“Education and being involved kind of go hand in hand. If you’re not engaged in learning, you’re going to have a harder time in life.”


“I think the best thing we can do in education, whether here or in the high schools, is to show the community the positive things that young people can do.”


—Rhonda Brandt, Minnesota River Valley Area Alternative Learning Center Co-director


After accepting the position as co-director at the Minnesota River Valley Area Alternative Learning Center (ALC) in Montevideo this year, Rhonda Brandt made it her goal to meet with as many families of students as time allowed.

“There has to be a partnership between the school and the parent or guardian,” says Brandt.
That partnership and student attendance are two things Brandt believes are crucial in order for kids to be successful in school, and ultimately, in life.
Brandt accepted the position in Montevideo because she was ready for a new challenge.

“It’s always scary to start something new, but it’s also really exciting,” she said. “I was familiar with the area because of my extension work and felt it was time to try something new.”
And so far she has been pleased with her decision. Though school has been in session for only a few weeks, Brandt has found it to be a good fit.

As she observes the staff and teachers at the ALC, she said she has found them to be “excellent, very caring, dedicated, and very much in tune with the students’ needs.”
Because her position is a shared one with longtime co-director Doug McCoss, Brandt said her transition has been a positive one. She is grateful for his help and knowledge of the area and the school. “I couldn’t ask for a better way to transition,” she said.

“She has experience, and so she hasn’t missed a beat,” says Doug McCoss, about Brandt. “One important element that we both believe in is respect, so although it will take time to adjust to some of the details, it has been working very well.”
Brandt, who is originally from Nebraska, has been working with children throughout career. After teaching vocational education in Nebraska, she served as a 4-H youth extension agent in Jackson County, Minne­sota, for 10 years.

For the past 16 years, she has worked in the Worthington School Dis­trict, the first 14, she worked as youth development coordinator. Part of her responsibilities included establishing and organizing programming for K-12. Many of the programs targeted children who were unengaged or who were struggling academically.
“We tried to get the students engaged in activities so that in turn, it would have a positive effect on their education,” said Brandt.

“Education and being involved kind of go hand in hand. If you’re not engaged in learning, you’re going to have a harder time in life.”
One of the most successful projects, a talent show, was an idea that students came up with. It became an annual event for the next 10 years.

Brandt recalled that one of the students at Wor­thington High School who came up with the idea and participated in the talent show was Liz Collin, who is now an anchor for WCCO television. Brandt believes the experience helped lead Collin to the successful career she has today.

For the past two years Brandt was the district ALC coordinator in Worthington with duties very similar to her current position here in Montevideo.

“I enjoy working with — I don’t like to call them ‘at risk’ because we are all ‘at risk’ for something — I just like working with kids. It’s very rewarding to see them reach their goals,” she said.

“Many times people don’t understand that when kids come to an alternative learning center, they have to pass the same tests and meet the same requirements as students in traditional high schools.

“The only difference,” she said, “is that, for whatever reasons, they were not able to be successussful in their own high school, so they chose a different path.”

“Some kids are dealing with family or personal issues. Some kids, for whatever reasons feel like the world is against them and so they may need an alternative environment like this.”

Getting to know the students is one of her main priorities.
She believes there are many highly successful people that have chosen alternative learning.

“It comes back to the fact that everyone learns differently and ALCs provide an alternative approach that works better for some.”

In her spare time, Brandt enjoys reading and watching sports. Football is her favorite. She has two sons in college, both of whom play college football. She said she rarely misses attending their games. Her youngest son is a senior at Worthington High School who also plans to play college football.

Her husband is a vocal music teacher and also farms. One of his passions is growing vegetables and he has been working for the past several years to help bring local foods into the schools in the southwest corner of the state.

They currently live on a farm between Worthington and Jackson and plan to look at relocating after their youngest son graduates from high school.

As she settles in, Brandt hopes to become more involved in the community. She said, “lf people ever want to see how things are done and what we do with students here, they’re always welcome.

We have advisory groups here and they look at doing different service projects and getting involved in the community, so if there are groups looking for some student volunteers don’t hesitate to call.

“I think the best thing we can do in education, whether here or in the high schools, is to show the community the positive things that young people can do.”