I did not fit in well at traditional schools…Open School Changed all That

I did not fit in well at traditional schools…Open School Changed all That

by Claudia Ahrens Brovick


I attended the Open School from the day it opened. I was in the 7th grade. I did not fit in well at traditional schools. I had trouble learning in a traditional school setting. I felt I processed information differently than my friends. I had high social anxiety. I didn’t feel I fit in anywhere. Open School changed all that. From the beginning I had to be engaged in my education and self-directed. I along with my advisor would develop an individualized curriculum taking into account my learning style and interests. I was able to move along in the traditional subjects at my own pace. I was able to participate in projects that were meaningful and brought together many subject areas into one learning experience.

Claudia at St Paul Open School

The most memorable was the project I did on the drug Thalidomide and the tragic effects it had on babies. A group of students and I worked on a mock trial against the drug company that made Thalidomide. We even had a jury and a real life adult judge to proceed over the trial. We worked on this project for months. It required extensive research skills as well as writing and speaking in front of groups. My social anxiety dissipated quickly!

Overall, the Open School experience taught me to be flexible, open minded, and self-directed which was invaluable as I worked through a number of different jobs in the past 40 years. I knew that serving people was my ultimate passion. Since graduating from Macalester College in 1980 I have worked in the public, non-profit and private sectors. I have been an administrator in large and small organizations, including the MN State Energy Office, the MN Office of Peace Officer’s Standards and Training, the MN Office of Crime Victim Services, the MN Department of Pipeline Safety as well as a small non-profit organization that certifies all of the home energy raters in the nation.

In my early 50’s I had the opportunity to go back to graduate school and get a Master’s degree in Addiction Studies after being in recovery for many years. I am now a chemical dependency counselor at the renowned Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. I assess and work with patients as they enter treatment for substance use disorders. It is extremely challenging and fulfilling work.

Claudia today (2021)

I credit the education I received at the Open School with the skills that allowed me to move into various areas of work and find passion in all of them. I was able to adapt quickly and change with the times when I needed to. The result is that my work life has always challenged my potential and has brought depth and meaning to my life. Iam forever grateful that the Open School was available to me right when I needed it.

Claudia Ahrens Brovick Class of ‘77