By Ross Markman
The Havre School Board Tuesday night unanimously approved an interlocal agreement allowing credits earned at two Montana Job Corps centers to be used toward a Havre High School diploma.
The agreement is a result of Senate Bill 394, which was enacted by the Montana Legislature last year and will go into effect in July.
"This is just another tool to help kids get through high school and an opportunity for kids who use Job Corps to help them graduate," high school Principal Jim Donovan told the board. "I don't think it will affect a huge number of kids, but if it helps one, that's a good thing."
Anaconda and Trapper Creek job corps provide academic, vocational and social skill training to students who have been unsuccessful in the traditional academic setting. Some have dropped out, while others have already graduated and need job training.
To earn a Job Corps diploma, students are required to take the typical English, math and science classes, but can also sign up for vocational courses like carpentry, painting and culinary arts. Students are also expected to participate in extracurricular activities like student government or peer counseling.
"We have a high school diploma program here. But if they would happen to wish to have that diploma from Havre, they can," Bill Case, center director at Anaconda Job Corps, said today.
"Most of our students come to us because they had difficulty in the public school system and they dropped out," Case added. "The whole idea of SB 394 is that instead of having students drop out of school, we have a mechanism where school administrators can identify a student who would probably be better off in a vocational setting than an academic setting."
Anaconda has 236 students from Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho enrolled in its programs.
One is from Havre.
Randy Cloninger, born and raised in Havre, was working as a ranch hand near Chinook 21 months ago. The 24-year-old said he saw an advertisement for Anaconda Job Corps and seized the opportunity.
Cloninger recently completed heavy-equipment training in Helena and is a certified welder. He's also been accepted into an apprenticeship program for heavy-equipment operators.
"Since I've been here, I got my GED. I will get my high school diploma also," Cloninger said in an interview today.
"I had a hard time in high school. The (Job Corps) has done great. It's given me a future. I'll say that to anyone, anytime, anywhere," he added.
Though Cloninger is the only student from Havre now enrolled with the Job Corps, Case said many Havre kids have gone through the program.
"The kids realize what we as adults have been telling them for years that you can't get a good job without a high school education," Case said.