Many school districts are offering diverse options for students so that they find success in high school and earn their diploma. In Helena, Montana, there is a partnership between Jobs for Montana’s Graduates (JMG) and PAL, one of the diverse education options offered to students in the school district. PAL (Project for Alternative Learning) is a high school program designed for students identified as being “at-risk “of not completing high school. To be considered for enrollment, students must currently be enrolled in high school. The program offers a high school experience with smaller class size at an independent facility in Helena.
For one student, Project for Alternative Learning turned out to be more than a good fit. Cody Boster, who graduates from PAL this year, sees it as a life-changing experience. Cody, who is18-years-old is adamant he wouldn’t have graduated if he hadn’t decided to transfer from Helena High School to PAL. At Helena High School “I was failing. I wasn’t doing good,” Boster said. His GPA was .87. Since he’s been attending PAL, it hasn’t been lower than 3.25.
“It was actually my father,” Boster explained of why he transferred to PAL. His Dad had attended PAL and talked to his son’s school counselor. They both thought it would be a good idea and a positive experience. “It’s been a wonderful idea,” agreed Boster. “It’s a good fit because the teachers and students make it feel like it’s a family. That’s basically what it is — a family.” “The teachers will help you and support you every step of the way. Students will too. … Everyone supports each other. Everyone’s friendly.” “Teachers take time to get to know you. PAL’s gotten me through all my credits,” he said. “I haven’t failed a single class.” “It became easier,” he said. “Because all the work is in class. Attendance is a big thing in the school. If you’re not there, you’re going to fail.”
Boster explained that since the classes are small, the teachers can help one-on-one. Jobs for Montana’s Graduates (JMG) was part of Cody’s academic schedule at PAL. JMG teaches life skills and employability skills as well as planning for ones future. Part of the planning process includes job shadowing and internship opportunities. One of the highlights of Cody’s 2½ years at PAL was a Jobs for Montana Graduates trip to Missoula, when they toured the University of Montana campus and attended the JMG convention.
“It was a wonderful time,” said Boster. “I enjoyed it.”
In the fall, Cody will be attending University of Montana Western. “I’m going to be studying wildlife biology,” said Boster. “I love the outdoors. I love wildlife and want to help it as much as I can. And I’m very interested in working with Fish, Wildlife and Parks.”
At PAL, Boster was able to job shadow and complete an internship with Fish Wildlife and Parks. He worked with both a game warden and with a fish biologist. “PAL’s helped me a lot. It’s changed my entire attitude. … Without them, I don’t think I would have graduated.” “I also met new people through that school that I’m so grateful to meet. It’s been wonderful.”