Member Spotlight

Mom Begins a New Chapter as Son Starts School

Mom Begins a New Chapter as Son Starts School

Guest Blog by Amy Schiemer
Reading Tutor, Farmington, Minnesota

I was a stay-at-home mom to a special needs five-year-old boy. As we got ready for him to start kindergarten, I began to wonder what was next for me. With other adults taking care of him for 7 hours a day, what was I supposed to do? Should I stay home in case something happened at school, and he needs me? Should I get a full-time job that would have me working nights or weekends away from my family? No to all of it.

Phill HallMom Begins a New Chapter as Son Starts School
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Making a Difference During a Time of Uncertainty

Making a Difference During a Time of Uncertainty

As a recent graduate with a degree in neuroscience, Maeghan Sullivan entered the workforce during a global pandemic and economic downturn. Serving with Reading Corps has enabled Maeghan to pivot with purpose.

Suzanne PagelMaking a Difference During a Time of Uncertainty
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Supporting Students from a Distance

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.  

NewsSupporting 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!

Darcie MooreStories 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.

Darcie MooreMother 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.

Darcie MooreA 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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Darcie MooreOn 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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Darcie MooreA 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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Darcie MooreFast Forward – How Service Shaped One Alumni’s Career
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