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Bridges Awarded $248,000 grant from Otto Bremer Foundation

Media Release Courtesy of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce
On Thursday, May 30, the Otto Bremer Foundation announced the award of a $248,000 grant to the Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection. This significant grant will strengthen the development of Bridges Career Academies, expand the Career Exploration Day and Educator in the Workplace programs through the Bridges Workplace Connection, and explore the development of new career emersion camps. Each activity seeks to fundamentally change the way students explore and determine their future careers.

 The Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection was developed to better integrate work-based learning between schools and business. The Bridges Career Academies, coordinated by Central Lakes College, are a sequence of high school courses that focus on career pathways. Curriculum is developed by high school teachers and each course includes technical skills, foundational skills and workplace experiences. The Workplace Connection, coordinated by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber is an intermediary between schools and business to integrate work-based learning through Business Tours, Speakers Bureau for the Classroom, Educators in the Workplace and a Career Exploration Day.

Thanks to the support of the Otto Bremer Foundation, the Bridges Career Academies will expand the Academies to new high schools, develop additional Academies with existing high school partners, hold a faculty workshop, develop online resource materials and provide financial support for special projects.
The Bridges Workplace Connection will strengthen the Educator in the Workplace program by providing tours and practical job experiences to teachers so that they can be a stronger conduit to potential careers. Grant dollars also will be used to enhance the successful annual Bridges Career Exploration Day, and broaden the depth of information available online at www.BridgesConnection.org.
The newest project to blossom from this partnership, though, is the creation of career immersion camps. This pilot project looks to bring together students from numerous school districts enrolled in Bridges Career Academies in the same Career Cluster, such as health care, for a dynamic experience full of technical curriculum, business and industry tours, speakers and personal development activities. Immersion camps will not only provide a total career experience, but also create a career support system within the local business community for future questions.
Mary Gottsch, Director of the Bridges Workplace Connection at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, played a key role in developing Bridges. Gottsch links businesses with these unique programs to give students real-world options for local career choices, while also preparing area employers for their future workforce. “High school students need to better understand their career options before pursuing a post-secondary education,” said Gottsch. “Local businesses and industry are eager to partner with Bridges in an effort to grow a knowledgeable and skilled employee base and positively impact our local economy.”
Currently, 23 school districts within the Central Lakes Carl Perkins Consortium are eligible to participate in the Bridges programs, including: Aitkin, Bertha-Hewitt, Brainerd, Browerville, Crosby-Ironton, Eagle Valley, Freshwater District, Henning, Isle, Little Falls, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Menahga, Onamia, Pequot Lakes, Pierz, Pillager, Pine River-Backus, Sebeka, Staples-Motley, Swanville, Upsala, Verndale, and Wadena-Deer Creek.
Betsy Picciano, Central Lakes College’s Director of Secondary Learning, works closely with Gottsch to develop new opportunities for students. “Central Lakes College is happy to be a partner in the Bridges program since its inception. The Bridges Career Academies continue to grow and flourish with 14 of the 23 high schools participating and 65 Academies built to date resulting in 100+ Academy Completers this year. Students completing a Bridges Career Academy receive an Academy Certificate of Completion, a green honor cord, and recognition at their high school awards and graduation events. Students that will be attending Central Lakes College are encouraged to apply for a scholarship offered by CLC’s Foundation. The College is very pleased with the opportunity to work with business and industry in helping give our area youth a real hands-on experience in what it is like to work in different careers,” said Picciano.
The Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection is funded in part by the following organizations: Blandin Foundation, Brainerd Area Rotary Club, Brainerd Area Sertoma Club, Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, Central Lakes Carl Perkins Consortium Funding, Crow Wing Power, Initiative Foundation, MicoNet/ChamberMaster, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, National Joint Powers Alliance, Otto Bremer Foundation and Region Five Development Commission, and is supported by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Central Lakes College, and participating school districts. For more information about the Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection program, visit www.BridgesConnection.org, or call (218) 822-7117.
About the Otto Bremer Foundation
Created in 1944, the Otto Bremer Foundation assists people in achieving full economic, civic and social participation in and for the betterment of their communities. The Foundation strives to help build healthy, vibrant communities in the places that are homes and neighbors to Bremer banks—communities where basic needs are met, mutual regard is prized and opportunities for economic, civic and social participation are within everyone’s reach. The Otto Bremer Foundation owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank, and receives an equivalent share of the bank profits that are paid out as dividends. This means that a large portion of bank profit is invested back in local communities through grants and program-related investments.

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