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Nicholson retires after 24 years at Willmar Adult Basic Education

WILLMAR -- For 24 of Willmar Adult Basic Education's 25-year existence, Jim Nicholson has worked to make it a welcoming environment. He was always trying to change students' negative views of school while helping them work towards a number of edu...

WILLMAR - For 24 of Willmar Adult Basic Education’s 25-year existence, Jim Nicholson has worked to make it a welcoming environment.
He was always trying to change students’ negative views of school while helping them work towards a number of educational goals. Some students have come to the school solely based on the good experience that their friends and family have had in Nicholson’s program.
Adult basic education started as a part of a three-school consortium that had two small locations in Willmar. In the early days, the program was focused on adult college preparation and helping students pass their General Educational Development Tests.
Today adult basic education in Willmar has a permanent location in the Jefferson building, serves more than 1,000 adult students every year and is a part of a 10-school consortium. It still focuses on GED and college preparation but has expanded into realms such as: English as a second language for students from more than 43 countries and career preparation classes and skill training for entry-level jobs in retail and healthcare. The education the students receive creates opportunities that never would have been possible before.
“It’s really hard to pin down what the most rewarding part of this job is.” Nicholson said.
“But, like every teacher, I think it has to be that moment in a student’s life when the light-bulb just goes on. That moment where you see the improvement and know that they are achieving goals in their lives.”
Students were sad to see Nicholson leave at the party they threw for him Thursday; they practiced their English by saying goodbye, writing signs and wishing him well in his retirement.
 “I do feel good about leaving, though, the consortium is in a better place now than it was when I came.” said Nicholson. Julie Mischke, who has extended the program to Ridgewater in Hutchinson, will be taking over Nicholson’s position at Jefferson.

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