Minnesota Reading Corps & Minnesota Math Corps Blog

Reading Corps Alum Awarded Duluth’s 20 Under 40

Recently, Reading Corps alum Jodi Broadwell was recognized as one of Duluth’s 20 Under 40, an annual award honoring local leaders for their community impact and involvement.

Jodi first discovered Reading Corps when she spotted a flyer while dropping her son off at school. A single parent who not only was juggling multiple jobs and a preschool student, but also going to school herself, Jodi thought serving during the same hours her son was in school was just the solution she needed.

And it was while serving as the first preschool literacy tutor at Laura MacArthur Elementary’s Head Start program that Jodi found her passion for helping those in need. “I had never served on a committee before Reading Corps, and now I organize events all the time,” Jodi said. “that introduction into civic engagement is important.”

After Reading Corps, Jodi was inspired to get involved even more, serving on the board of directors for Community Action Duluth, the League of Women’s Voters-Duluth, Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Inc, and Ecolibrium3. She has also been a caretaker for a Big Red Bookshelf for five years, served on the Duluth-Superior Pride Committee, and is a city commissioner for the Duluth Public Arts Commission.

“When you’re doing work in the community and making a difference, it makes for more meaningful life experiences,” Jodi said, “and sometimes it might benefit the person doing the volunteering more than the person on the receiving end.”

Serving as a Reading Corps tutor at a Head Start had a major impact on Jodi’s life, spawning a lifelong love for ensuring children and families living in impoverished conditions have the resources they need to succeed. Currently, she runs Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, a small nonprofit that strengthens the community by connecting families who care about children. Though her projects might include parent support groups, free family activities or a new day care center, Jodi has never forgotten the importance of reading. “Everything we do [with the kids] has some sort of early literacy component, whether it’s the whiteboards, signing in each day, or reading aloud…and we’re always encouraging parents to have those conversations with their children.”

With community service being such an important part of her life, what advice would Jodi give to those looking for a way to make a change? Get involved! “I really encourage people to embrace a national AmeriCorps service because it’s a wonderful experience—and looks great on a resume too!”

An alphabet mural Jodi and her students made during her 2nd year at Laura MacArthur Elementary, which has been hanging at UMD Children’s Place for ten years!

 

 
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Reading Corps Works: New Study Confirms Powerful Impact

 

We’ve always been proud of the fact that #readingcorpsworks. Our evidence-based interventions paired with the dedication and encouragement of our amazing tutors has helped thousands of children across Minnesota achieve great gains in reading. The data has always been important to us, and recently we received some extra exciting results we wanted to share with you!

In an independent study of Minnesota Reading Corps conducted over the course of an entire academic year, NORC at the University of Chicago researchers confirmed that the program makes a significant impact on the literacy skills of students—equating our readers’ gains to half to almost a full year’s worth of extra school.

“Reading Corps not only continues to achieve outstanding results for our students, this study shows its impact is even greater,” explains Audrey Suker, CEO of ServeMinnesota. “And, given the fact that this AmeriCorps program serves more than 600 schools and upwards of 30,000 students each year, this clearly demonstrates that Reading Corps is making significant headway in closing the achievement gap.”

 
 

And a startling gap it is—with a 36 percent gap between the highest and lowest achieving groups, children from traditionally underprivileged groups (such as non-White racial groups or those eligible for free and reduced-price lunch) often struggle to keep up with their peers. But with the study showing that Reading Corps has had an even greater impact on these students, our tutors are well on their way to ensuring every child in Minnesota has the skills and support they need for a brighter future.

With such positive results, we’re more motivated than ever to spread the message of service across the state and help Minnesota children make great gains in reading. But we can’t do it alone! Interested in joining this vast community of service-minded people helping students succeed every day? Part-time or full-time positions available for college grads, parents, retirees, or anyone looking to make an impact! Visit www.readingandmath.net to learn more about any of our statewide positions or apply now to start in October or January.

