Alumni

From Reading Tutor to a Career in Sustainability, Reading Corps alum continues to focus on the future.

From Reading Tutor to a Career in Sustainability, Reading Corps alum continues to focus on the future.

How does an environmental science graduate get established in a new community and build a bridge to their next professional opportunity? For Jackie Maahs, the answer was a service year with Reading Corps! “Reading Corps was just a really good fit for me,” she explains. “You’re serving in the schools and schools are really the heart of the community.” 

Phill HallFrom Reading Tutor to a Career in Sustainability, Reading Corps alum continues to focus on the future.
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A Summer of Service with AmeriCorps’ Emergency Response Initiative Helps Community and Members

A Summer of Service with AmeriCorps’ Emergency Response Initiative Helps Community and Members

Katherine Ichinose, a Junior at St. Olaf, had been looking for a way to help her community during the onset of COVID-19. Her plans for the summer had been nullified due to the pandemic, and community support became her paramount objective. This is when she found AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative (ERI). ERI was launched last summer in an effort to provide needed support to nonprofits, community, and government organizations to keep their vital resources available to the community. For Katherine, ERI was the perfect opportunity to support her community. 

Phill HallA Summer of Service with AmeriCorps’ Emergency Response Initiative Helps Community and Members
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Design Your Life with a New Innovative Course

Design Your Life with a New Innovative Course

This story was published originally by ServeMinnesota.

Dean Kephart – the Vice President of Insight & Change at ServeMinnesota — has been practicing human-centered design, or design thinking, for nearly 10 years, after studying design thinking principles established by professors from Stanford University. His interest started when he was in community relations and education at Target Corporation and went along with a team of design thinking experts from Target to Joplin, Missouri, a small city devastated by an EF5 tornado. The team offered its time and expertise to help Joplin rebuild using the principals of human-centered design. Three years ago, Kephart was introduced to Designing Your Life, a book and lesson plan to take the principles of design thinking and refocus them to your own lives.

Darcie MooreDesign Your Life with a New Innovative Course
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Tutoring Took Her in a New Direction

Alumni Feature: Terry Chapel

Terry Chapel had been in the medical field for several years when she found herself longing for a new career. Looking to change things up, she decided to make the move from Oklahoma to Minnesota. That’s when she learned about Reading Corps.

Photo of tutor, Terry Chapel

Terry Chapel, Reading Corps Alumni and PreK Educator

As a lifelong lover of reading, joining Reading Corps seemed like the perfect opportunity. Terry also recognized the great need for tutors. “I was surprised by the statistics,” she shared. “I was sad so many students don’t have the tools to succeed and wanted to give them the opportunity to read and find joy in it like I do.”

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From Banking to Early Childhood Education. Reading Corps and Math Corps Helped this Mom Achieve her Dream of Becoming a Teacher.

From Banking to Early Childhood Education. Reading Corps and Math Corps Helped this Mom Achieve her Dream of Becoming a Teacher.

Stephanie Scierka always dreamed of being a teacher, but the timing never seemed right. About 4 years ago, Reading Corps and Math Corps helped get her there.

At the time, Stephanie and her husband were living in a small town in Pennsylvania where she worked as a loan officer. The thought of teaching was always in the back of her mind. “I wasn’t loving my job,” Stephanie recalls. “I knew I was meant to teach because even at the bank, I found that I was the happiest training and teaching new employees.”

Darcie MooreFrom Banking to Early Childhood Education. Reading Corps and Math Corps Helped this Mom Achieve her Dream of Becoming a Teacher.
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From AmeriCorps to State Office, Rep. Ami Wazlawik’s Career Exemplifies Service to Community

From AmeriCorps to State Office, Rep. Ami Wazlawik’s Career Exemplifies Service to Community

This story was published originally by ServeMinnesota.

Minnesota State Legislator Ami Wazlawik is probably similar to a lot of elected officials who say they have public service in their blood.

However, with three stints in AmeriCorps – serving in Minnesota Reading Corps, the Summer Reads program and AmeriCorps VISTA – before running for state office, Wazlawik has the record to prove it. She said her draw to service actually goes back to planting trees near the Mississippi River bank as a child with her family – one of many family volunteer efforts that made an impression on the White Bear Lake native.

Darcie MooreFrom AmeriCorps to State Office, Rep. Ami Wazlawik’s Career Exemplifies Service to Community
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Service Gives Future Teacher a Head Start

Reading Corps Tutor Chelsea SmithChelsea Smith had just started an intro to education course at Normandale Community College when she first heard about Reading Corps. Her professor had briefly mentioned it, explaining that a student had served in the past.

