The IAISS Core Team is excited to introduce a series of articles, written by Christina Brown, that show how community members are using the Pathway to Student Success. The Pathway was created and endorsed by local youth and adults as a guide to engage everyone in building strong community by supporting youth on their journey to becoming the next generation of skilled workers, engaged citizens and civic leaders.

We hope you enjoy Christina’s first piece, which provides and overview of the Pathway to Student Success.

By Christina Brown

It takes a community to raise a child.

That’s the idea driving the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success (IAISS) as they develop what they call the Pathway to Student Success.

“We are doing some of the most meaningful work in our region since the work in the CCC Camps following World War II,” said Scott Patrow, K-12 Administrator of Bigfork Schools and member of the IAISS team.  “This is a turning point for all families in Itasca County.”

The Pathway to Student Success serves as a guide to ensure that all students and their families in the Itasca County area – regardless of background, income, or geographic location – have the resources, knowledge, relationships, support and skills needed to ensure a healthy future.

Itasca area business and community leaders, educators, parents, and citizens have been working together for the past several years to develop the Pathway.

“The collaborative spirit of the group is inspiring,” said Sarah Copeland from the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, who’s been with the IAISS from the start. “With every meeting we’re welcoming new people to the table and that is very exciting.”

The Pathway to Student Success starts before a child is even born and continues through school to his or her career.  It stretches beyond what is taught in school to encompass everything from family support to access to technology.

Bud Stone, President of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce said supporting the Pathway to Student Success is critical to the future of Itasca County.

“In Northeast Minnesota, DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) studies are showing that we will need 50,000 people to work here just in the next 5 to 7 years,” said Stone. “There is a lot of pressure on our businesses to find skilled people.  You solve that problem by having successful students from our schools.”

The Chamber has been a long-time supporter of programs that connect students with the business community, and they are seeing some success in their efforts. Being involved with the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success allows them to strengthen those efforts.

“Student success is the cornerstone to community success,” Stone said. “The Pathway helps guide the steps to take.”

That guidance is also extremely helpful to area schools.

“In business, it’s easy to plan for success because the target is clear,” Patrow said. “You can look at your bottom line and see what your profit is.  With education, it is much harder to define success. You can ask 10 different people their definition of a successful student and you’ll get 10 different answers. Having the Pathway clearly defines what it means to be a successful student.”

And because the movement is county-wide, it levels the playing field.

“The zip codes don’t matter,” said Mark Adams, Superintendent of Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin schools, and a member of the IAISS team. “It is the ability for kids from ALL our schools to get a great education that prepares them for their careers,” Adams said.

“We set the bar high for all of our communities and we all have the same high standard,” said Adams. “We have outstanding leaders who stay out front of how we deliver education to our students and how to best serve them so that they are prepared for the next leg of their journey.”

Adams said, “This is a never ending process if we do it right. We are building on the foundation for parent involvement, student success and community engagement.”