Career Pathways Ramping Up in Itasca County


The groundwork for Career Pathways in Itasca County is there, with hundreds of students in three school districts taking coursework this year in the manufacturing or medical tracks.

And it’s only going to get bigger.

Mrs. Butterfield was focused on the fundamentals of a frog on Monday morning when we were there. Her class was working on a frog dissection.

Some days, she’s teaching from her Greenway classroom, but her students are spread in Grand Rapids and Nashwauk-Keewatin, watching through telepresence. She’s one of the healthcare pathways teachers.

“It’s been a lot of learning. With new technology, there’s a learning curve. It makes sense though, to offer more classes to students and broaden their scope of the things they will need to be successful later,” Butterfield shared.

One of her students is Kylee Carpenter, a sophomore. “I’ve always been interested in healthcare. I used to always think I was going to be a neurosurgeon. But now, ultrasound is interesting to me,” Kylee told us.

They also get help from Itasca Community College. Lynette How is the practical nursing director there, and helped develop the coursework for the high school kids. She’s also one of the teachers. “It’s been fun teaching students about the different options out there. Most of them think it’s just about becoming a nurse or a doctor. Many of them don’t realize healthcare is much more than just that.”

Each high school has its own strengths, and they’ve been able to capitalize on that. Jeff Britten, principal at Greenway, explained. “The nice part of it, is that we have CNA programs that have been in place, and now we’re able to support them with the pathways coursework. We always talk about education being relevant, especially for the older kids.”

This all started when the IRRRB approved $2.5 million dollars in grant funding for the career pathways programming. This year was the first things really fell into place, and consisted of additional courses. Next year, they plan on ramping up even more opportunities. And there are plans to include more school districts and pathways, too.

There is also a manufacturing pathway. Matt Sandeys, a tech ed teacher from Grand Rapids, showed us some of their shops area. “We take a shed and build it from the ground up, exactly how they would do it on a job site,” he said.

They are going to be running a manufacturing business on-site next year. “The kids will take a design, proto-type it, make a final production, and then a business model to see if they can make a profit off of it,” Sandeys said.

Olivia Bignall is a freshman who has taken the advanced engineering course. “They’re more challenging. And making the design is so much better,” she shared.

The principal in Grand Rapids said, “We’re able to use resources and combine resources, and accelerate what everyone is doing. Not everybody has to own the expensive equipment. We can share it,” Mark Schroeder told us.

Bart Johnson met us there. He’s the provost at Itasca Community College. “This really helps kids make the connections. We can tell the students what’s out there. But if they can see it themselves, they can see if it’s going to be a good fit. They can start builidng their own identity, or figure out it’s not for them,” he said.

Next spring, about 20 students will be going off campus, and working as interns in the community. That’s good news for Keaten Patterson, a junior at Nashwauk-Keewatin. “I want a job anyways. I need money for the projects I’m working on. And if I can do it during school, it makes it even better,” he told us.

The goal is to build a pipeline of workers, right on the Range. “It’s so exciting to have kids tied to the community, and have them placed into paid internships. We are going to have people homegrown in the trades,” Ranae Seykora told us. She’s the principal at Nashwauk-Keewatin.

Also next year, the plan is to have students move between the schools for coursework. Right now it’s just telepresence. And they’ll be signing up in certain pathways.

If you are interested in the pathways, please contact Claire Peterlin, the coordinator, at