WRIGHT TECHNICAL CENTER Principal Ray Przekurat addressed the Big Lake Board of Education last week. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

Vocational school a large part of Big Lake curriculum

Subhead: 
Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards
Big Lake is one of eight member schools in a cooperative which funds the Wright Technical Center  (WTC). Last Thursday the board of education heard a presentation from WTC Principal Ray  Przekurat, who started work there in July.
“Why is WTC important?” Przekurat asked. “Of the total population, only about one quarter have four year degrees. Not all kids are going on to college.”
WTC is intended for students who want to work  on a career but may not intend to get a four-year degree, although the school does work with four-year programs, Przekurat said.
The school opened its doors in 1970. At the time it was one of 60 similar programs in Minnesota. Now it is the last one left. In addition to vocational training, the school is an alternative learning center and accepts secondary students from all the member schools. Other schools in the cooperative include Delano, St. Michael- Albertville, Annandale, Howard Lake, Maple Lake and Monticello. 
About 750 students attend every day, taking classes in auto technology, early childhood family education, construction, cosmetology, health science, welding, graphic communications, landscaping, horticulture and law enforcement. 
WTC is a Project Lead The Way school, putting an emphasis on math, science and technology.
“We are a capstone for engineering  programs,” Przekurat said.
The school also has special education students and works with on-the-job training programs and with students who are low on graduation credits.
“Central Minnesota is one of the fastest growing regions in the area,” Przekurat said.
In the last 10 years 220 new companies have opened their doors and 457 new technical jobs have been added, he said.
“We are training students to take on jobs in those areas,” he said. “But there is a skills gap in the manufacturing sector. Kids are not prepared for certain things.”
Educating students to qualify for technical positions, which open all he time, is one of WTC’s goals, Przekurat said. 
“Our future projects include youth apprenticeships to train people for jobs like CNC operations. Those companies can teach these skills,” he said “We plan on having more distance learning online.”
“It is our goal to get our students ready for college or careers. There are many pathways to follow. We need to do more career counseling and talk o parents about options for their students.”
“We are really excited Ray is here,” said Director of Teaching and Learning Crystal Thorson. “Our administration at the high school has goals to help develop that side of our high school options beyond where they are now. Technical apprenticeships are long overdue in Big Lake.”
At some point in the near future, it may become necessary to hire a work-based learning coordinator to help students determine their best path towards their career goals, Thorson said.
A task force is working on ways for secondary students to link up with more options for future employment with transcripted credits, Przekurat said.
For more information on WTC go to their website at www.wtc.edu.k12,mn.us 
Between 50-75 Big Lake students attend WTC every day.

photos


(From left) Lexi Freund (Big Lake), Betsey Cornelius and Ben Cornelius (Nowthen), Gunner Dorweiler and Colton Dorweiler (Princeton), Ben Manning (Zimmerman), Bailey Dorweiller (Princeton) and Salene Krueger (Big Lake.) The county fair runs from July 16-19. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

Dr. Lola Sutherland is retiring from clinical practice after 33 years in the Big Lake community. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards.)

SMITTY’S AMATEUR FIDDLERS CONTEST drew 22 musicians to compete in Big Lake this year. They were accompanied by Gilmore Lee.

LEE GERHARDSON, 47, from New London, was found dead in Big Lake near the swimming beach in 10 feet of water Monday. Cause of death is unknown at this time but foul play is not suspected.

Adopt-a-Road participants volunteer for Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and work to clean roadsides that border and bisect refuge land. This spring, from April to June, approximately six individuals, three families, and seven groups, such as boy and girl scouts and 4-H groups, volunteered to clean countless miles of roads. (Submitted photo.)