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In school, a little extra help goes a long way

Detroit Lakes Middle School Targeted Services student Ryan Graspy gets a little help from instructor Bridgette Turner. (Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers)

Though the Detroit Lakes Area Learning Center is considered to be part of the Detroit Lakes Public Schools system, it actually serves a much larger area.

Through its Targeted Services programming, the ALC serves K-8 students in Audubon, Lake Park, Frazee and Pelican Rapids as well as Detroit Lakes.

As outlined by ALC Director Lisa Weber, Targeted Services is an after school and summer program that helps students who need a little extra assistance in developing the academic, social and organizational skills needed not only to succeed in school, but after graduation.

"It's prevention programming," she explained, noting that the large majority of students would qualify for targeted services in some aspect of their school career. "When they hit a 'bump in the road' -- a particular challenge or difficulty -- they can get the extra support they need to get them back on track."

Targeted Services is not a homework help program, Weber emphasized.

Though work completion -- i.e., turning in homework on time -- is a small component of the program, "it's so much bigger than that," she said. "The intent is long-term skills development -- lifelong academic and social skills that they need."

Though all ALC enrollment applications are reviewed by the building team, a student can be referred by anybody, Weber said.

"It's (referrals) mostly from parents and teachers though," she added.

Targeted services instructors also go through an extensive screening process "to make sure they're a good fit," she added.

Though parental involvement is encouraged, some parents work such long hours that their participation can't be anything other than minimal, Weber noted.

Lake Park-Audubon Principal Sam Skaaland is enthusiastic about how the program has worked for his students.

"It's another service we can provide that helps them academically and socially," he said. "It fills a niche some kids wouldn't get otherwise, the one-on-one interaction.

"It works really well for some of them ... certain kids just blossom in T.S."

Skaaland said he had a couple of first-grade students this year who got help after school and not only did they do better academically, but "it turned their attitudes around about the whole school situation. That's a really good thing to see."

Bruce Bogda, who serves as the lead teacher for the targeted services program at Roosevelt Elementary School in Detroit Lakes, has been a part of the program since its inception eight years ago.

One of the things he emphasizes is having students who are strong in one academic area help teach others who are struggling in that area. He will teach a skill once, and then those who get it right away will help those who need a little more help.

"That's the way I've taught for 20 years," Bogda said. Not only does peer teaching encourage cooperation, friendship and an understanding of others, but one of the best ways to master a skill is to teach it to someone else, he explained.

It also helps to boost a student's confidence, as in the case of one of the Targeted Services students at the Boys & Girls Club in Detroit Lakes.

"One of our first graders was at Roosevelt this week, reading a book to third graders," said Amy Tervola-Hultberg, one of two T.S. instructors at the Club.

It was "really neat" to see how proud he was of being asked to do that, she added.

"One area where targeted services has been quite successful is in helping students to develop confidence," Weber said.

Because the student-teacher ratio is kept very low -- eight to 10 students per teacher in grades K-3, and 12 students per teacher in grades 4-8 -- the smaller class size helps some feel "safer to take risks and try new things to challenge themselves," she explained.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454