 

Want to dig in to the details? Take a look at some of the study’s key findings below:


Kindergarten Students

  • Kindergarten students who received Minnesota Reading Corps tutoring achieved significantly higher letter sound fluency scores by the end of the first semester (Winter 2018) than Kindergarten control students who did not receive the program.
  • On average, program students correctly identified an average of 10.9 more letter sounds in one minute than control group students.
  • Kindergarten students who received Reading Corps tutoring demonstrated additional growth equaling an extra 50 to 90 percent of a year of schooling.


First Grade Students

  • First grade students who received Minnesota Reading Corps tutoring achieved significantly higher word-reading scores by the end of the first semester (Winter 2018) than students who did not receive the program.
  • Impacts of first grade Reading Corps transferred to the broader reading skill of oral reading fluency, an essential foundational literacy skill.


Second and Third Grade Students

  • Minnesota Reading Corps second and third grade students attained significantly higher oral reading fluency scores by the Spring benchmark than control group students.

 


At Risk Students

  • A statistically significant impact of Reading Corps was found for second and third grade students regardless of minority status (i.e., Black), gender, or ELL status.
  • Second and third grade students in each of these groups significantly outperformed control students on oral reading fluency scores, and grew faster than the typical Reading Corps student, reflecting a closure of the achievement gap.
  • Together, the findings show that the Minnesota Reading Corps program can have a substantial and positive impact on at-risk students who are often underserved because they fall between students performing at grade level and special education referrals, and typically have fewer resources available to them.
 

Overall

Based on findings from two highly rigorous, impartial, and complementary studies, the Minnesota Reading Corps K-3 program conclusively improves K-3 students’ early reading skills.
 
 

 

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New Study Confirms Minnesota Reading Corps is Making a Powerful Impact on Literacy Skills of Students and Closing the Achievement Gap for At‐Risk Students

Reading Corps tutor working with young student

Students’ literacy skills grew the equivalent of a half to almost a full year of extra school.

Research replicates and extends statistically significant findings from a 2014 study, shows an even larger effect size, and demonstrates an even stronger impact with at‐risk students.

Hundreds of reading and math tutors still needed throughout Minnesota.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MINNEAPOLIS – (September 13, 2018) ‐‐ A new third‐party evaluation of Minnesota Reading Corps, the nation’s largest AmeriCorps tutoring program, has confirmed that the program makes a significant impact on the literacy skills of students. In fact, according to the independent study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the additional growth demonstrated by students being tutored equates to an extra 50 to 90 percent of a year of schooling – or the equivalent of a half year to almost a full year of extra school.

The study, which replicated and extended the findings of a study conducted in 2014, showed Reading Corps not only continued to deliver an impact, it increased its impact ‐‐ producing an even larger effect size. Such findings are rare in educational research, and are extremely rare when replicated.

Equally meaningful, the study found that, while the impact of Reading Corps is impressive for all participating students, it is even more significant for English Language Learners (ELL) and children from traditionally underprivileged groups, such as non‐White racial groups.

According to Audrey Suker, CEO of ServeMinnesota, the state’s administrator for AmeriCorps programs, these results are statistically significant and extremely rare for educational research. “Replication studies are rare but important, because students change, policies change, and schools take on new initiatives. Reading Corps not only continues to achieve outstanding results for our students, this study shows its impact is even greater. And, given the fact that this AmeriCorps program serves more than 600 schools and upwards of 30,000 students each year, this clearly demonstrates that Reading Corps is making significant headway in closing the achievement gap.”

Among the key findings:

Kindergarten Students

  • Kindergarten students who received Minnesota Reading Corps tutoring achieved significantly higher letter sound fluency scores by the end of the first semester (Winter 2018) than Kindergarten control students who did not receive the program.
  • On average, program students correctly identified an average of 10.9 more letter sounds in one minute than control group students.
  • Kindergarten students who received Reading Corps tutoring demonstrated additional growth equaling an extra 50 to 90 percent of a year of schooling.

First Grade Students

  • First grade students who received Minnesota Reading Corps tutoring achieved significantly higher word‐reading scores by the end of the first semester (Winter 2018) than students who did not receive the program.
  • Impacts of first grade Reading Corps transferred to the broader reading skill of oral reading fluency, an essential foundational literacy skill.

Second and Third Grade Students

  • Minnesota Reading Corps second and third grade students attained significantly higher oral reading fluency scores by the Spring benchmark than control group students.

