Students in the Alternative Learning Center (ALC), located in the Frank White Education Center at Park Rapids High School, need job coaches to help them succeed in the world of work.

More than 40 students, ages 15-21, are enrolled for some part of the day in the ALC program, with about 20 regulars attending every day with teachers Lisa Coborn and Terry Schroeder.

Students are referred by parents or staff and may be dealing with issues such as teen parenting, being significantly behind in credits or other issues.

Some students are paid for their work, while others are doing it for the experience and hoping it will lead to a paid position down the road.

“We are open to anybody who is willing to take someone on, mentor them and teach them some things, give them tools they can apply and someone they can put down for a reference,” Schroeder said.

Students also earn credit towards their diploma from their job experiences.

“We work with a wide range of students,” Schroeder said. “Some are ready to work, and others need help getting started.”

MacKenzie Johnson started working at Subway while a student and continues to work there since she graduated. She said being able to work during the school day helped her be less stressed because she was also getting credit for her work experience. It also meant she had a job waiting after graduation. “I hope to stay here for awhile,” she said.

Business support is key

“We have a couple of places students are working,” Schroeder said. “Dallas DeWitt, the owner of Subway, has been phenomenal in the five years we have been doing this. She hires a lot of kids who need a break and need to be trusted. She gives them a chance, but also makes the kids understand they are there to work.”

“Dallas understands these students may be in difficult situations and encourages them to stay in school,” Coborn said.

DeWitt said teaching students how the real world works is huge. “Working together as a team, being responsible, showing up for their shifts, we’re molding them to be the future workers of America,” she said. “Many of them continue to work in the summer, and some have become managers. I like it because they have to do bookwork, too. They are evaluated here. Attendance is huge. If they call in sick to school, they can’t come to work. They have to be responsible.”

She said the time spent training all workers, including students, has a big payback. “You get back what you put into it,” she added.

The Tin Ceiling, a downtown Park Rapids business operated by the Developmental Achievement Center, also provides a job for a student to list items for sale on eBay.

“We really need businesses that are willing to understand that our students may need a little bit more help than the average student,” Schroeder said.

ALC teachers work with businesses to find the student who is the “right fit.”

He said the ALC also do some pre-job coaching with the students.

Benefits for businesses

The ALC program works with business owners to help assure students are successful, especially if it is their first job.

Coborn said they are hoping more volunteers will be willing to step into the role of job coaching and more businesses willing to take a chance on a young person.

“If a downtown business said they could use someone four hours a week, it would be nice if a retired person in the community could come to help the student with job coaching there,” she said.

“All of our businesses are doing business. They don’t necessarily have the time to start from scratch teaching some of these students what they need to learn. Some need basic skills, like looking customers in the eye and speaking clearly. We have several students who have started jobs, and because they are dealing with anxiety, they just quit. That is a bridge burned and a student who feels they can’t do it. A job coach at the work site could help them succeed so that doesn’t happen.”

Business owners interested in talking about job-related topics are welcome to come to the ALC classroom as guest speakers or set up an opportunity for students to learn at their site.

“Citizens National Bank provides financial literacy courses for our students,” Coborn said. “That is a way to get a group of kids out in the community and helps them when they are ready to open an account or take out a loan. Anything to make connections and relationships with the community is huge. We also welcome donations towards helping with field trips and going on college visits.”

Bus passes for Heartland Express are also needed to help students who need transportation to their job sites.

Anyone interested in helping with any of these needs can contact Coborn or Schroeder at 218-237-6629.