The Live Algoma initiative, powered by the Algoma School District, was created in response to a brain drain from the community. Local businesses were calling for better skilled workers and high school graduates were leaving Algoma in search of better education, training and employment opportunities. The Algoma School District partnered with local manufacturers to create a plan that would engage the youth, educate them, ignite their passion, and provide professional opportunities. In the years since, Live Algoma has resulted in innovative projects such as: Wolf Tech, a Community Wellness Center and Wolf Den.
Wolf Tech was created with the dual intention of providing manufacturers with skilled labor and offering youth opportunities to explore possibilities for local careers.
Algoma Wolf Tech evolved into a series of middle and high school classes that work together with local businesses. Businesses partner with the school to provide partial funding, equipment, staff, and expertise in exchange for subcontracts on products produced as a result of student labor and an opportunity to interact one-on-one with students.
Projects have included:
Community Fab Labs offer students the chance to go out into the community and guide members through different projects ranging from building with wood to using welding to create art.
Olson Tech Center added 10,000 square feet to the existing technical education space.
Brown County Home Builders Association teaches middle schoolers basic tech skills and gives them the opportunity to create and build projects to scale.
CTI hospitality teaches students to create blueprints.
D&S Machine works with Wolf Tech to create machine parts authorized in the oil and gas industry.
Wolf Tech Auto offers free oil changes to volunteers who drive seniors to appointments. Students learn basic auto maintenance and inspection skills and perform supervised routine maintenance on volunteer’s vehicles.
Community businesses have benefited from Wolf Tech by creating direct relationships with students and recruiting them for future business endeavors. Youth have been given the opportunity to work with professionals in the field, and potentially obtain a job right out of high school.
Algoma Community Wellness Center
Algoma identified health and wellness as a serious challenge for local employers and residents alike. As a result, the Algoma Community Wellness Center was built to engage individuals in their physical needs.
What was originally supposed to be a football field for student athletes turned into a community center attached to the high school. The finances for the project were realized with a 50% commitment from the school district and 50% from local private sources.
To ensure that the community center was developed into a space that everyone would value, community members were engaged through a survey and community conversations. Individuals were asked to identify and focus on one area of emphasis for improvement that mattered to them, and the qualitative data was used to co-create the space, offerings, and opportunities.
The Algoma Community Wellness Center is now part of a mission to help improve the overall health and well-being of community members. Addressing equity to ensure the center is fit for all, an intergenerational space was created and includes opportunities for fitness, wellness, nutrition, financial coaching and much more.
To date, almost one third of the population utilizes the wellness center on a continuous basis. Only 11% of the members pay a full-fee out-of-pocket; almost all businesses cover membership fees for their employees, insurances provide exercise benefits as part of their coverage, healthcare professionals provide discounts for patients to continue their care, scholarships are available for those in need and all students receive a free membership.
The Algoma School District’s Equity Audit showed a discouraging link between students from low-income households and issues of truancy, suspension and low test scores. This data combined with a student-led survey analyzing various needs of students, showed a need for a cross-age mentorship program.
Wolves and Pups was launched in 2017 with high school students being recruited to be mentors through a series of presentations and personal invitations. Today, mentors (wolves) meet with their mentees (pups) for an hour, twice a week. Wolves have a designated time in their schedule to meet with their Pup, and obtain credit, instead of missing lunch or class. Weekly Lunch ‘n Learns provide emotional support for the high school mentors who are often taking on the emotional stress of their Pups. As a result, high school students have felt accountable to others and elementary students felt more motivated to be in school.
After beginning the Wolves and Pups Mentoring Program, it became apparent that the Pups could benefit from more than just a mentor, so the Wolf Den After School Program was established and is fully planned, implemented, and led by high school students. The program supplies students with tools and opportunities to increase their social and emotional capacity, practice basic life skills, and develop a growth mindset in a safe and productive environment.
After-school meals are donated by the community and the Wolf Den Weekend Backpack Program, launched by a local church, provides nutritious, easy-to-prepare food to students over the weekends.