At Risk Students

  • A statistically significant impact of Reading Corps was found for second and third grade students regardless of minority status (i.e., Black), gender, or ELL status.
  • Second and third grade students in each of these groups significantly outperformed control students on oral reading fluency scores, and grew faster than the typical Reading Corps student, reflecting a closure of the achievement gap.
  • Together, the findings show that the Minnesota Reading Corps program can have a substantial and positive impact on at‐risk students who are often underserved because they fall between students performing at grade level and special education referrals, and typically have fewer resources available to them.

Overall

  • Based on findings from two highly rigorous, impartial, and complementary studies, the Minnesota Reading Corps K‐3 program conclusively improves K‐3 students’ early reading skills.

NORC’s simultaneous evaluations of Florida Reading Corps and Wisconsin Reading Corps found the program can be reliably replicated with the same impact on student growth.

Reading Corps has the power to dramatically improve student outcomes, and schools across the state have partnered to bring Reading Corps to their students. More tutors are needed for the 2018‐19 school year throughout the state of Minnesota. Anyone interested is encouraged to go to readingandmath.net.

About Minnesota Reading Corps:
One in three Minnesota third graders is not reading at grade level. Minnesota Reading Corps, a statewide program and strategic initiative of ServeMinnesota, provides a solution. The program places trained AmeriCorps tutors in schools and preschools, where they deliver proven literacy strategies to help children get ready for Kindergarten and on track to become successful readers by the end of third grade. Two independent and highly rigorous studies conducted by the University of Chicago confirm Reading Corps to be one of the most effective literacy programs nationwide. It is replicated in 12 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, please visit www.minnesotareadingcorps.org.

About NORC:
NORC at the University of Chicago delivers objective data and meaningful analysis to help decision‐ makers and leading organizations make informed choices and identify new opportunities. Since 1941, NORC has applied sophisticated methods and tools, innovative and cost‐effective solutions, and the highest standards of scientific integrity and quality to conduct and advance research on critical issues. Headquartered in downtown Chicago, NORC works in over 40 countries around the world, with additional offices on the University of Chicago campus, the DC metro area, Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco. For more information, visit www.norc.org.

Media Contact:
Lisa Winkler
lisa@serveminnesota.org
612.333.7749

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Reading Corps, Math Corps Alum Receive First Spirit of Service Awards

Spirit of Service award honorees Mary Borrell (left) and Sarah Warren (right) receive their awards at August Institute. (Not pictured is honoree Lindsay Taute.)

At Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps, we’re constantly amazed by the dedication and passion demonstrated by each and every one of our tutors. Community-driven people from all across Minnesota volunteer a year (or more!) of their lives to inspire and encourage students to build the skills and confidence for a brighter future. We’re so incredibly grateful!

This August, as we celebrated Reading Corps’ 15th year and Math Corps’ 10th year, we also recognized some of the amazing alumni who have taken this dedication to service and extended it beyond our programs and into their day-to-day lives. The first ever Alumni Spirit of Service Awards were presented to three such alum during Institute on August 14th.

Both Reading Corps and Math Corps alumni who had completed their service during the 17-18 school year or earlier were eligible, with winners chosen based on continued service after Reading Corps and Math Corps and their dedication to making a difference. Whether it was continued involvement in a school, volunteering to help communities across the globe, or writing children’s books to foster a love for reading, these alumni have made service an essential part of their lives and work. In addition to the award certificate, winners also received new alumni jackets.

We know that the desire to give back doesn’t end after your AmeriCorps service, and we hope that these stories will help inspire you to continue to get involved in your community and make a difference for those in need. We are excited to launch this tradition and look forward to celebrating more honorees as part of October and January Institutes!

Mary Borrell

“I think it’s really powerful to have those years or whatever time period just to give back.”

Mary served for two years as a Reading Corps tutor at Vista View Elementary in Burnsville. During her service she pursued a master’s degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders at St. Thomas University. She was subsequently hired on at Vista View Elementary where she now works with children on the autism spectrum. In addition to supporting incoming tutors to Vista View, Mary is also involved with Girls on the Run and  serves on the Cultural Proficiency Team for ISD 191.



