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A national learning model that presents students with project-based challenges — many rooted in the business world — is coming to St. Paul Public Schools in 2024-25.

The program called 3DE will partner the state's second-largest district with Junior Achievement North. It is to be rolled out initially to every ninth-grader at Como Park Senior High and Washington Technology Magnet School.

Then, as detailed at a news conference at Como Park Senior High on Wednesday, it will expand grade by grade and eventually to other district and metro-area high schools.

"This is a triumphant day for us — and something we've been talking about for some time," Superintendent Joe Gothard said. He noted that while some district partnerships and programs take in only select groups of students, 3DE will be distinguished by its promise of schoolwide participation.

Mayor Melvin Carter, nodding to the involvement of corporations like Securian Financial and Thrivent, which will have employees work with district teachers, said: "[You] have to have partners. ... You have to have folks to lighten the load."

According to data from the program, which was launched in Atlanta in 2015 and now serves 44 schools in 10 states, school districts have seen increases in graduation and college enrollment rates, and decreases in chronic absenteeism.

Sara Dziuk, president and CEO of Junior Achievement North, said the program will find students presented with "case challenges" from representatives of businesses, government bodies or nonprofits, and they will have five weeks to work as small-business teams to come up with recommendations to present to the partnering organizations.

The challenges might involve internal or external communication strategies, new product lines or ways to improve customer service, she said.

"They're going to be learning about communication and collaboration and creativity ... so that when they leave high school, they're prepared to own and embody those skills in whatever they choose to do next," Dziuk said.

Ramsey County Board Chair Trista Martinson said: "Kids are going to be exposed to jobs that they didn't even know existed." County employees were eager, she added, to be among the first volunteers working with teachers to "talk about their jobs, their skills and how you can get in those career fields."

This year will be a planning year for 3DE in St. Paul. Junior Achievement North is hoping to expand to 10 metro-area high schools by 2030.