At White Bear Lake High School, students like Andre Keller and Bela Larsen are falling in love with modern manufacturing. A program called Career Pathways is opening their eyes to a future most students never have a chance to learn about or consider in high school.

Recently, MPR profiled the program in an article entitled “How to make high school more interesting? Here’s an idea.”

According to MPR, White Bear Lake’s Career Pathways is

an effort to partner with local employers to design classes, field trips, job shadows, paid internships and college credit options that give students a banquet of opportunities. Right now there are four pathways: construction, health care, information technology and manufacturing.

The Career Pathways manufacturing track has grabbed senior Andre Keller’s interest. As MPR explains, Keller

hates sitting still, and loves working with his hands. That would put him in the same league with many of his peers, who a 2016 Gallup Poll described as not engaged by traditional classes in high school.

Keller works with sophisticated precision manufacturing equipment in the high school’s shop room, and designs, measures, mills and tools pieces of metal that can be used for injection molding. He uses trigonometry to carry out his projects, and loves the challenge he’s encountering.

Another White Bear Lake student, Bela Larsen, speaks enthusiastically about an engineering and design class she took in the manufacturing pathways track.

“Our final wasn’t reading an essay and writing a paper on it, it wasn’t a multiple-choice packet of questions,” she told MPR:

“It was, ‘OK, guys. Here’s a part that was taken out of production. Measure every single bit of it … and then I want you to tell me why you think it was taken off the market, what you think didn’t work about it,'” she said. “It was cool because all of us could use our own talents and our own ways of thinking to get to the same end result.

Larsen now wants to go into industrial manufacturing and engineering management, though she didn’t think engineering was for her when she entered high school because she thought she wasn’t good enough at math. Thanks to her experience at White Bear Lake High School, she expects to attend the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology next fall.

Other White Bear students are exploring careers through the school’s health care pathway. Junior Victoria Wilson, for example, is taking classes from nurse Janaye Stewart using mannequins, wheelchairs and hospital beds that allow her to learn about long-term care.

Next month, MPR notes,

Wilson and 67 other White Bear Lake students are heading to Cerenity Senior Care, a local health care facility. They’ll have more training and opportunities to actually take care of people and pass a state certification class. They’ll also have the chance to get a summer and after-school job, if they want.

White Bear Lake is one of 17 Minnesota school districts with initiatives like Career Pathways, according to Sareen Dunleavy Keenan, program officer for career academies at the Great Twin Cities United Way. She told MPR that initial data indicate these programs increase students’ earnings after graduation.

And that’s not all, she says:

“If you make high school more relevant, if you make high school more interesting, do they have the ability to identify themselves as a leader in how this will impact their future work? Our research shows that students see that.”

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