Score an Excellent Education in Great Falls, MT

May 17, 2023

Great Falls Public Schools plays a pivotal role in preparing students for in-demand jobs in fields such as agriculture, health care and industrial technology.

By Teree Caruthers on March 25, 2023

For feature about public schools in Great Falls, MT.

Great Falls Public Schools plays a pivotal role in ensuring a steady pipeline of skilled and diverse talent is available for the region’s in-demand industries. An impressive roster of career and technical education courses, for example, helps prepare students for careers in such high-demand fields as agriculture, health care and industrial technology.

“In addition to focused coursework, the pathways include opportunities for job shadows and internships,” says Becky Nelson, community connections coordinator for Great Falls Public Schools.

Nelson says dual credit and stackable credential opportunities are provided to students to help them begin their workforce development journey as early as possible.

Teachers partner with local postsecondary institutions and community partners to delve deeper into the workforce needs within each specific pathway area, and high school counselors work closely with Department of Labor and Industry officials and industry leaders to educate students and parents about in-demand pathways.

Helping All Students Succeed

Native American and Hispanic students make up nearly a third of the student population, and the district’s diversity and inclusion efforts help ensure those students are supported and successful.

Partnering with Schools in Great Falls

The school district partners with Malmstrom Air Force Base, for instance, to create a host of educational opportunities, including job shadowing and internships for junior and senior high school JROTC members, an internship program for students interested in careers in early child development and professional development programs for teachers.

Local service and business partners create close partnerships with students and parents to reach at-risk students, Nelson says, helping them stay in school and develop work-ready skills that are necessary to becoming productive citizens. The district also plays a role in producing a diverse workforce.

Dugan Coburn, director of Indigenous Education at GFPS, works with students.

Dugan Coburn

Diversity Matters

“Great Falls is home to people from a variety of backgrounds. We know that when a person feels safe and has a sense of belonging, he or she is more likely to be successful academically. It is paramount that we support a culture of inclusion in our schools,” Nelson says.

The nonprofit Great Falls Public Schools Foundation works with community organizations and private donors to fund innovative education programs as well as scholarships.

In 2022, the foundation received a $20,000 grant from Sisters United – a nonprofit that works to empower Indigenous women, children and communities – to fund projects, including raised garden beds with plants held sacred by Native American tribes, field trips to learn more about Native American history, a tribal elders lecture series and a plan to incorporate Native dance into physical education classes.

“Organizations like Sisters United are really committed to making sure that money is not a barrier for students who want to continue to grow academically.”

Stephanie Schnider, Great Falls Public Schools Foundation

“The grant also provides funding for scholarships for Native American students. [Sisters United] wanted to support students with their educational goals,” says Stephanie Schnider, executive director of the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation.

“Often, we don’t see Native American students pursuing post-secondary education to the same degree that their counterparts might. Organizations like Sisters United are really committed to making sure that money is not a barrier for students who want to continue to grow academically.”

Schnider says the support of private donors also allows the foundation and school district to help meet students’ basic needs so that they can thrive in the educational environment.

“The school district does a fantastic job of creating opportunities for (students) to explore career paths to grow in different fields that will help give them direction for moving forward in their professional lives or postsecondary education paths,” Schnider says. “That’s motivation for a lot of our donors who want to support students in their postsecondary plans – whether they be traditional or nontraditional.”