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Area educators join forces by signing agreement to benefit students, residents

The St. Croix Valley Educational Collaborative became official Monday with an agreement signed by, from left, River Falls Superintendent Tom Westerhaus, Hudson Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten, UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen, WITC president Robert Meyer and Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker. Photo by Meg Heaton

Representatives from five of the St. Croix Valley's education centers met Monday, April 25 to sign an agreement creating the St. Croix Valley Educational Collaborative.

The new initiative grew from conversations that began over a year ago between the partners represented by UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen, WITC President Bob Meyer, CVTC President Bruce Barker, River Falls Superintendent Tom Westerhaus and Hudson Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten.

In remarks to the more than 30 people attending the signing ceremony at the UW-RF Hudson Center, Bowen-Eggebraaten said the group wanted to explore ways to "make education more seamless from prekindergarten through college certification and degree programs.

"Our goal was to advance both educational knowledge and career preparation. Our consideration was not just about high school graduates entering technical college or the university system. It included preparation of the community's adults now and in the future who work and compete in the ever changing, global world. Futurists predict that workers will have an average of 10-12 different jobs or careers during their lifetime; some of those jobs don't even exist yet. Our conversation revolved around how we can leverage our collective resources to support K-12 students, graduates, and working adults to be prepared for this changing work world that they will face," said Bowen-Eggebraaten.

The partners have identified four initial focus areas and have developed work groups to explore them and their role in the collaborative. They are the UW-River Falls Learning Center in Hudson, career pathways to success, academic advising and assessment and economic development enhancement.

Bowen-Eggebraaten described how a student might benefit from the work of the collaborative. A fictional high school student, Sam, examines career choices middle school. He has the opportunity to learn more about careers and preparation from representatives of CVTC, WITC, and UW-RF who have visited his middle school and high school regularly. In high school Sam is interested in exploring "green" careers and takes a series of high school and technical college courses before graduation to earn credits toward an Energy Efficiency Technician Associate's degree at the technical college. By taking coursework aligning with this career path while still in high school, Sam is able to complete his degree in a year and a half instead of the normal two years, saving time and expense. Upon completion of the degree, Sam gains valuable experience by choosing to work as a technical specialist in a local business where his associate degree is required. After two years, Sam decides to continue working and also re-enter the post-secondary realm to enhance his knowledge and open up additional job opportunities and advancement. Sam enters UW-River Falls' Sustainable Management program. Once Sam completes this program of study, he is promoted to the position of facilities manager who handles responsibilities like comparing the costs of solar panels, clean coal, and bio-fuels, weighing the cost benefit of each both financially and environmentally.

Said Bowen-Eggebraaten, "Sam has benefited by starting this pathway early in high school and knowing where it can lead. Through the Educational Collaborative, more pathways such as the one Sam took will be developed in alignment with the needs in the community."

An agreement was also signed by the UW-RF dean of the Business and Economics Department and by Chippewa Valley Technical College aimed at making the transfer of credits between the schools easier.

For more information about St. Croix Valley Educational Collaborative contact the superintendent's office at (715) 377-3702 or the UW-RF Learning Center at (715) 381-5060.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604