A unique model
Human Services Academy gives high school students hands-on experience working with populations spanning ages 1 to 101
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Tiny Tiger Intergenerational Center brings three generations of people together in a unique environment that combines personal care, education, and career-focused training.
Housed in the center is a day care run by Childcare Centers of Marshfield, an adult care center run by Companion Day Services for those that have developmental disabilities or are elderly and frail, and the Human Services Academy (HSA), which is a program where Marshfield High School (MHS) students come and work with the children and adult populations in career-focused classes.
Career and technical education coordinator at MHS, Jennifer Fredrick, said that the HSA was designed around the idea that students interested in fields such as child care or nursing needed a space to learn hands on.
“The students felt that they needed a learning laboratory, much like we’ve got laboratories for our chemistry, biology, auto classes. We needed a laboratory where we could teach our students how to work with young children,” Fredrick said. She added that in 2005 HSA expanded its scope to include the adult population in the students’ studies.
HSA did not have its “laboratory” until 2007 when Tiny Tiger opened that March. The center is located directly across the street from MHS, so students are able to walk there for classes. Fredrick said that her predecessor, Jane Wagner, was “the visionary for this facility.”
Fredrick said one of the main advantages of the center is that it allows a teacher to talk about a concept, such as toy safety for children, and then immediately see that concept in action in a real child care environment.
“They’re learning by reflecting on what they’re doing, which is the neat part about having a facility like this,” Fredrick said. HSA is the first program of its kind in Wisconsin.
There are a wide variety of courses taught through HSA. One course focuses specifically on working with generations spanning the entire human lifespan, ages 1-101. Another conveys to students the importance of developing a caring “school, community, and society” for children, the elderly, and those with special needs. There is also a class on child development and implementing age-appropriate activities.
Marissa Zaleski, a senior at MHS, said that there is also an opportunity to bring the children of the day care center to visit the adult population in the center.
“You get senior adults, you get little mini adults, and then you get semi-adults all into one room. It’s really fun. I love it,” said Zaleski, whose goal is to be a teacher in the future. “You get to see all of the teachers interacting with all the little kids, and then you think to yourself, ‘Hey, I really, really want to do that.’”
Ellie Fehrenbach, also a senior at MHS, said the center has allowed her to develop a vision for what she wants to do with her future.
“I think being here and being able to interact with all the kids has made me realize what I really want to do in my future career, which is most likely be a physician’s assistant in pediatrics,” Fehrenbach said. She later added that children in the day care enjoy meeting people of all ages.
“I think that they love that. They love meeting new people and being able to interact with people of different ages,” Fehrenbach said.
Fredrick said that students receive credit from the classes offered through HSA like any other course at MHS. Students can also earn certifications, like the assistant child care teacher license, through coursework at HSA. Additionally, HSA allows students to earn transcripted credit, which can transfer to Mid-State Technical College or in some cases a four-year university, much like an Advanced Placement credit.
Fehrenbach will attend UW-La Crosse next year and will major in athletic training. She then hopes to enter a physician’s assistant program. Zaleski will attend UW-Eau Claire and study secondary English education.
Though much of the funding for Human Services Academy—for things like textbooks, staffing, and other supplies—is provided by the School District of Marshfield, renting space within Tiny Tiger Intergenerational Center is paid through an endowment fund at the Marshfield Area Community Foundation. Those interested in supporting Human Services Academy or learning more about the programming it offers can visit hsamarshfield.com.