Innovative Program

Awards Presented by the Humphrey School and the Association of Minnesota Counties

In 2012, Buffalo High School and Wright County Court Services teamed together to start a program called "wRight Choice," an alternative to out-of-school suspension. wRight Choice originally involved eight school districts, that refer students suspended from school to this program built around restorative justice principles. Helping students become engaged learners is essential to the program's success.

December 2015, wRight Choice was recognized for two prestigious awards--one from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and the other from the Association of Minnesota Counties.

Humphrey School Award
Minnesota governments are becoming increasingly creative in redesigning how they do business. On November 24, 2015, the Humphrey School named 24 of these "creative" projects as recipients of its ninth annual Local Government Innovation Awards, organized in partnership with the Bush Foundation and co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, MN Association of Townships, and the Minnesota School Board Association. The awards recognize projects in four different categories, and name one overall award winner in each: cities, counties, schools, and townships. wRight Choice won best overall in the "counties" category.

"Every year, we see more and more creative ways that governments are figuring out how to save money but still deliver the same high quality of services," says Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School's Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center. "I think that these awards are helping to raise the bar for delivering excellent government services, and that's very exciting."

A panel of judges considered nearly 80 submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and collaboration. The overall winners of the four categories (which included wRight Choice) received a $5,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to continue their work and a professionally produced video to use for marketing and awareness. All 24 awardees were formally recognized at an awards ceremony and reception Thursday, December 10, at 4 p.m. at the Humphrey School.

Accepting $5000 check from Humphrey School Award in 2015

Pictured left to right accepting the $5,000 grant: BHM Superintendent Scott Thielman, Buffalo High School Assistant Principal Kris Thompson, Wright County Court Services Juvenile Probation Supervisor Abe Abrahamson, former wRight Choice Teachers Leesa Sherman and Joy Turner, former wRight Choice Education Support Specialist Brittany Doboszenski and Wright County Court Services Director Mike MacMillian.

Association of Minnesota Counties-County Achievement Award
wRight Choice was also one of four programs from various counties across Minnesota that was recognized with the Association of Minnesota Counties' (AMC) 2015 "County Achievement Awards" for exhibiting excellence and innovation in their counties.

Christopher Shoff, 2015 AMC President and Ramsey County commissioner, presented the awards at the association's annual conference, Monday, December 7 in St. Cloud.  The recipients were nominated by their counties and selected by a committee of county officials, chaired by 2015 AMC First Vice President Jack Swanson, a Roseau County Commissioner.  Other winners included programs from Anoka, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Nicollet, and St. Louis Counties.

Accepting County Achievement Award in 2015

Pictured left to right accepting the AMC Award: Wright County Commissioner Mike Potter, Buffalo High School Principal Mark Mischke, Wright County Commissioner Pat Sawatzke, Wright County Court Services Director Mike MacMillian, Wright County Coordinator Lee Kelly, AMC President Commissioner Christopher Shoff (Freeborn County), Wright County Commissioner Charlie Borrell, Buffalo High School Assistant Principal Kris Thompson, former wRight Choice Teacher Joy Turner, Wright County Court Services Juvenile Probation Supervisor Abe Abrahamson and Wright County Commissioner Chris Husom.

More about wRight Choice 
In 2014, over 252 students from eight school districts participated in the program and 98% of the youth completed their out-of-school suspension at wRight Choice. Youth were referred to the program for: 31% alcohol/drug use/possession, 19% insubordination, 18% disorderly behavior, 15% fighting, and the balance for other infractions. Most of the students referred were in 9th and 10th grades. 74% were male and 26% were female. Average length of the suspension was 3 days. Students returned to their schools, were caught up academically and had a plan to repair the harm caused by their behavior. wRight Choice is one of the best examples of what happens when professionals working with youth share their passion and ideas on how best to support teens. Participating districts included:

●  Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose
●  Delano
●  Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
●  Maple Lake
●  Monticello
●  Rockford
●  St. Michael-Albertville
●  Big Lake (Sherburne County)

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