special Education and ESL services are also provided. In general, classes are small compared to the traditional high school and must be differentiated to meet the needs of the students. This year, seat-based instruction has been added to meet the academic needs of students in the various core areas. This type of instruction has allowed the ALC to offer all of the same courses that the high school provides in the core areas, even if only one student needs that course. This spring, we are even experimenting with some computer-based instruction with a few students.

Students at the ALC also have the opportunity to get involved in various school-to-work opportunities. This may be accomplished through the school store, where students learn bookkeeping, purchasing, sales and services along with how to process the proper paperwork. Some students participate in service learning opportunities where they may service as a volunteer for one of the many programs located within the West Building. And a new opportunity that some students are able to participate in this spring is a special internship program. Project C3 is in partnership with PACER Center, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which is providing paid internship to youths in six regions of the state. The internship program is designed to help in the development of a cutting edge Web based resource mapping tool (, this youth resource mapping activity helps youth to build skills needed in real world employment.

In addition to the high school-age students, the ALC also serves a small number of middle-level students who are in need of a small structured classroom in order to get back on track with their academics. This program will be moving to the middle school this fall, where it will be operated as a school within a school; it is our hope that we will be able to help more students meet their academic needs. As a result of having a middle-level program, the ALC is able to provide the targeted services after-school and summer school program for students in grades 1-8 who are struggling academically. This program, which is held throughout the school year, gives students who are referred to the program an extra boost in both reading and math.

The ALC is working hard to provide educational programming to meet the needs of our diverse learners, both in age and cultural background; and to align the curriculum at the ALC to meet the core standards. Overall, the staff at the ALC wants to see their at-risk students learn in a safe, academically challenging and caring environment. The focus is on learning, but building relationships between students and staff is equally important. Students tend to model the relationships of their adult mentors and benefit greatly from the individualized attention given by the staff. For this reason, the smallness of the school is in itself a benefit to the students.

Perhaps the goal of the school is best summed up in the motto: ALC means to achieve, learn, and create.

Rhonda Brandt is the director of the Area Learning Center.