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ENDING THE STIGMA: One Austin woman’s mission

AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) -- One Austin resident, Mariah Kiefer had her life changed right before her 18th birthday. Her brother was in a bad accident and needed health support.

Going into her senior year, Mariah had to spend as much time as she could with her brother but also had to pass her classes.

In order to do that, she enrolled at the Southern Minnesota Education Consortium, an Alternative Learning Center (ALC) to help keep her on track. She was able to get the one-on-one help that she needed while also being able to take classes online to make sure she stayed up to speed to be able to graduate.

ALCs have a wide variety of students for multiple reasons but Mariah says that there is a reason for that which is why the stigmas must end.

"Don't add into the derogatory names, even as an adult talking down on the ALC students as if we're bad kids because we aren't," Kiefer said. "We just have really hard lives and we just need that extra support to get through. Not every student is a stand-and-deliver type of learner. So, that one-on-one really does help us. But that doesn't make us less smart than any other kid and it doesn't make us a bad kid either."

Kiefer said that the ending of negative stigmas takes all of us.

Kiefer says the her one year of experience in an ALC changed her life. She originally wanted to go to school for nursing. Now with her brother in a group home in the Twin Cities and doing well, she is going to Riverland Community College. She eventually wants to get into Winona State's Social Work program. She hopes to work with students that will be where she once was in an ALC, helping them achieve their high school diploma.

Zach Fuller

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