MREA announced today the schools and programs that earned the 2020 School Innovation Awards for reimagining education and delivering results for students.

MREA will honor the Jagways program at Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Public Schools and the Health Field Science Program at West Central Area Public Schools at an awards ceremony on Nov. 15.

The awards ceremony will be live-streamed at 6:30 pm on Nov. 15 at Learn more about the awards.

Each year, MREA recognizes school programs that serve as an example of educational opportunities for rural students with the Innovation Award. Selected programs illustrate innovation, benefits for students, collaboration and ease of adaptability. Programs throughout MREA member districts are nominated and then selected by the MREA Board of Directors. Nominate a program.

2020 Honorees


Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Public Schools

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa High School developed an extensive career-based advisory and pathways model for 9-12 students. Built through workforce connections both locally and regionally, the program focuses on three major areas of workforce readiness and incorporates graduation requirements.

“We have been taking inventory of workforce needs from Willmar to St. Cloud to Alexandria as we are centered in that triangle,” said Patrick Walsh, superintendent of BBE Schools.

Jagways combines the counseling model, instructional model and career skills development model into one. “We are turning the idea of educational innovation on its head,” Walsh said, noting the school begins with the most engaging electives students want and then identify and fit in the requirements afterwards.

Through Jagways, students are taught multiple courses in a single period by a single instructor. “This enables maximal course access and flexibility for our students in classes like welding, mathematics and Spanish,” Walsh said.

The school district also developed a collaborative with New London-Spicer High School and Paynesville High School called CrowCAPS. The collaborative focuses on internship and apprenticeship opportunities in the CTE areas for their students. “We are working to ensure that we are giving students in this region the best opportunity to personalize their instruction through access to a wide curriculum,” Walsh said

Health Field Science

West Central Area Public Schools

Students at West Central Area High School gain in-depth, real-life experience to careers in the health field through a comprehensive community collaborative. The growing program not only allows them to earn certifications while in high school but also brings them to a variety of health organizations in their local community.

Students rotate through 14 job shadowing stations at the local hospital as well as the dental, chiropractic and veterinarian clinics. “It’s so rewarding to watch the students leave each day in their scrubs and take their responsibilities in their various roles seriously,” Knutson said.

Students spend one week shadowing in various career areas, including radiology, lab, outpatient services and more. “The students get hands-on experience in roles from billing to nursing to janitors and doctors,” Knutson said.

The high school expanded the health field program in 2016 to also offer Emergency First Responder classes to equip students with lifesaving skills and now jumpstarts additional career opportunities with Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes.

Students have earned positions with the local first responder team and assisted living communities. About 75 percent of the students serve as CNAs at a local facility throughout the school year or over the summer. Other students have taken their passion for a health career to a post-secondary program.

Watch it Live

MREA will host its 2020 Awards Ceremony on Nov. 15 at 6:30 pm and you can watch it live at Learn more about the awards.

The awards ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Annual Conference: Rural Proud, featuring live keynotes each day at 3:30 pm and on-demand breakout sessions for teachers, school administrators, board members and other education professionals. Learn more and register.