The community of White Bear Lake is partnering with Minnesota Alliance With Youth to bring AmeriCorps members into the schools.
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 actually think while the Americorps program is great, this is something that should be in every school as the norm,” said Mary Monitor, a volunteer in her fourth year serving White Bear Lake Area Schools. “The kids that we serve are more the kids who could go down the line of getting in big trouble with drugs or with the police.”
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.
According to Monitor, 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.
“The most important piece is establishing a relationship, because White Bear is a big school and kids can feel lost,” she said.
Not only are Promise Fellows 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, afterschool activities and service to community are some of the evidence-based interventions that AmeriCorps Promise Fellows use with their students each day.
Monitor works with ninth and tenth graders at White Bear Lake Area High School’s North Campus.
“I was looking for something in the school district, and something that would be more meaningful than what I was doing,” Monitor said.
It is clear she believes this is meaningful work.
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 getting ready to retire, someone who is looking to do something during a gap year in college, prospective teachers and social workers, and more.
“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.
According to France Ullmer, research shows that when young people are seen they are more likely to thrive.
Monitor echoed that thought.
“I think that it helps the kids realize their worth,” she said.
The Minnesota Alliance With Youth has partnered with White Bear Lake for seven years now.
“Through AmeriCorps, we can offer positions at schools at a lower cost,” France Ullmer said.
This is also a valuable learning opportunity for those interested in serving.
With the challenges students will be facing in the coming school year amid the pandemic, the support of caring adults is critical. In spring 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 than normal.