The Minnesota Alliance With Youth is recruiting passionate individuals to serve Minnesota’s young people through the AmeriCorps Promise Fellow program.
AmeriCorps members commit to an 11-month term of service of serving young people in schools and community organizations to help students stay engaged in school and learning.
“I think helping the kids in general will directly benefit the community because you are only as strong as the ones who need the most help,” said Sam Richter, a former Promise Fellow who served in Centennial Middle School this past year.
Promise Fellows typically have a caseload of 30 kids each. They build relationships with those young people, rather like a mentor and a tutor all rolled into one.
“I think it’s important to stress that you are doing something that is a need in the school systems already,” Richter said. “A lot of the kids that I work with, a lot of them don’t have the extra support at home.”
Richter, who worked with eighth graders at Centennial, made sure that none of them slipped through the cracks.
“I would just hold them accountable for their missing work and tutor them in math and be their friend at the same time,” Richter said.
The Minnesota Alliance With Youth, a Minnesota nonprofit, has been around for over 20 years. It works to give youth a voice.
“Our goal is to support young people in sixth through 12th grade who are at risk of dropping out,” said Sarah France Ullmer, the national service director of Minnesota Alliance With Youth.
AmeriCorps Promise Fellows assist students in reaching their full potential and set them on a trajectory for high school graduation and lifelong success.
“The opportunity to serve as a Promise Fellow is a great opportunity for anybody in a time of transition in their life,” France Ullmer said.
This includes those individuals who are getting ready to retire, someone who is looking to do something during a gap year in college, prospective teachers and social workers, and more.
“I joined because I graduated, and I was looking for some experience in a school setting,” Richter said. “Promise Fellow: it ended up being something that fit my interests, and it was kind of like giving back to the community at the same time.”
“People who are effective and good at this role are really purpose-driven people who are just great at working with young people,” France Ullmer said.
Not only are they building relationships, but they also sometimes do service projects with their students to help local organizations. Through data-driven support, AmeriCorps Promise Fellows help young people become connected, engaged and committed to learning. Goal-setting, relationship-building, after-school activities and service to community are some of the evidence-based interventions that AmeriCorps Promise Fellows use with their students each day.
“Research shows that when young people are seen, they are more likely to thrive,” France Ullmer said.
“Through AmeriCorps, we can offer positions at schools at a lower cost.”
This is also a valuable learning opportunity for those interested in serving.
Promise Fellows serve during the 2020-2021 academic year with a service start date of Sept. 1, and receive a modest living stipend, health and dental insurance, an Education Award upon successful completion of service, and ongoing professional development training.
“It’s a great experience. You get so connected with your kids,” Richter said.
With the challenges students will be facing in the coming school year amid the pandemic, the support of caring adults is critical. In the spring of 2020, the program saw an increase in the number of students improving their school attendance during the school shutdowns due to COVID-19. At a time when kids were struggling with the transition to distance learning and the isolation of social distancing, the support of a Promise Fellow helped children engage at greater levels.