Member Spotlight

Supporting Students from a Distance

photo - woman red reading corps jacket

With so much uncertainty surrounding the school year, Reading and Math Corps tutors are needed more than ever to support our students. Kim Nelson, a reading tutor at Sawtooth Mountain Elementary in Grand Marais, is an example of one tutor working to change the lives of the students she works with. “Kim adds so much as a tutor,” says principal Megan Myers. “We’re so thankful to have her!” 

Before becoming a tutor in October 2019, Kim’s own life was changed by cancer and autoimmune disease diagnosis a few years prior. After multiple battles overcoming what doctors said was a 38% chance to live, Kim returned to the professional world and eventually found out about the opportunity to tutor in Grand Marais through a Facebook ad.  

Suzanne PagelSupporting Students from a Distance
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Stories of Service During COVID-19

Stories of Service During COVID-19

When Minnesota schools closed in response to the COVID-19 crisis, our members stepped up. Over the last few weeks, reading and math tutors have pivoted, shifting their service from tutoring in schools to supporting the community and students in new ways. We’ve collected some inspiring stories of service – take a look!

Suzanne PagelStories of Service During COVID-19
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Mother Inspired by Son’s Success in Reading Corps

Mother Inspired by Son’s Success in Reading Corps

Brianna Mielke has always been drawn to mission-driven work. Whether working to support domestic violence and sexual assault survivors or those experiencing a mental health crisis, she loved making a difference. After ten years in social services, it was her son who inspired her to become a tutor.

Suzanne PagelMother Inspired by Son’s Success in Reading Corps
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A New Direction through Service

A New Direction through Service

Lindsay Bass-Sessions had been working in retail for several years when she decided she was ready for a change of pace. Turns out service was exactly what she was looking for.

Suzanne PagelA New Direction through Service
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On a Path from Tutor to Teacher

Teaching was always a part of Bridget Neurohr’s plan. She was passionate about the work and had gotten into an early childhood education program. But eventually life got in the way and she put her educational goals on the back burner. Fortunately, Reading Corps has allowed her to make them a priority once again.

Prior to Reading Corps, Bridget was working as a home health aide. She was passionate about the mission and enjoyed her clients, but was ready for a change. It was time to look for something new.

At that time, her husband was working for the Minnesota Literacy Council. “He thought I’d be a great fit for that kind of work,” Bridget says. “We started looking for similar education-based programs and that’s when we found Reading Corps!”

After beginning her service, it didn’t take long for Bridget to realize that Reading Corps was exactly what she had been looking for. “I never have had a job where they value you as much as Reading Corps does,” she shares. “The organization builds you up to succeed through multiple levels of support. It’s just great to be a part of.”

As a tutor at Granada Huntley East Chain, Bridget conducts literacy-based interventions with her students every day. While it can be difficult work at times, she finds the end result so rewarding. For instance, last year she worked with a student who made it clear that he did not want to be in Reading Corps. She tried everything – new strategies, extra encouragement and incentives. Eventually, she made a breakthrough and he started to successfully complete the interventions. “At the start of our time together, he didn’t think reading was important,” Bridget says. “In the end, he just wanted more. Seeing that change in a student’s mindset is the best part about tutoring.”

While service allowed Bridget to make a difference in the lives of students, it opened doors for her as well. “Tutoring reminded me of where I wanted to be,” Bridget explains. “It reaffirmed my education goals and made it clear that I am meant to be a teacher.”

The education award allowed her to go back to school and she will complete her associate’s degree this fall. Bridget already has her sights on getting her teaching degree in the near future. We can’t wait to see what’s in store!

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Suzanne PagelOn a Path from Tutor to Teacher
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A Gap Year of Service

A Gap Year of Service

Alyssa Tulloch wasn’t quite ready to head to college after graduating from Creative Arts Secondary School last fall. Instead, she decided to take a gap year. Lucky for us, she has chosen to spend that time with Minnesota Math Corps.

“My teacher told me about this opportunity,” Alyssa says. “He knew I love math and love working with kids.”

For Alyssa, it seems like the perfect fit. She can gain experience and save money for college while figuring out what she wants to do next. But for now, Alyssa is happily working with students at the very school she graduated from.

“I just love this school,” Alyssa shares. “It is truly an amazing community that gives students so many opportunities to be themselves. It’s great to be able to be here now, helping others.”

One of her favorite parts of service? The appreciation she receives.

“I think a lot of teachers appreciate me and what I do,” Alyssa explains. “When they don’t have enough time or resources, I can be the person who individually gives students extra support.”

Alyssa strives to make all of her students feel comfortable and confident while learning. She works hard to be seen as an authority figure, but also someone who students can relate to and trust. She says the trust and relationships she builds help her be a better tutor.  “Not every student learns the same way,” she says. “I love being able to cater to their needs and make learning more accessible.”

At the end of the day, the most important thing to Alyssa is helping students succeed. “You use basic math everywhere,” she states. “It’s important that these students are confident in their math skills so they can excel in school and succeed in life.”

If you want to learn more about Alyssa’s story, check out her recent feature on KARE 11’s Breaking the News.

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Suzanne PagelA Gap Year of Service
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Fast Forward – How Service Shaped One Alumni’s Career

Fast Forward – How Service Shaped One Alumni’s Career

Throughout the state, past AmeriCorps members continue to make a big impact. Using skills they refined during service, our alumni stand out among other applicants in terms of professionalism, communication, practical experience and more. AmeriCorps is a launching pad for leaders! 

Recently, Reading Corps alum Briana Gruenewald was recognized as one of Finance & Commerce’s Rising Young Professionals, an annual list featuring successful, young leaders in Minnesota businesses.