From the beginning, Chelsea’s interest was sparked. “I think what was most exciting was that I would have experience in a school before I even finished my teaching degree,” she says. “A lot of people don’t get that opportunity.”

After starting her service at Four Seasons A+ Elementary in St. Paul, Chelsea quickly realized that this was the perfect opportunity for a future educator. While serving, she learned how to teach each individual student based on their needs – a skill that is difficult to grasp when in a full classroom. She also made valuable connections with students, other tutors, teachers and administrators. 

Through her service, Chelsea became more confident, built valuable skills to use in her future classroom and discovered she liked being part of a larger movement working for change. “I’ve never really had that before. I truly felt like I was a part of something, working towards a greater goal.”

To those who are considering service, Chelsea believes that it is important to be confident in yourself and your abilities. It can seem daunting at first, but I promise everything falls into place once you’re in the school and meeting students. It’s all worth it.” 

After a year of service, Chelsea began her first year as a teacher at Four Seasons A+ Elementary School in September 2019. We are so proud of her!

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Darcie MooreService Gives Future Teacher a Head Start
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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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Darcie MooreFast Forward – How Service Shaped One Alumni’s Career
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Reading Corps: Where I Learned How to Teach Reading

Guest Writer: Jon Gustafson, former Elementary Literacy Tutor at Highland Park Elementary in St. Paul, MN

It was 2015 and I was in the process of acquiring my K-6 elementary teaching license in Minnesota. I wanted to get experience in an elementary school as soon as possible, I just wasn’t sure how to get my foot in the door. That was until I heard about Minnesota Reading Corps.

I was assigned to Highland Park Elementary in St. Paul as a K-3 Reading Corps literacy specialist. Before the school year started, I attended the Reading Corps Institute—four days of intensive training in literacy interventions that would be my first introduction to evidence-based practices for teaching reading.

When I think back to that training, I marvel at how thousands of non-experts like myself were transformed into data-driven literacy practitioners in just one week, and that we were provided with research-based teaching skills that were not necessarily being taught in the graduate level coursework required to become a licensed teacher.

Throughout the school year I completed daily literacy interventions with 10-12 students and watched as my students experienced growth in the “Big 5” components to reading outlined by the National Reading Panel—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. I was given monthly expert coaching from a seasoned literacy expert (a retired teacher) and used data-driven decision making to adjust individual student interventions. By the end of the school year, I knew I was a part of something special—and that the experiences and knowledge I gained through the Minnesota Reading Corps were an important part of my teacher training.

Until stumbling across the now infamous September 2018 Hard Words, Why aren’t kids being taught to read published by APM Reports and reported by Emily Hanford, I did not realize that my experience was so widely shared. In the piece, Hanford notes that “in 2016, the National Council on Teacher Quality…reviewed the syllabi of teacher preparation programs across the country and found that only 39 percent of them appeared to be teaching the components of effective reading instruction.” I myself was not explicitly taught the “Big 5” literacy components, nor trained in interventions to help struggling students in those areas—but I was in Reading Corps.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that Minnesota Reading Corps was by far the most useful preparation for teaching reading that I experienced. I hope that as the discussion about teacher preparation progresses, we can acknowledge it is unacceptable that more than 60 percent of American fourth-graders are not proficient readers. Research-based answers on how to solve this problem exist, and thanks to Reading Corps there is an effective model to follow and build upon.

 

Jon Gustafson served with Reading Corps during the 2015-16 school year and currently works as a 5th grade teacher at Hennepin Middle School in Minneapolis.

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National Service and American Democracy: New College Course

Interested in diving deeper into how national service supports democracy and community development? Wondering how you will continue to make an impact after your service term ends? Our partners at ServiceYear have teamed up with Arizona State University to offer a new online course geared specifically toward service-minded people like you.

This 3-credit hour course will explore how civic engagement has shaped American Democracy throughout history and how it continues to impact democracy today. You’ll explore what makes American democracy distinct, how to focus your civic engagement in light of government structures, what roles service and social engagement play in civil society, and how identity gives us insight into the mobilization of groups. At the conclusion of the class, you will have an idea of how to apply what you care about to a specific pathway to make a difference.

This learning opportunity is available for free or for academic credit. There is no prerequisite to enroll, and the course is taught at a college freshman level. If you’re budgeting for the expense, you have 12 months after you complete the course to pay the tuition ($400). You can also choose to use your education award to cover the cost (just indicate your intent to do so when you sign up for the course).

The course runs from March 12 through May 7, so be sure to apply by March 9 to participate!

View the course syllabus and the course calendar to see if this is the right opportunity for you or check out the FAQ page to learn more.

 

Note: Current members who are interested in applying should reach out to their Program Manager to discuss how this course could best fit into their service term.

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