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Ninth graders start chasing their dreams

Ninth grade students were congratulated by District 206 staff, business leaders and Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson for showing their commitment to the district’s new learning program, known as academies, which help prepare students for college and careers. (Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff)1 / 2
Discovery Middle School ninth-graders eagerly signed a banner last Friday to indicate their commitment to graduating on time from the new Alexandria Area High School. The Freshmen Commitment Ceremony took place at Jefferson High School. (Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff)2 / 2

Excitement and anticipation filled the Jefferson High School gym in Alexandria Friday morning.

The class of 2017 – this year’s ninth-graders – started their transition to a brand new school, Alexandria Area High School, which they’ll attend next fall.

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District leaders organized a “Freshmen Commitment Ceremony” to let students know more about the new high school, to encourage them to commit to graduate in four years and develop a 10-year “life plan” along the way that will shape their careers.

After the ninth-graders boarded the buses from Discovery Middle School, they were driven by the new high school construction site and then went into the JHS gym for the ceremony.

Principal Chad Duwenhoegger told the students that they’d be attending one of the most premier high schools in the country.

He listed some of the facility’s highlights: plenty of natural light; school desks replaced with chairs and tables that encourage group interaction with other students and teachers; technology-rich features throughout the building; a 1,000-seat auditorium; artificial turf on the football field; and a cafeteria offering five different meal choices, including a stir fry station.

Duwenhoegger said that teachers want the freshmen to reach their full potential, helping them answer the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Local business leaders also spoke at the ceremony. Rick Paulsen, president and chief operating officer for Douglas Machine, noted that the district’s smaller, more personalized learning communities, known as academies will provide students with exposure to a variety of career choices well before they graduate.

“We’re preparing kids a lot better to make career choices,” he said. “This is an exciting time for our community.”

Jeff Patience with Bell State Bank in Alexandria said the students are beginning a new age of education for Alexandria and have a lot of people supporting them. He said that students won’t just be reading from books, but interacting with students and teachers to acquire job-specific skills through the academies.

Patience said companies are waiting for students to graduate, waiting to employ them. He urged the students to not be afraid of the future, to be safe, take chances and to enjoy the ride.

“You can be leaders,” he said.

There will be four academies at the new high school. The Freshmen Academy will encourage students to explore different careers and determine what broad career area they’d like to focus on. Next spring, the ninth-graders will choose one of three academy paths to take when they register for their sophomore classes: engineering, manufacturing technologies and natural resources; health sciences and human services; or business, communication and entrepreneurship.

To show their commitment to themselves and their future, the ninth-graders were encouraged to sign a banner that will be taken over to DMS. Throughout the school year, Duwenhoegger encouraged the students to look at the banner and see their signatures as well as their classmates, knowing that they have the support from others to help them succeed.

“There’s nothing better I would enjoy than to have every single one of you graduating on time from Alexandria Area High School,” he said.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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