Upon earning a degree in journalism and marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Briana served with Minnesota Reading Corps as a literacy tutor and ThreeSixty Journalism as a VISTA member. “I joined Minnesota Reading Corps as a preschool literacy tutor right after graduating from college,” Briana said. “With a journalism degree, I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist but didn’t quite know what career move I should make next.”

As a Reading Corps tutor, Briana served PreK students at American Indian Magnet. Looking back she says her year of service was more than she could have hoped for. “Not only was I making meaningful relationships with students, but I knew I was helping grow their literacy skills because there was data to prove it.” As part of her Reading Corps service, Briana joined a corps-wide communications committee to help recruit tutors. “I truly felt like I was living the dream of getting to make a direct impact on preschoolers’ lives and ensuring many more tutors were recruited to continue the legacy.”

Through service, Briana found a passion for mission-driven work and the nonprofit sector. Today, as a senior account executive and graphic design lead with Bellmont Partners, a public relations agency based in Edina, she focuses on nonprofit clients like Second Harvest Heartland, People Incorporated, MnFIRE, Midwest Dairy and more. “Every day, I get to contribute to life-changing missions – and my AmeriCorps service prepared me for it.” 

Be sure to check out Finance & Commerce’s recent Rising Young Professionals of 2019 feature on Briana. We’re so proud she’s part of the Reading Corps family!

Photo: Sharolyn B. Hagen Photography

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Suzanne PagelFast Forward – How Service Shaped One Alumni’s Career
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Building Math Muscles

Building Math Muscles

Guest Writer: Therese Folsom, Math Enrichment Tutor at Westwood Elementary in Zimmerman, MN

As a Math Corps tutor, I spend my days at Westwood Elementary School in Zimmerman, Minnesota. After retiring from a human resources analyst position with Target, I found that I missed the stimulation of working with a team of people to solve problems. When I saw there was an opening for a math tutor at Westwood Elementary, it seemed like an excellent fit for me!

I knew the position would enable me to help students, but what I did not realize was the extent to which the position would help me grow as a person. The training Minnesota Reading and Math Corps provided was excellent. My coaches and manager were a wonderful support system and helped me succeed.

While at the school, many of the students in my group were quick to tell me that they were not good at math. I let them know that almost everything takes practice and that we would practice together to build their “math muscles”. The weeks flew by and the end of the school year arrived.

During her last session with me, one of my students took my hand and said, “I hated school until I got to come to Math Corps.”  When I heard that, my heart melted and I vowed then and there to spread the good news of Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps.

In August 2019, Therese will begin her third term of service with Minnesota Math Corps. She’s looking forward to helping more students build their skills and confidence!

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Suzanne PagelBuilding Math Muscles
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From High School to AmeriCorps: A Recent Grad’s Decision to Join Reading Corps

From High School to AmeriCorps: A Recent Grad’s Decision to Join Reading Corps

Republished with permission from ServeMinnesota

When Yailyn Moran graduated from high school last spring, she knew that college was in her future. She just wasn’t sure what she wanted to study or where she wanted to go.

So, she decided to take some time to figure it out while serving a good cause — young students in her hometown.

Yailyn, 19, signed up to serve in AmeriCorps as a Reading Corps tutor in Northfield, Minnesota, where she had recently graduated from Northfield High School.

Yailyn Moran, Reading Corps Tutor

“I chose to go into AmeriCorps because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for college yet ,” she said. “I’ve always loved people. I love kids. I have four siblings, so it’s always been easy for me to relate to kids, which made being an AmeriCorps member for Reading Corps a good choice.”

Inspiration to Major in Education

Yailyn said she had been wavering between a career in the medical field or education, and her placement at Sibley Elementary School has swayed her toward becoming a teacher. She said she has been especially inspired by the teachers at the school who talk to her about why they are passionate about their careers in education. Learning about their experiences and listening to their perspectives has been very helpful as she considers her college major, she said.

But the students are her greatest inspiration, Yailyn said. She tutors 15 children from Kindergarten through third grade every day, and she said she especially  enjoys her interactions with the Kindergartners.

“They absorb everything,” she said. “Seeing the progress they make in such a little amount of time is just amazing. Helping them achieve the goals they have to get to is fun and so rewarding – even though they might not always think it’s fun.”

She said that becoming a Reading Corps tutor just out of high school was nerve-wracking at first. However, after going through training and meeting the Sibley teachers, she felt more comfortable with her service. Plus, she said her time with the students is carefully planned and  scripted so that she can optimize the 20 minutes she spends with each of them. “Of course, the kids think 20 minutes is like, forever,” Yailyn said with a laugh.

The kids typically seem happy to see her when she comes to their classroom to pick them up for Reading Corps, which takes place in another room. “They are almost always like, ‘Yes! I get to go with Miss Yailyn!’”

‘It’s Really Going to Pay Off’

In addition to serving full-time in Reading Corps, Yailyn is also enrolled full-time in an online courses at Riverland Community College through the Northfield Community College Collaborative. As an Education Fellow in a new program started by Northfield Promise, her community college tuition and other expenses are paid by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. When she finishes two years of service and school, she said she plans to transfer to a four-year university and will use her AmeriCorps education credit to help cover those costs.

She said her service truly complements her coursework and future direction as an education major. However, she noted that not all Reading Corps members need to have an interest in a career in education. Really, she said, Reading Corps service just requires the right mindset.

“You really have to have patience, go in with an open mind,”
she said. “Not all the sites are the same or have the same resources. You have to be flexible and ready to put in the hours, but you also should realize that it’s really going to pay off in the end.”

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Darcie MooreFrom High School to AmeriCorps: A Recent Grad’s Decision to Join Reading Corps
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