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While college is the path chosen by 70 percent of high school students at Brainerd High School (BHS), it’s not for everyone.

The past two parts in this three part series on options for high school students focused on earning college credit while in high school and looked at the path to a college or university.

But what if your path after high school doesn’t lead to a college degree?

BHS has another option, changing the questions posed to graduating seniors from “Where are going after graduation?” back to “What are going to do after graduation?”

“We have many outstanding programs for our students (at BHS), especially those that go on to college,” said BHS Principal Andrea Rusk. “We offer advanced placement, technology prep courses and college in our schools, but we don’t have any programming for students who are not at this time planning on going to college.

“We spend four years exploring post-secondary education, but the reality is 20-30 percent of our high school seniors will not go on to school. That’s why it is our pleasure to partner up with Work Keys and the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC).”

In its pilot year at BHS with more than 100 students trying it out, Work Keys is aimed at students who are opting to enter the work force following high school graduation. A certificate deemed important by employers who do not require a college degree, including Minnesota Department of Transportation and Lakeland Mold.

Through three tests important to entering the work force — applied mathematics, locating information and reading information action strategy — students have the opportunity to earn their NCRC. As of April, 10 students passed the tests and had earned their certificates:

• Dallas Barnhart

• Michael Changestrom

• Glen Dosh

• Sarah Kaspar

• Joshua Kaspar

• Austin Kubesh

• Mitchell Madsen

• Monty Pintok

• Seth Sax

• Joshua Thelen

“We have started programs who have built wonderful traditions,” said Superintendent Steve Razidlo during an April school board meeting to the 10 Work Keys students who were presented with their NCRC during the meeting. “Twenty-five years ago we started students working on a path in Advance Placement testing and saw that honored by college and we hope that this group of pioneers that are going through Work Keys might act in a similar way and pave the ground for a new currency of sorts for those students who may want to go in to the world of work with their new certificate.”

Rusk said the Work Keys program is planned to continue for the next year or two before the school will begin taking a deep look at implementation and changes in the program.

And she added between Advanced Placement, College in Schools and Work Keys, BHS is striving to raise the bar beyond just getting past high school.

“I have been working in a high school for 20 years and I am always asking students, ‘what are your plans?’ and frame it on how ready a student is to take that next step,” said Rusk. “Every student needs to be prepared for something after high school, it’s not OK to just get a diploma.

“We’ve raised that bar and continue to up those standards to look beyond getting the (high school) diploma and look at what is the next step for our students.”

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).