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For St. Paul students, math lessons come in the form of grilled cheese

Dozens of students are catching up on credits by getting out of the classroom for a hands-on approach to summer school.

ST PAUL, Minn. — On Tuesdays they do field trips. 

For some Humboldt High School students, that means seeing how welding works at Valleyfair. For others, it's social studies at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Another group is focused on culinary skills at All Square.

"This is jerk chicken," mobility director Onika Goodluck said to the group, demonstrating how to make restaurant-quality sandwiches in the All Square kitchen. "Marinated, cooked."

But it's not just about food here. All Square's fellowship program gives people who were formerly incarcerated full-time work at the grilled cheese restaurant.

"You did your time in prison, you should be 'all square,'" development manager Roula Alkatout explained. "That's where the name All Square came from."

The lessons are not lost on incoming junior and basketball player Musa Gregory.

"This whole place is a vibe," Gregory said. "Like the art work … and then they have like therapy for people who need it."

He's one of about 130 students enrolled in the Experiential Learning Credit Recovery program at Humboldt. While St. Paul Public Schools offers a variety of summer learning options, this program is a popular choice for its weekly field trips and hands-on experiences.

Summer school principal Steve Aeilts says they're passing about 98% of summer learners. 

"Attendance is really good and I think in talking with the district, when we started talking back in January, we wanted a change of program and we wanted to do something different," Aeilts said. "Most of them dread it when they hear, 'I have to do summer school.' We've changed that experience this year to where it's not dreading. It's like, 'I want to come.'"

Teachers say summer school is not required, yet at the same time, students need a certain number of credits to graduate. So for many, it's about getting caught up on those credits. For others, it's about getting ahead. Aeilts says some students who are not behind still chose to enroll this summer.

Part of the field trip to All Square included sitting down for a grilled cheese lunch at the restaurant before getting on the school bus back to Humboldt to make their own grilled cheese sandwiches and have a student cooking competition. 

"We're gonna make a pizza grilled cheese," said Cici Vasquez, who is also heading into 11th grade. "I'm trying to figure out what ingredients we need to kick it up a bit."

Also in the classroom, students pick up additional business skills like how to run a food truck. From the measurements of ingredients to figuring out taxes, the course earns students a math credit in algebra. Teachers say many students didn't earn this credit their freshman year due to the pandemic.

"It makes learning fun," Gregory said. "If we can learn about something that we can actually use like in certain stuff at school, I feel like a lot of kids including me are like, 'When are we going to use this in our life?' This class, these courses that we have over the summer are actually showing us what we need for our future."

Program leaders say the district covers the costs of field trips and that larger businesses or corporations are welcome to partner to help cover expenses of future excursions. They say that would allow them to expand the program to more schools next year.

 

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