When I was in high school in Oklahoma, we had the opportunity to attend the Moore/Norman Vo-tech. It was not an option I took, but I had a friend who did take that option. I was able to follow the results of his decision.
Due to tragic events in his young life, he had a learning disability from many ear infections that were not fully cleared up until he was in the 7th grade. This challenge made the standardized educational approach difficult for him. He chose to attend the Vo-tech and received exceptional training as a large-engine mechanic. As an adult he has been able to support his family and to become a valued member of his community in Nebraska. Growing up, I had a different plan for achieving what he did. I always planned to go to college and study nursing. At some point in high school, I decided I was not good at math and science, so I gave up my dream of becoming a nurse until many years later.
As an adult I realized I could be proficient at math and science, but by this time I had a family of young children and needed to wait until a better time to attend school to achieve my dream. I did go back to school when I had six children at home. When I went back to college, they were all in school except our youngest son, Robert. I attended Mesabi Range College in Eveleth and completed my course of study and passed the licensure test.
In my generation, not many people knew what they wanted to do in college. It was believed that a person could go to college and figure out their future. Taking on a little debt was expected for most, but it was not unmanageable. I have seen my children go to college and struggle to decide what they wanted from their education. Some of them thought they were interested in a certain degree; however, when they got into it, they realized it wasn’t going to work for them. They made changes.
Because of the uncertainty and changes, some of my children have significant student debt, as much as $50,000 for a bachelor’s degree. This debt burden happened in a family where both my husband and I went to college and talked a lot to our children about what they might want to do for a career. Imagine the difficulty for a student who is the first in their family to go to college. The academy model would almost certainly be beneficial for them. The academy model also provides direction for students who don’t want to go to college. As is well understood, everyone doesn’t need to or want to go to college. So, by supporting the academy model we can give young people who aren’t collegebound options for supporting themselves and their future families as was the case for my friend in Oklahoma.
The benefits of helping students choose the path that works best for them extend well beyond the individuals and their families. Communities benefit, and studies show that parents who make a good living are generally much more engaged in their children’s lives than those who struggle find their niche in the economy. Active parental engagement is much needed in our society.
As I have followed the process of so many people working hard to put the academy model proposal together it has occurred to me, as I wrote last week, how much a program like this would have benefitted me. If I had had the option to be in the Health Science Technology and Human Services academy, I don’t think I would have felt that I did not have adequate math and science skills to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. I would have been developing and using those skills in my course work which would have given me the confidence I needed. I could have finished high school feeling prepared to enter nursing school. Alternatives like the Votech model have not been an option for some time in secondary education. The academy high school fills that void in part by building on past successes that have waned as the current standardized approaches to education have become more prominent.
I don’t regret the path I have taken in my life. Through my education I have met dedicated learners, amazing teachers and role models, and have had life-changing experiences. Even so, I do sometimes wonder how our life could have improved financially if I would have been prepared to make a more significant contribution earlier in our married life. The academy high school can help our students avoid unnecessary costly choices and position them to achieve self-reliance. Please vote YES on May 14th.
Roxanne Kelson lives in Eveleth with her husband Aaron and youngest child Robert. All six of their children have, or will, graduate from Eveleth-Gilbert School. She is an Eveleth- Gilbert employee currently working in the Franklin Elementary library. She has also worked as a paraprofessional and as the school health assistant in the district.