Sarah Warren

“It’s service to others but also an incredible opportunity to grow as a professional.”

An experienced early childhood educator, Sarah served for two years as a PreK tutor and two years as a Family Child Care tutor. After completing her fourth term of service in 2016, Sarah has continued to be a champion for literacy in Minneapolis. She leads teacher trainings, workshops for teens and local story hours for families. Her book Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers has been recognized by The Amelia Bloomer Book List and has also been featured on amightygirl.com.

 

 

Lindsay Taute

“There is no sense in doing what we’re doing unless it impacts a person’s life.”

Lindsay served as a Math Corps tutor in 2009 at North Junior High School in St. Cloud. Her service with Math Corps was a gap year before beginning medical school at the University of Minnesota. She has participated in a month-long medical mission to Haiti, is credited on multiple case reports and studies, and recently presented at the American Academy of Pathologist’s Assistants annual meeting in Oregon. She continues to invest in her community and now practices medicine in New Mexico.



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Finding Her Direction in Education

Cassandra Stoll, K-3 Literacy Tutor at Zimmerman Elementary School in Zimmerman, MN

Having recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota, Cassie Stoll knew she wanted to launch her career and do something she was passionate about.

As she reflected on possible next steps, she remembered her nephew’s remarkable experience with Reading Corps as a kindergartner. “He made tremendous strides in his literacy skills,” Cassie said, “so I knew firsthand that the program works.”

An avid reader herself, Cassie was drawn to Reading Corps and thought working in a school would be a new and challenging experience for her. After starting her service at Zimmerman Elementary School in Zimmerman, Minnesota, Cassie quickly found out that to the kids, she wasn’t just a tutor, but a cheerleader, educator, advocate and friend.

“There’s never a dull moment when you’re serving,” Cassie explains. “My students could always make me smile, regardless of what kind of day I was having. One of my favorite [memories] is when I found out that two of my students would play ‘Reading Corps’ together at daycare after school. They would do all of our reading activities and take turns being ‘Miss Cassie’!”

Cassie enjoyed her service so much that she was inspired to enroll at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota to complete a master’s in Special Education. Within the next couple of years she hopes to have a classroom of her own. “My tutoring experience has given me a purpose and helped me discover what I want to do with the rest of my life!” Cassie says.

And to those considering service? She has one piece of advice: “Go into the experience with an open mind and an open heart. You never know where your service year will take you.”

If you think Reading Corps sounds like your next adventure, send us an email or give us a call at 866.859.2825 to learn more about opportunities near you.





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Success Starts Early – Our New School Readiness Pilot

 

It’s never too late to learn something new—or too early. That’s certainly the case for preschool students participating in our new School Readiness pilot rolling out for the 2018-19 school year.

Studies show that a child’s math ability before starting school is a strong indicator of achievement as they grow. Early math both helps them to get ready for kindergarten and gets them on the right trajectory for school success later on. Despite the strong connection between preschool math skills and later academic success, only about six percent of time in the average early childhood classroom is devoted to math-related activities.

In Minnesota, the need for those early math skills is especially prevalent, as 32 percent of Minnesota’s third grade students failed the state math test in 2017—a rate which increases to 49 percent for low income families and to 63 percent by the time students reach 8th grade.

In order to help close this achievement gap and help start our littlest learners off on the track to success, we’ve introduced the School Readiness pilot. Made possible through generous support from the PNC Foundation, this early learning initiative combines PreK literacy interventions with introductory math skills into one curriculum.

“The interventions are based off our PreK model, so when tutors work with the whole class, small groups and one-on-one, we’ve added math components to all three,” explains Program Pilots Manager Alison Zellmer. “It’s a more holistic approach to making sure they have all the early literacy and math skills they need for success.”

Preschool Early Learning Specialists provide opportunities to learn math all day long through “math talk” (or vocabulary), reading math-focused books, fun and engaging targeted interventions and simple math activities families can use at home. Each activity exposes children to early math language and ideas, which ensures they’ll be ready for more difficult math concepts as they start school.

