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Hello Worthington, meet the MAAP STARS

WORTHINGTON -- A group of students at the Worthington Area Learning Center are striving to connect with their community and dispel any myths that surround their school and the students that attend there.

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ALC MAAP Star students Jed Jewett (clockwise from top) Isabela Cherry, Dariela Juarez, Jamari Quigley and teacher Anne Raetz in the ALC gymnasium Thursday afternoon. Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - A group of students at the Worthington Area Learning Center are striving to connect with their community and dispel any myths that surround their school and the students that attend there. 

Riding the momentum of the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs (MAAP) fall conference, the students are committed to educating the public on who they are and what they stand for by showcasing a new documentary “Paper Tigers,” about a school program similar to their own.
Jed Jewett, Jamari Quigley, Dariela Juarez and Isabela Cherry were selected to represent Worthington ALC at the Fall Leadership Conference hosted at Camp Ripley earlier this month. The students said the conference provided them an opportunity to learn important leadership skills that can be used in their everyday lives, but allowed them to form bonds with students from across the state in similar academic programs like their own.
“It was really neat having all the ALC schools in the state of Minnesota together,” Quigley said.

“I didn’t even know some of them existed,” she said. “(We were able to see) how things are similar and how we feel the same about what people think about us.”
Meeting other students around the state was a bit intimidating for the group, but it allowed them to foster relationships with other students who could relate to their own life experiences.
“When you go there, everybody’s like family,” Jewett added. “… It’s a good experience, because you are out of your comfort zone. You don’t know these people, but inside you feel like you do, because you have some kind of connection.”
Some may believe ALC students are troublemakers or aren’t as intelligent as their counterparts in a traditional school setting, but that idea couldn’t be farther from the truth, according to the MAAP STARS. The students say they have perhaps had a harder life than their peers, but they are still good kids.
“One of the big things that I got out of it is that we all come from ALCs,” Cherry said. “... We have a tough background, and just growing up has been rough for all of us. With each other, we have talked a little bit about our different backgrounds and stuff - just seeing that even though we go to an ALC, even though we have a tough background, we still have a voice.
“ALC isn’t just for people who are troublemakers; we can still make a difference,” she added. “We can still be somebody and still have a voice.”

Stigma
Cherry says many in the community have a misconception that ALC students are “dumber” than other students, or perhaps are only interested in doing drugs and causing problems. According to her, that is simply not true.
“We still care about our futures,” Cherry said. “If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t have come to school here.”
“Education has increased,” Jewett said. “Maybe they thought that back then ... but I think education has increased so much, and Minnesota cares about our education.
“You don’t see many (who create) trouble here anymore; people are actually wanting to try to graduate. ... Things are at our pace that we can work at,” he said. It’s not like we’re not going to go on in the future. I can guarantee that almost everybody here wants to go to college - because if they didn’t want to go to college, they wouldn’t be here.”
Cherry added that in other schools she has attended, she felt like just another number. The smaller class sizes and teacher attention has been good for her in contrast to other types of schools.
“We want to show everyone that ALC is better,” Juarez said. “It’s not like everyone thinks it is or says to everyone.”

Paper Tigers
The first of what the group hopes will be several community impact projects debuts Dec. 3. The students raised money through a “tip night” at Pizza Ranch to net the $250 needed to obtain a copy of the film “Paper Tigers” for public viewing.
In addition to raising the money, the night offers an opportunity for the MAAP Stars to speak to members of the community about who they are and what they stand for.
“Paper Tigers” focuses on a select group of students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youths. The students in the film all have behaviors they use to forget about the pain they’ve experienced. The movie observes how an alternative education can help students with those backgrounds.
Prior to the film, six MAAP STARS will speak about their own experiences and what the Worthington ALC is all about. The lobby of the Minnesota West Fine Arts Theater will highlight ALC student art work as well. Advisor Anne Raetz said 15 students are working in various capacities on the project.
The students hope the exposure of the public to their school and a similar school depicted in the film may change people’s conceptions about them and their classmates. Jewett said the project will shine a spotlight on how ALCs actually work and dispel the rumors in the community.
“I feel this project is going to help a lot,” Quigley said. “The more people we get to come and watch and be there and listen. … Sometimes I think some ALCs feel like we’re not part of the (community). ... I think that might change. I hope people’s minds remember that we’re here.
“We are children, too.”
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the Worthington ALC MAAP STARS presentation scheduled for 7 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., the showing of “Paper Tigers” will begin. Freewill donations will be accepted at the door; all money raised going toward the Worthington ALC MAAP STARS program.

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