ALGOMA SChools "Brain drain"
The work leading up to the vision of creating a charter school in the Algoma School District started back in 2011 when a number of local manufacturers called for better skilled workers. The closest technical college to offer training for these jobs was more than 45 miles away. What’s more, graduates of Algoma High School were moving to other communities in search of more educational choices or employment opportunities with a plan of never returning. Algoma was experiencing a ‘brain drain’ (Karma Report, 2016). We needed to take action.
Superintendent of the School District of Algoma, Nick Cochart, challenged the district to think differently; he partnered with local area manufacturing companies to develop a plan. They knew they needed to engage the youth, educate them, and provide opportunities. As a result, Wolf Tech Manufacturing was developed and co-located on the middle/high school campus. Through this program, students were trained on how to make products for companies in exchange for donated equipment that would facilitate the skills needed. In a few short months, these community partnerships showed tremendous success and raised the question, “If we can accomplish this, what else can we accomplish together?”
Since then, the Algoma School District has led with its innovative efforts to drive change through its community coalition, Live Algoma, where youth change agents connect with community members across sectors and populations to develop a shared vision of health and well-being, ensuring sustainable, equitable outcomes for all. The efforts and leadership of our youth has driven big change in our community and has been recognized all over the nation and the world as an innovative model for youth leadership, engagement, and civic leadership.
Although youth in Algoma have been successful thus far, stakeholders across the community, region, and country encouraged us to make a concerted effort to develop a cohesive, committed pathway forward for youth that models what works; instead of the existing siloed programming within the legacy school. On top of that, the COVID pandemic shed more light on the systemic barriers and obstacles placed in front of some youth and we wanted to take action on what we have learned. As a result, the idea of Algoma Venture Academy was born. Algoma Venture Academy (AVA) will provide a central point where all of these efforts can be consolidated into one, cohesive pathway. AVA will provide a model for youth engagement in the community and further students' passions and interests while receiving and obtaining academic credit.