“There aren’t a lot of people in the country doing a PreK math program like we are. Tutors are coming in on something groundbreaking,” says Zellmer.

In addition to the education award and biweekly living allowance, Preschool Early Learning Specialists will be eligible to receive a bonus of up to $1,050 per year of service. They’ll also have the opportunity to use brand new curriculum and help shape how our PreK program looks in the future!

Interested in getting in on the ground level of this innovative program? We’re looking for 40 Preschool Early Learning Specialists to serve in schools across the Twin Cities Metro. Discover opportunities near you or contact Program Pilots Manager Alison Zellmer to learn more.

 
 
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New Member Benefits Starting 2018-19!

 

Living in the Twin Cities can sometimes wreak havoc on your budget. With the high cost of living, those daily expenses can add up faster than expected. But should you have to choose between serving your community and keeping up with your finances?

We at Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps say “no!” That’s why starting this 2018-19 school year, we’re piloting new benefits aimed at making managing your budget just a little bit easier.

Members serving in the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul can now receive up to $2,000 in housing assistance! The benefit will be paid biweekly (every two weeks) and no sign-up is required. Most metro members will also qualify for reduced transit fares through a new collaboration with Metro Transit’s Transportation Assistance Program. Members will pay $1.00 per ride (vs. the $2.25- $3.25 standard fare) using TAP cards that will be distributed during Institute.

Our hope is that these new benefits will help offset the higher cost of living in the Twin Cities and allow those who would like to make a difference in their communities serve without financial worry.

“I think these new benefits are great! I was already planning on taking the bus when the weather gets cold, so the discount for Metro Transit will save me a lot throughout the year!” says Reading Corps tutor Chelsea Smith of Saint Paul. “The additional housing assistance also makes choosing service over work easier when it comes to finances.”

While these new benefits do not currently apply to 3 day/week members or those serving in Reading Corps pilots, we are working hard to study the impacts of these benefits with an eye toward possible continuation and expansion in the future.

If you have any questions about how these new benefits pertain to you, please email us. We’d love to hear your feedback!

 

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Finding the Right Fit

Colleen Denice-Rossiter, Scholar Coach at Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School in Minneapolis, MN

Throughout her life, Colleen Denice-Rossiter has always focused on serving others. Before becoming a full-time parent, she served with Peace Corps, taught kindergarten, became certified as a Certified Nursing Assistant and in American Sign Language, worked in the homecare field, and was a classroom volunteer. After her children were grown, she was eager to get back into the classroom and see if it was the right fit. Already familiar with AmeriCorps—and the importance of reading—Colleen thought she’d give Minnesota Reading Corps a try. As a K-3 Scholar Coach, she gets to experience the classroom environment while also serving her community.

The Scholar Coach position supports both the teacher and the students in the classroom. This way, students benefit from both individualized tutoring and the presence of another caring adult in the classroom. The teacher can count on the Scholar Coach to help kids that could benefit from some extra attention. The Scholar Coach integrates the teacher’s lessons into their tutoring sessions and collaborates with the teacher to decide how best to support students. Colleen also works one-on-one with students for 20 minute sessions. “I feel like the [Scholar Coach program] is beneficial because I am able to see what is happening in the classroom and connect that to the interventions. I had a very supportive relationship with the teacher,” Colleen explains.

Colleen’s favorite aspect of being a Scholar Coach is building relationships with the students. “I realize when I’m in the presence of kids that I know so much less than I thought I did. Everybody has something to teach me as well,” she says. “When we read together, they see their success and realize it’s going to help them with other topics. They feel proud as things get easier for them.”

Out of many great kids, one student’s story was especially memorable. M started out the school year with reading skills below grade average. With Colleen’s help, she was reading 90 words per minute by May and her mom jokingly asked who was teaching her to read so well because she was reading her mom’s text messages!

“I think that the Scholar Coach position is fabulous…Learn from the people, take in as much as you can, give as much as you can, and listen. I benefited so much from watching [students’] progress and also just watching their whole attitude change.”

Colleen’s classroom experience was everything she hoped for, and she is now not only returning for another year of service, but also using her Education Award to obtain a reading specialist license and pursue a career in education.

