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'It's not just a school. It's a family.'

Allison Langaas

BEMIDJI -- The only regret Allison Langaas has about her time at Voyageurs Expeditionary is that it wasn't longer.

"I wish I had been here my entire high school career," said Allison, who attended multiple high schools, including one that offered programming online, before she began attending Voyageurs as a junior.

She graduates from the public charter school at 6 p.m. tonight in ceremonies held in Hagg-Sauer room 100 on the BSU campus. Nineteen seniors have earned their diplomas.

"I'm very excited, but I'm nervous about it, too," Allison said. "I'm doing a speech."

She will speak on her Voyageurs experiences and how the school and its staff has impacted her life.

"It will be on how far I've made it, how Voyageurs has been such a big help to me," she said. "I am nervous. But my grandma, she always told me I'd be a speaker and now I am speaking."

Voyageurs is located north of Bemidji along old Highway 71, or Bemidji Avenue. The school, which expanded this year to offer a middle school as well, uses teacher-directed hands-on learning to educate its students. Generally, students who enroll at Voyageurs are seeking a non-traditional school setting with smaller class sizes.

Allison, who lives in Laporte and commutes herself daily, found that she did best there.

"You feel like you're on the same level as the teachers rather than them being higher than you," she said. "They care about you, they want you to graduate. They work with you, to get you there."

Voyageurs often encourages its students to complete their studies as they deeply explore topics of interest to that student. Allison, who rolled her vehicle the summer before she began attending Voyageurs, experiences chronic back pain as a result of that accident.

"My senior project this year, I did the entire thing on pain management," she said.

The report is several pages long and she said she herself learned things that might be able to help her.

"There's different things now that I would be more willing to try," she said. "It was on every branch of pain management (from medicine to homeopathic remedies)."

Also at Voyageurs, the school offers its students opportunities to explore their studies on various trips throughout the country. Last year, Allison went to Boston, where the students learned about history and the natural world -- "we went whale-watching and it was really cool" -- and next week, she will be among those who travel to Arizona to explore the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and more.

Next year, Allison will begin attending beauty school, either here in Bemidji or perhaps Duluth. She's been interested in doing so ever since was young.

"I just feel like (Voyageurs) really prepares you more for your future," Allison said. "They help you figure out where you need to be, where you want to go. And, they're going to be there for you after high school. We know we can come back or contact them and they'll help us.

"It's not just a school. It's a family."