Bruininks visits U’s charter-school partner

The University provides opportunities for the school’s pupils in hopes they will attend the University.

Emily Ayshford

After several visits to the University, Agricultural and Food Sciences Academy junior Amy Fluegeman said she is continually impressed with the different aspects of agriculture she learns about from University faculty.

“When you go to the ‘U,’ you just see so many different things,” she said. “Those college visits are top-drawer.”

Fluegeman is one of 156 students who attend the Little Canada, Minn., charter school, the only charter high school to be partnered with the University’s College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences.

University President Bob Bruininks visited the high school Tuesday, meeting with students and faculty.

“It was an opportunity to highlight the University’s work in the community and to put special attention on a highly successful program,” he said.

Agricultural and Food Sciences Academy students receive resources from the University such as tours, exclusive classes and work opportunities in University labs.

In turn, University officials hope the students will attend the University.

Bruininks toured the school, stopping in a classroom to talk with students. They showed him products they had learned about in class, such as biodegradable golf tees.

“This would help my game,” Bruininks said.

The school, which is 3 years old, is located in the Capitol View Center. But Becky Meyer, the school’s director, said officials are looking to buy their own building with more space to facilitate rising enrollment.

This year marks the school’s first graduating class. At least four of the nine students will attend the University in the fall.

The University has funded two vans to transport students to the college, but College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Charles Muscoplat said its financial stake is minimal.

“We’re putting a lot of effort there hoping for payback,” he said. “We hope they come here.”

Hannah Von Der Hoff, a junior at the Agricultural and Food Sciences Academy, said her decision to attend the charter school was “the best thing that ever happened” to her. Postsecondary classes at the University and tours of the University have “absolutely” convinced her to attend the institution after graduation.

“I’ve already established a rapport with faculty and staff at the University,” Von Der Hoff said.

Muscoplat said some people might think an urban agricultural school is an oxymoron, but he said many of the schools have been highly successful.

The college has had an informal partnership with a similar school in Chicago for the last seven or eight years, Muscoplat said, and many students from that school have had successful academic careers at the University.

But Muscoplat said it will take a few years to determine if the partnership with the academy is truly successful.

“If we don’t see the students come here,” he said, “I would be disappointed.”