Breaking Down Barriers

Continuing the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) Next Career Pathways series, we will highlight individual schools and communities. For this highlight we will turn our focus to the community of Hill City. Student Brenden Humphrey; School Nurse and Teacher Cassandra DeLung; and Chris Bishop from Bishop’s Performance Auto Care Center shared their perspective on the Career Pathways program.

Senior Hill City student Brenden Humphrey and Cassie DeLung, school nurse and teacher.

The Career Pathways program is still growing at Hill City School. While some classes may not be offered on-site, the school has worked to give students the opportunity to take classes via telepresence or by traveling to other schools.

Brenden Humphrey is a senior at Hill City High School and plans to attend Hibbing Community College next year to pursue a degree in Electrical Maintenance.

During the past fall semester, Humphrey and another student from Hill City took a Manufacturing Pathway class in Remer where they focused primarily on metal work. One project they worked on was creating a knife.

When asked if he thought it would be beneficial for students to take more classes from other schools, Humphrey said, “I think it would be nice, especially for the class I took because I actually learned a lot of stuff that I didn’t learn here.”

Cassandra DeLung, Hill City school nurse and teacher, noted that being able to collaborate with other schools gives more opportunities to their students.

“I love how it breaks down the barriers… Career Pathways goes hey, if you’ll do telepresence, we’ll get you a machine. If you’re willing to do this, we’ll bus your kids over,” DeLung said.

Many of the required classes at Hill City fit within different pathways. Once a student advances farther into a pathway, they will take more elective courses. DeLung, along with Greenway teacher Allison Butterfield, teaches one of the Healthcare pathway classes—Intro to Healthcare—via telepresence for multiple IASC schools.

DeLung pointed out that some students might not realize they are a part of a pathway just yet.

“We have talked about the Career Pathways, and we have pushed it. But you know, COVID took priority these last couple of years,” said DeLung. She continued, “We just have to get back there now that we are moving forward with COVID.”

DeLung knows first hand what it is like to have to put some of these offerings on the backburner because of COVID. Just a couple of years ago, she was helping lead a new class at Hill City in collaboration with Northland School for students to complete their CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) training. The first year the class was full, but it was stopped due to COVID-19 because the in-person element of learning was required of the course.

“Next year, we are determined to get it up and running,” DeLung stated.

Another exciting program DeLung is working to bring back is Healthcare Occupations for Students of America (HOSA). This is a school activity where students travel to compete in exciting competitions related to healthcare fields.  DeLung was part of a group a couple of years ago that created a HOSA chapter in the area. They were able to attend a competition with a group of 50 students. Students competed, attended workshops and were able to see what it is like to work with healthcare technologies such as x-ray machines or MRI machines.

“The goal is to just get it up and running again this fall, so be looking for information on that,” DeLung shared. “I’m here if there are any questions about it. It was so fun a couple of years ago.”

To contact Cassandra DeLung about the HOSA program, email

DeLung added that giving students the opportunity to have these hands-on experiences can easily get underrated. Humphrey also shared that he hopes more students will take classes such as the one he took in Remer, or at least know that the option is available to them.

“I think everyone should join Career Pathways because you learn so much and it is a lot of fun,” Humphrey said.

Chris Bishop with Bishop’s Performance Auto Care Center in Grand Rapids, knows that hands-on learning experiences are beneficial. The business has had multiple student internships throughout past years. One of those students, Matt Clarke, has been working at Bishop’s for three years now. His first two years were during high school and he is now working as an employee while he goes to college. Clarke went to Hill City High School and was connected to Bishop through Hill City Industrial Technology teacher Colby Gallagher.

Bishop shared that it has been great to have Clarke as an employee and that the hand-on experience of working with someone in a trade is highly beneficial.

“Anybody who is going to high school who is wanting to be in the trades should be able to find someone who they can apprentice with,” Bishop said.

Bishop has also had local classes visit the shop to learn more about the work they do. Recently he hosted a group of students from Hibbing.

“I took apart a transmission for them and educated them on it. They’re doing transmissions right now and that’s what we specialize in,” Bishop shared.

Although there aren’t any current student internships at Bishop’s, they would like to have more in the future. Bishop hopes that the Career Pathway’s program will be able to continue growing in order to keep promoting the trades industry, especially as it has become increasingly difficult to find people who are trained in the trades industries.

Bishop added, “They need to spend more effort promoting the trades… If you’re good at working with your hands, work with your hands.”

Next Career Pathways is a program that is far-reaching and still growing. As schools work to manage the difficulties of COVID-19, continuing to provide opportunities to students through programs such as Career Pathways will only serve to benefit the students and the communities they are in.