If you would like to join a school community as a Scholar Coach or would like more information please email Andrew Mueller or check out our available positions.

Forward this opportunity to a friend or apply now! Be sure to apply by July 25th to start in August.



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A Jump Start for Learning – Reading Corps in Family Child Care

 

Today, one in every three K-3 students in Minnesota is struggling to read. That’s 100,000 kids—a staggering number. Even more staggering is that 80% of brain growth occurs before age three, and during the first few years of a child’s life more than 1 million neural connections are formed every second. So when traditional school learning doesn’t begin until age five or six, how might we reach children during these early stages of development to jump-start learning and help close the opportunity gap? Our solution: Reading Corps in Family Child Care.

“We put a stake in the ground 10 years ago that we wanted Reading Corps to reach every child in Minnesota that needed it,” explains Audrey Suker, CEO at ServeMinnesota. “You can imagine that if every child care provider in communities had access to this, the whole community would start to feel different.”

How It Works

Tutors travel between three Family Child Care sites a week, visiting two each morning, to provide around 90 minutes of early literacy interventions. Working with children anywhere from infancy to age five, tutors conduct whole group, small group, and one-on-one sessions based on an adapted PreK model. Tutors also partner with the provider to lead instruction, and they work closely together to support strong student outcomes. Providers also participate in rigorous professional development including training and coaching to help them succeed.

Why Serve?

Tutors have the opportunity to serve outside the classroom in their communities and build valuable relationships with providers and families. They also are able to work with mixed ages and potentially whole sibling groups who wouldn’t be able to learn together in a traditional school environment. Given Family Child Care tutors travel to multiple locations and take on additional leadership and organizational tasks, tutors serve part time but receive an increased living allowance.

“If you are interested in increasing your leadership and teaching skills, as well as having a strong impact on student outcomes, this innovative pilot is a great choice for your service year,” says Becky Scott-Rudnick, Director of Family Child Care.

What’s Next?

In order to meet the needs of children across the state, Reading Corps in Family Child Care is now expanding to Bloomington for the first time for the 2018-19 school year. A total of three members are needed in Bloomington, as well as 13 in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and six in St. Cloud.

If you’re interested in taking your service outside the school or would like more information, please contact program manager Nou Thao.

Want to learn more? Check out this Pioneer Press feature to read more about one tutor’s experience serving with Reading Corps in Family Child Care and how she makes a difference for children in her community.

 
 
 
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Making a Major Impact

Guest Writer: Michael Gilleo, Math Enrichment Tutor at Northeast College Prep in Minneapolis, MN

On a Friday morning in late March, I walked into my classroom and found a stack of handmade thank-you cards on my desk. On top of the pile was a sticky note with “From your 5th graders” and a heart scribbled on it. I only work with six kids from 5th grade, but all 24 students in the class had made me a card. Except for the students in Math Corps, the only interaction I have with their class is during the last hour of the school day on Fridays. During this time I hang out in their classroom, helping with projects or playing games. I later talked to their classroom teacher and she told me that the whole class had elected to make me cards during recess. I asked what I had done to earn such a gift.

“I don’t think it was specifically anything you did,” she told me. “These kids are smart, they can just tell. They’ve grown up in a lot of different environments, and they can sense when someone really cares about them. They know that you care and I think they appreciate that more than anything.”

My goal had always been to make a difference in my students’ lives, but I thought I was limited to the kids I tutored in Math Corps. I quickly realized that “my students” were not just the ones I tutored—I had been able to impact an entire classroom.

I love when students come into my room before school to say good morning, or ask if they can stay with me for recess. It is even more rewarding when a student asks if they can call home to share their most recent benchmark score, or when their parents tell me that they talk about Math Corps all the time at home. Not only have I developed a positive and fun relationship with my students, but they have also taken an active role in their learning and are proud to share that with others.

Your experience serving with Math Corps (and Reading Corps) will be what you make it. When I was considering becoming a tutor, I was going to take a gap year after graduating so that I could apply to medical school. I wanted to spend that year doing something that would help me grow as a person and better prepare me for the career of a physician. Since serving with Math Corps, I have been accepted to the University of Minnesota Medical School and will start classes there this August!

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