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ALC students share their experiences with state representatives

WORTHINGTON -- Three Alternative Learning Center students headed to the Minnesota State Capitol Wednesday morning to share the ALC's positive impact as part of Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs Stars Legislative Day.

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District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton is shown with ALC students (from left) Michelle Ramirez, Anahi Rodriguez, and Juan Villegas during MAAP Legislative Day Wednesday monring. (Special to the Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Three Alternative Learning Center students headed to the Minnesota State Capitol Wednesday morning to share the ALC’s positive impact as part of Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs Stars Legislative Day.

 

Michelle Ramirez, Anahi Rodriguez and Juan Villegas had the opportunity to tour the Capitol and share their perspectives about their educational journeys with District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton and District 22 Sen. Bill Weber. Rodriguez, who is a MAAP officer, welcomed ALC students from around the state to the Capitol, and encouraged them to voice their opinions to their representatives.

 

ALC English Teacher and MAAP STARS Advisor Anne Raetz explained that the goal of Legislative Day is to expose students to lawmakers’ work, and to let state representatives know of the positive impact alternative schools have on students.

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“I think that alternative programs are often forgotten when discussing new or different changes to be made,” Raetz said. “At the same time, when directly asked, they (representatives) seem to support it as well, but it doesn't seem to be a key thing in their decision making.”

 

Raetz said she always tries to take herself out from the conversation during Legislative Day, as it’s time for students to communicate with their representatives.

 

“I think my students did an exceptional job with being professional, honest and respectful toward their representatives,” Raetz said. “They asked intriguing questions, they have thoughtful answers and showed a sense of genuinely listening to what their representatives had to tell them.”  

 

Ramirez said she was surprised to hear that neither Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, nor Weber, R-Luverne, had taken traditional educational paths. For example, she noted that Hamilton didn’t have the best grades in high school and didn’t attend college, which she thought were things that are supposed to be the norm for excelling individuals.

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“It encourage me because it showed me that you don't have to have perfect grades, and you don't have to go to the best college in the world to be able to have a successful life,” Ramirez said. “As long as you work hard and take the opportunities that are given, you can have a really nice life.”

 

Ramirez explained that her experience at the Capitol was very positive, since it was easy to communicate with both representatives. She said Hamilton had a previous experience with alternative schools, which made her feel more comfortable about sharing her thoughts.

 

“I told them how much the teachers help us and how they really make you keep doing your work here,” Ramirez said. “Also, that Friday intervisions - which is something that allows us to leave school after lunch if we have our homework done, no referrals and no unexcused absences - is a really good encouragement.”

 

One concerns students shared with Hamilton and Weber was the negative image that alternative schools have in their communities. Ramirez said Hamilton offered a means of changing that perception.

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“He told us that the change starts with us and that what we do for our school is what changes that.” Ramirez said. “It’s just to keep a positive outlook on it, because sooner or later people will see that the ALC is not as bad at they think it is  … it's actually a really cool place.”

 

Raetz said it’s sometimes frustrating to see the misconceptions some people have about the ALC. She explained that the difference between the ALC and a traditional high school is not necessarily academics, which is a common belief, but something beyond the classroom.

“They are fully capable of achieving the exact same expectations as traditional high school students, but they need a different support system,” Raetz said. “Whether that support system is - a set of teachers, or a closer connection to a school counselor or career focus classes - that would be one of the reasons why they are in the ALC.”

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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