The IMPACT 20/20 Education Taskforce is seeking to accomplish two goals: (1) improve four-year on-time graduation rates in high schools of Northwest Minnesota; and (2) increase the number of local college students obtaining two- and four-year degrees.
As a step toward achieving the first objective, five communities in the region have been chosen to serve as demonstration sites for school-community partnerships designed to boost student performance. The communities are Bemidji, Naytahwaush, Park Rapids, Thief River Falls, Crookston, and Win-E-Mac.
Selection criteria for the five pilot communities included geographic diversity, diverse populations, school size/community size, and likelihood of impact, with one of the most important factors being the presence of good leadership. Also of note, these are communities in which education taskforce members have existing relationships. The five communities are at various stages in the process, but without exception, each is motivated and committed to improving outcomes. Of note is the fact that each effort is a community effort, not simply another school project.
The community of Crookston has identified " Achieve More: Junior Achievement and College and Career preparation 101" as a community project to increase post-secondary enrollment and to improve on time high school graduation rates; which is tied closely to Impact 20/20 objectives. This collaboration of organizations; Crookston School District # 593, Crookston Chamber of Commerce, Retired Senior Volunteer Program of the Red River Valley, University of Minnesota, Crookston’s Center for Adult Learning, the Headwaters Regional Development Commission and the Northwest Minnesota Foundation will be a successful community wide project/initiative.
Through this innovative partnership between the business community, educators and volunteers, our goal is to engage young people to connect with relevant occupations, regional and local; and the importance of staying in school and thinking beyond twelfth grade. Businesses, the Crookston Chamber of Commerce and local residents will collaborate to assist students with the development of competitive skills and confidence. Their success will bolster the local workforce and contribute to economic growth furthering the goal of IMPACT 20/20 and the Education Task Force.
The Bemidji community’s goal is that each Bemidji-area high school freshman will have developed a success plan to help guide their learning through 12th grade, and will have access to a community adult leader/coach to guide them with their success plan. The initiative, led by Bemidji Leads! and partially funded by NMF, has received broad community buy-in and commitment. A taskforce has created an action plan and implementation manual, and has begun fundraising. To date, nearly $300,000 has been raised, primarily through Blandin Foundation and Neilson Foundation grants and a major commitment by the school district. Kick off of implementation will be in August, including the hiring of two key staff.
The Park Rapids community is focused on increasing the number of students graduating on time by focusing on middle-school at-risk students, developing a student success plan for each of them, hiring a student success coordinator, and monitoring the progress of each student. Funding has been raised from the Blandin Foundation, NMF, and local sources, and implementation has begun. The project is entering its second year this fall. Plans are also being made to sustain the initiative after NMF and Blandin funding.
The Thief River Falls community recently began an initiative that is an effort to deepen the school/business partnerships at Lincoln High School. Inspired by a recent partnership with Digi-Key, the school district created a “corporate/community council.” The purpose of the council is to identify ways the schools and businesses can work together to prepare students for the workforce, career opportunities, and college. The corporate council members, led by Digi-Key, Northland College and Lincoln High School, completed strategic planning in March and developed a plan of action for improving college and career readiness in Thief River Falls. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that all students in the district create a success plan, including work, education and life skill elements.
The Win-E-Mac initiative is still in the early planning stages. To date, conversation has focused on the use of technology as a vehicle for inspiring improved teaching and greater learning. The hypothesis is that the integration of technology into learning will generate greater interest from students and better prepare them for post-secondary education, increase teacher creativity and engagement, generate family interest and involvement in student education; and position Win-E-Mac school district to succeed in the growing online/blended education market in Minnesota.
The Naytahwaush initiative will address the transition from 6th grade in Naytahwaush (and other schools) to 7th Grade in Mahnomen. Specific action steps have not yet been identified. Early conversations have focused on mentoring, tutoring, parental and community engagement and participation in co-curricular activities. It is anticipated that project implementation will begin in September, 2011.
Education Taskforce members include: University of Minnesota, Crookston Chancellor, Charles H. Casey; Northwest Service Cooperative Executive Director, Lloyd Styrwoll; Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC) Executive Director, Cliff Tweedale; HRDC Director of Community Stewardship Development, Dave Hengel; Anne Temte, President, Northland Community and Technical College; Brent D. Gish, Supt. Red Lake School District; Jim Krile, Impact 20/20 facilitator, Kirsten Michalke, Northland Community and Technical College; Lorna Lague, White Earth Nation; Marty Sieve, Northwest Minnesota Foundation Vice President for Programs; Michelle Christopherson, University of Minnesota, Crookston; Nancy Vyskocil, Northwest Minnesota Foundation President; Dr. Pat Rogers, Dean, Bemidji State University; Teresa Spaeth, Executive Director Agriculture Utilization Research Institute; Terri Anderson, Naytahwaush Community Foundation.