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ALC students earn gold, silver accolades

"It's not as boring as it sounds."

That's what Taylor Ohm had to say about her trip to the Twin Cities for the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs STARS conference. Her classmates that attended the conference with her agree.

"They missed out," Tipton Taylor said. "On a great opportunity," finished Tara Larson.

Ohm, Taylor, Larson and Kevin Clark are students at the Detroit Lakes Area Learning Center, a place they said if it weren't for, they wouldn't be in school at all.

The MAAP STARS (Success, Teamwork, Achievement, Recognition and Self-esteem) program has consisted of three conferences throughout the school year. Students were chosen to attend the fall conference on leadership, other students were chosen for the winter conference on lobbying and now these four were chosen for the spring conference where students competed against other ALC students in artistic, life and career skills.

ALC Director Lisa Weber said she usually receives 15-20 applications from students wanting to attend each conference. During the process, students must write brief essays on why they want to attend, how it will benefit them and what they will do with the information in the future.

Of those students, four to five are chosen for each conference. Weber said she'd like to send more, but because of funding, that's not possible. Because of support from United Way, she said, these students are able to participate.

Besides the essays, which students are selected to go also depends on attendance, commitment and how well they work on their personal challenges.

Of the five fall conference attendees, Weber is pleased with the success rate six months later -- two students have gone on to post secondary schooling and two are still at the ALC and are a part of the leadership program. One has been dismissed from the program.

At the winter legislature day conference, students learned it was their right to speak with legislators, and they learned what lobbyists do for programs such as theirs.

"Our students were the best dressed. They wore suits and dresses," Weber said.

Larson attended the winter conference as well as the spring, but said she had more fun at the spring one. She said she felt at the winter one, while introducing herself, she didn't have the opportunity to talk about her future plans.

"It wasn't as fun, but I did get to see the capitol building," she said was a highlight. Another interesting point, she noted, was seeing the importance of lobbying. "That's how we get our funding."

Taylor said he feels that the government doesn't see ALC students as important as traditional high school students.

"I don't see why not," Ohm said.

At the spring conference, the students came home with information, ribbons and better decision-making skills.

"I thought it would be a good experience," Larson said was one of the reasons she applied to go to the conference.

The four students participated in a Jeopardy-style competition, Larson and Ohm participated in a parenting and decision-making competition, and Clark entered his drawings and color pencil artwork into competition.

"They (the judges) said I was good enough for college and should pursue art," he said. He won an award for outstanding artwork.

The students came back to Detroit Lakes with several awards -- gold for team management decision-making, blue for Life Smarts and Larson and Ohm received silver ribbons for parent decision-making.

They also brought back skills they'll use in everyday life and learning.

"How to make decisions," Ohm said was important to her.

"And how to think things through," Larson added.

"Teamwork," Clark said.

Weber said the MAAP STARS program is great for her students because in the traditional setting of a high school, these students wouldn't have been chosen to attend conferences like this. But this program is giving them the opportunity.

"This is another route when they didn't take the traditional route through school," she said.