Affiliated Alternatives Educational Program

By Vince Saunders

Last month Chapter Member Moses Jones picked up a beautiful and most memorable package from our post office box. This special parcel contained greetings to our chapter from the Affiliated Alternatives, Work and Learn Center in Madison Wisconsin. Enclosed were papers and drawings from the students at the Lapham Center, that they prepared after viewing “The Tuskegee Airmen”, the 1995 HBO movie based on the exploits of our legendary aviators. I interviewed Ms. J.R. Lange by phone to discuss her class’s experience and reaction to the movie. “I have been using this remarkable movie for over 15 years in my classroom”, she said. I have met several Tuskegee Airmen at the EAA Fly-In at Oshkosh and they are true gentlemen who have forged a future for my many Afro-American students.”

Click here to see the papers and drawings

Click here to see more papers and drawings

The mission of the Department of Student Services and Alternative Education is to work collaboratively with students, families, staff and community resources to reduce or remove barriers that prevent students from experiencing success in school. In addition to the basic skills, the curriculum focuses on four themes: human interaction, economic/consumer survival, citizenship and law, and identity. During each semester there is an emphasis on the application of basic skills to career planning and employability. Class sizes are 15 to 20, and students are assigned to an individual teacher advisor. During the first year, the vocational component includes one semester of volunteer work at a daycare center or preschool and one semester working with the elderly and United Way’s Volunteer Center’s Community Agencies. During the second year, the vocational component includes one semester of working with Operation Fresh Start rebuilding houses or working with a private or public employer. The other semester of the second year also includes students selecting a job with a private or public employer. Many students remain on those jobs after graduation.

Ms. Lange describes her pedagogy as one which employs a “Don’t Teach Down – Teach Up” teaching style. She describes her diverse student population, who range in age from 16 to 18, as “street smart – at risk young adults who are learning how to take charge of their lives.” “Some of these students were formerly homeless, yet instinctively know how to overcome obstacles,” she says. Ms. Lange says that her students see the Tuskegee Airmen story as “a universal experience of struggling to overcome the odds and the barriers that all of us confront in lives.” After viewing the movie, she tasked her students with describing their feelings about what the Tuskegee Airmen had to overcome using both text and art. A small sampling of their work is provided here. The submissions of her entire class will be posted on our chapter’s website at:

Affiliated Alternatives
Work and Learn Center – Lapham
Madison Metropolitan School District
1045 E. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703