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Since 2002, GPS Education Partners (GPSEd) has been providing life-changing, high-quality work-based learning experiences for high school students throughout Wisconsin. In the last couple of years, GPSEd has expanded its work-based learning intermediary services in Illinois, Minnesota, and beyond. 

Work-based learning (WBL) gives students exposure to the world of work through a set of sequenced and coordinated activities called the ‘Work-Based Learning Journey’. The journey encompasses five main steps: Awareness, Exploration, Experience, Preparation, and Career Development.As a former elementary school teacher, I understand the importance of finding environments where students are able to flourish. Not every student is best served in a traditional classroom. But what does that journey look like from a family’s perspective? How do you step off the path of traditional schooling and chart a new course for your child?

I reached out to one of my former 2nd-grade students and his family to find some answers. Michael and Jennifer Mason, parents of 2022 graduate Brennan Mason (pictured on the far left), gave us a glimpse into their personal journey through work-based learning with Menomonee Falls High School (MFHS) and GPSEd. They graciously agreed to answer our questions to inform other families as they decide the best path for their own students. 

How did you first hear about the GPS Education Partners work-based learning program?

We became aware (of the program) through Menomonee Falls High School. Through either a school newsletter or flyer, MFHS notified parents that GPSEd was holding an upcoming ‘meet and greet’ at their Bradley Corporation Education Center in Menomonee Falls. The newsletter sparked our interest and we wanted to learn more. We went to the GPSEd website to get more information and we asked Brennan if he was interested in attending the ‘meet and greet’ to learn more. (He definitely was!) We attended the event at Bradley Corporation and that began the journey.

What questions or concerns did you have before starting the program?

We didn’t have any concerns. Any questions we had were answered by the GPSEd staff at the Bradley Corporation Education Center meet and greet event. After learning more details about the program and discussing it extensively with Brennan, it just seemed like a perfect match.

Which classes at MFHS helped you succeed in work-based learning?

Brennan told us that the skills he learned in Shop Class at Menomonee Falls HS helped him to transition to work-based learning. He spent 50% of his day in the Education Center classroom at Bradley Corporation and the other 50% working on-site at a GPSEd business partner, Sussex IM for his apprenticeship.

Who at GPSEd impacted you personally and what effect did they have on your future success?

Brennan told us that Joel O’Brien (Instructor), and Jim Karrels (Program Coordinator) all had an impact. They demonstrated how to ‘show up’ each day and accept nothing less than 100% of yourself.

What are Brennan’s plans after graduation?

Brennan was offered a job at Bradley Corporation. After looking at his options, he decided to continue his technical education at Waukesha County Technical College this fall.

Click here to hear more from Brennan about his journey through his graduation speech.

Best of luck to you as you begin another leg in your journey, Brennan! 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling to find an educational model that fits their needs, contact GPS Education Partners, or visit our website at gpsed.org/interested-students. We are committed to advocating for each student’s needs, focusing on access and equity for all our youth to succeed in sustainable careers.

Written By

Heather Culli
Special Projects Assistant
GPS Education Partners

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