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Career Pathways charter school moves to Hamline Midway

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

Move brings students closer to job opportunities and partnerships with local businesses and organizations

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
A small charter school focused on developing career pathways in middle and high school has moved to the Hamline-Midway neighborhood.

Career Pathways opened its doors to students on Sept. 6 at its new location, 1355 Pierce Butler Rt.

Photo right: Landlord Raj Saraf (left), Career Pathways Executive Director Dr. Joan Arbisi Little, and school board member and teacher Liz Lonetti sign the lease on the new building at 1355 Pierce Butler Rt. (Photo submitted)

The charter school, which opened in the 2015-16 school year, was formerly located in the Whittier neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Last year it had 95 students and 17 staff members. With a larger building this year, staff members hope to expand by 20 to 30 students this year.

However, the school intends to remain small and has capped its enrollment at 175.

“Our advisory based groups are mixed age, and with so many staff, classes are small,” remarked Career Pathways Executive Director Joan Arbisi Little. “We will always be a small school with small classes.”

A graduate of St. Paul Open School, Arbisi Little is a strong believer in experiential learning—learning about something by doing it. “With our focus on career pathways, we help kids stay focused on discovering their own strengths and future opportunities,” said Arbisi Little. “We are a small international school where all are welcome and where all students and staff are known.

Photo left: Eight of Career Pathways’ 11 licensed teachers at a summer symposium in July 2017. Teachers used the time to make plans for the new school year. (Photo submitted)

“As a public school, we are open to all students. Students and parents are attracted to our small size and our focus on job readiness.”

Focus on real world skills
The original board chose to start a career and college-orientated school where students could have early and consistent exposure to the ideas that would grow naturally into plans for post secondary education.

Students participate in a variety of programs that focus on real world transferable skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal, and the “soft skills” that make one a strong team member.

One of the reasons for relocating to the Hamline-Midway neighborhood was to put students near a wide variety of industries and post-secondary schools where students can participate in internships, jobs, and postsecondary education opportunities (PSEO).

Photo left: School board member and teacher Liz Lonetti and two juniors hang out near the Welcome Desk. (Photo submitted)

“We are thrilled to be in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood because the community has so many opportunities to offer our students,” stated Career Pathways School Board Member Liz Lonetti. “The building will allow us to create workshop, aquaponics, and technical training labs in and around the school.”

Business leaders who would like to partner with the school are encouraged to contact Career and College Counselor, Amina Adan, at amina@cpathmn.org.

Education beyond four walls
Part of the school’s mission is to connect students to the greater community around them. “It extends education beyond the four walls of a school and enriches learning,” remarked Arbisi Little.

One of those programs is Street Law, which partners with local law schools to send their students into high schools as volunteers who present on law topics and how students can leverage the protections of the law and understand its limits.

Photo right: Minneapolis College of Art and Design President Jay Coogan looks at art with Career Pathways middle school students on a college visit last year. (Photo submitted)

YouthBuild offers students the opportunity to learn about the building trades. The organization provides mentoring and job site construction opportunities.

Resources Inc. hires Career Pathways students to work in the school as lunch servers and helpers. This program is especially good for students who don’t feel confident going out into the community to work, remarked Arbisi Little.

Students who are interested in concurrent enrollment work with Lake Superior College to take courses at Career Pathways with an approved teacher or online. Psychology is a favorite for juniors and seniors.

One of the graduation requirements is having a resume on file. “Students have enthusiastically caught on how to phrase job experiences in resumes, and I think they see how much potential they have when their hard work is written out, and they look up things they can learn to improve their resume,” said Arbisi Little.

Each student is also required to work a minimum of 40 hours as a volunteer or in a real job before graduation, and to create a post-graduation plan. The school maintains contact with the supervisor to make sure that things go well for both the student and the partnering organization, according to Arbisi Little.

Another unique feature at Career Pathways is Genius Hour—a time where community experts come in to offer special opportunities.

There’s also the Maker-Space, a place where students can go to build and create art or prototypes. “It looks a lot like an art studio at this time, but we envision it growing to be more of a shop class,” said Arbisi Little.

Design Thinking, the process of defining a problem, empathizing with the audience, brainstorming solutions, creating prototypes, testing, and launching the solution, is another unique feature of the charter school.

Career Pathways is a teacher led-school, with teachers making decisions in a democratic way. “Like a dentist clinic or law office, the professionals who work with the clients (in our case the students) make the decisions,” explained Arbisi Little. “As the executive director, it is my responsibility to support their decisions carefully watching student achievement, financial stability, and community relations.”

90% of students are bilingual
Some of the founding leaders of Career Pathways were immigrants and helped make sure that bilingual students would get a strong foundation before going to college and joining the work force.

A third of the students at Career Pathways are ESL learners, and close to 90% are bilingual.
“We offer newcomers a sheltered environment where they can learn the language and the culture alongside their peers while being supported by staff who have been through similar experiences,” remarked Arbisi Little.

Individualized graduation plans
At Career Pathways, staff members work with each student to create an individualized graduation plan. “We sit with each student and help them prepare for graduation by listening to their dreams, helping them chart out goals and designing a plan for graduation,” said Arbisi Little.

Staff members identify the standards students need to meet and what unfinished graduation requirements are on a student’s transcript. Then they plan a student’s schedule combining interests with project-based learning, more traditional “core” classes, and, when appropriate, blended or online learning.

“Many of our students have college aspirations; those students can enroll in PSEO  and other college readiness options,” stated Arbisi Little.

“Other students are excited to start working, so we provide mock-interviews and resume help, and connect them with volunteer organizations to help them improve their resume.

“In addition, we often have students that are working part time and need their jobs. We understand that work experiences have taught these students many skills, and we give them work credit.”

All students are required to meet the same requirements that the Minnesota Department of Education has set for public school students through out the state.

Career Pathways is a member of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) and partners with two other area charter schools for athletics. The girls and boys soccer teams are just getting started, and basketball teams will be forming later in the fall.

Middle school grades 6 through 8 have a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) focus with opportunities for hands-on learning to prepare students for high school while opening their eyes to career possibilities.

The benefits of a combined middle and high school include the inter-age learning opportunities. Groups of students of all ages learn cooperatively and from each other and create an atmosphere of respect and empathy.

For more information, browse www.cpathmn.org.

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