Brainerd Learning Center dedicates renovated space
The Brainerd Learning Center's newly renovated building was dedicated on Thursday, March 2.
BRAINERD — Funded during the 2018 referendum and approved in 2021, the Brainerd Learning Center in northeast Brainerd officially dedicated its new building Thursday, March 2.
“This is truly a celebration,” said Jessica Haapajoki, the Brainerd Learning Center principal. “Five or six years ago, we began to talk about what our program needed to continue to serve our students of greater public schools in the surrounding communities. Our new spaces are more than we dreamed they could be.”
Speakers for the event also included student Alexis Abraham, teacher Mary Ecklund-Tollas and Brainerd School District Director of Student Support Services and Equity Candace Burckhardt.
“We are grateful to our community for continuing to support the program and this building project,” Haapajoki said.
The building has a new commons area, which also doubles as a cafeteria space with a larger kitchen and serving area for the students. The dining area includes a large mural created by students the previous year in art class.
“I like a lot of the changes,” said Cylis McKee, a fourth-year student at Brainerd Learning Center. “The front office areas are a lot bigger, a lot more room for everybody. We have more electives than we used to, now that a lot of changes have been made.”
Alexis Abraham, a student at the Brainerd Learning Center, said she attended Brainerd High School until 11th grade. Then the pandemic started and she became a full-time online student.
“Online schooling wasn't my thing,” Abraham said. “As I became frustrated I dropped out and focused on my full-time job working in health care. … I realized that I wanted to pursue health care as a career and earning my diploma was a necessary step.”
Finding an alternative school to help her continue to pursue her education, Abraham said she was glad to have found and been accepted into the program.
Two new family and consumer sciences labs serve as an in-home setting to teach students basic skills for home life, complete with stoves, sinks, dishwashers, refrigerators, microwaves, and washers and dryers.
“We are very fortunate to have this program in our district and be able to offer alternatives for the students, when a traditional setting such as Forestview or Brainerd High School doesn't work for students,” Haapajoki said. “We can offer students a fresh start, a clean slate and an opportunity to find success in school again.”
As the ceremony came to a close, Haapajoki invited all the students in attendance to the front of the room to hold the ribbon as they dedicated their new building. A place to build on their education and future.
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .