The Future of the St. Paul Police Department Looks Like This

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Victor Rodriguez started changing the face of the St. Paul Police Department in his work as an AmeriCorps member in the Law Enforcement Career Path Academy (LECPA). A partnership between ServeMinnesota, the St. Paul Police Department and Century College, LECPA was designed to increase the understanding of the American legal system and improve trust in local law enforcement.  

This is exactly what Victor hoped to accomplish with his service. 

Victor, now 24, was accepted into the two-year program in May 2017. As a member of LECPA, he took classes and spent time each week fostering positive relationships between law enforcement and the community of St. Paul, especially its youth. In full uniform, Victor and his classmates would go to the library and help students with their homework or hang out at the rec center, playing games and sports with kids.

“There was a young girl at the gym who was scared of the police,” says Victor. “Now, she comes up and hugs us when she sees us. Kids will remember forever the positive interactions they’ve had with law enforcement.”

Years ago, this may have seemed like an unlikely path for Victor. In high school, he had numerous run-ins with the law and graduated from high school by the skin of his teeth. At 18, he found himself on his own, raising his brother and trying to make ends meet. “I tried going to school, but I just had too many bills to pay,” he says.

His own difficulties – and seeing the difficulties of others from his neighborhood – inspire him daily in his work.

 “I had struggles in my childhood, family-wise and streetwise, and it makes me want to be that person who shows support to other kids that are struggling,” says Victor. “I can tell them that they aren’t alone and that I’ve been there. If I’d had that – someone who would have been like a father – I would have turned out better and not made the same mistakes.”

After joining LECPA, Victor and his brother moved back in with their father, and Victor has made strides with his family. “They believe in me now, and that’s something I never felt before,” he says.

Victor estimates that during his service in LEPCA, he spent about 80 hours a week between LECPA and his part-time job as a Metro Transit community service officer, but says he is willing to do whatever it takes to become a police officer. And his plan is working: After graduating from LEPCA this year, he joined the St. Paul Police Department Leader Corps, and he plans to attend the Police Academy.

“I grew up in St. Paul, and I want to help change this city,” he says. “I want to change people’s mentality toward the police. When I started this program, I didn’t know how it would play out, but I’m so thankful for it. It’s affected my life more than I ever thought.”

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    Start Your Service in January 2019

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    Many of our programs currently are looking for new members for a semester of service, from January through May and beyond.

    Imagine yourself as a tutor, a builder, an environmentalist, a substance abuse counselor and more – and learn how you can make an impact on the state of Minnesota through AmeriCorps.

    You can serve anywhere from 18 to 40 hours per week, so you can build it in to your own career plan (much like Victor Rodriguez).

    For more information on the benefits of joining AmeriCorps and how to sign up, visit the ServeMinnesota website or let us know how to best contact you here.

    Learn more about the programs that are recruiting for January below:

    Conservation Corps

    College Possible

    City of Lakes AmeriCorps

    Law Enforcement Career Path Academy

    LEAP (Learning Early Achieves Potential)

    Math Corps

    Minnesota Alliance With Youth - Promise Fellows

    Opportunity Corps

    Reading Corps

    Recovery Corps

    Total Learning Classroom

    Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

    Would you or someone you know be a great addition to one of these programs’ teams? Just fill out this easy contact form and one of us from ServeMinnesota will respond.

    Minnesota Reading Corps Changed This Tutor’s Life

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    What started out as a way to put food on the table turned into a life-changing experience for Rachael Snavely. After years of working in fast-food, Rachael found herself without a job after a company-wide layoff. A friend suggested she apply to serve with Minnesota Reading Corps, which seemed like a stretch to Rachael. Though she had taught herself to read by the time she was 4, she had been homeschooled as a child and had no experience with public education, let alone working with kids. Nonetheless, Rachael decided to go for it. She says tutoring was overwhelming in the beginning, but things quickly fell into place thanks to the Minnesota Reading Corps training. She also received a lot of support from the school where she tutored, Parker Elementary School in Elk River.

                “It was the first position I ever had where I felt proud,” Rachael says. “When I walked down the hallway, I felt taller. Reading Corps made a difference in so many ways, but the first difference it made was with my own self, and that stuck with me.”

                Rachael served with Minnesota Reading Corps for two years, tutoring 96 kindergartners during that time. She now works as a paraprofessional at Elk River High School. Rachael is also in the process of earning her teaching degree from Western Governors University thanks to an education award she received from AmeriCorps as a benefit of her service. Rachael will graduate in May and plans to teach elementary school. She had tried to earn a college degree in the past – three times, to be exact – but financial issues always got in the way. “Just when I had decided college wasn’t for me, AmeriCorps came along,” she says. “I truly never thought it was possible to earn a degree.”

                That isn’t the entirety of Rachael’s journey, though. (Fair warning: You might want to grab a tissue for the next part.)

                What specifically was it about Minnesota Reading Corps that made Rachael completely reconsider her life’s direction? It was one little girl named Jaidyn. Reading Corps tutors who are serving kindergartners work with children in pairs. One of Rachael’s pairs included a girl who quickly graduated from the program, and Jaidyn, who needed more time to practice her skills with letters. Jaidyn was determined that she, too, would graduate from the program just like her partner. A few months later, she graduated with the highest score in the program. “She was just beaming – she was so happy,” recalls Rachael.

                Just a few days later, Rachael received a message from the Parker Elementary School principal. Jaidyn had been killed in a house fire that weekend. Rachael, who attended Jaidyn’s funeral, still gets emotional when she talks about it.

    “That was a turning point for me. You never know how long you’re going to have to make a difference in someone’s life,” she says. “You never know their circumstances. Jaidyn achieved her goal of graduating from the program, and I wanted that for all of my kids. I wanted them to feel successful and feel pride in their work and education. Minnesota Reading Corps changes lives. It gives these kids the power to write their own stories.”

    Study Proves Minnesota Reading Corps Makes a Long-lasting Impact

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    We’ve all heard our peers expound on the effectiveness of a program (the Paleo diet comes to mind), but when was the last time they could actually prove it with cold, hard facts?

    Thanks to an independent study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the leaders of Minnesota Reading Corps can prove that Minnesota’s students are accelerating their growth at a rate that would not happen without the Reading Corps. Results from the study show that students being tutored in reading for 20 minutes a day, every day school is in session, equates to an extra half to full year of schooling. That’s like a kindergartner taking 18 months of reading classes in the span of 9 months. It’s no wonder that in two of Minnesota’s districts with Reading Corps, more than 70 percent of students who had reached reading proficiency by third grade had gone through the program.

    Minnesota Reading Corps works with more than 25,000 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade in approximately 600 schools across the state. The NORC study establishes that, while all program participants show significant improvements in reading, English Language Learners, Black/African American students and male students benefit the most.

    “Recent research shows that basic literacy skills, even in kindergarten, have a direct benefit on reading comprehension as late as 10th-grade, and those are the very skills Reading Corps improved in this study,” says David Parker, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development for ServeMinnesota, which administers AmeriCorps programs like Minnesota Reading Corps. “It also found there’s evidence of a transfer effect, meaning harder reading skills that aren’t necessarily being addressed in the tutoring sessions are showing improvements. This is truly amazing,” noted Dr. Parker, adding that such findings are rare in educational research.

    The 2018 study was a follow up to a 2014 study also conducted by NORC that had similar findings. At the same time it was studying Minnesota, NORC was evaluating Florida Reading Corps and Wisconsin Reading Corps. It found the same tutoring model was having a positive impact on students in those states (the Reading Corps program is replicated in 12 states and the District of Columbia). “This means this program works over time and place, especially for at-risk students,” says Dr. Parker.

    The program currently has more than 1,000 trained AmeriCorps tutors statewide but has openings for many more. Minnesota recently ranked third in the U.S. for AmeriCorps volunteers, making it one of the most philanthropic-minded states in the country.

    Interested in making a major impact on Minnesota’s young students? Visit readingandmath.net or serveminnesota.org. For more information about research, visit Reading Corps Research.

    Book Worm Helps Kids While Realizing His Own Dreams

     Photo credit: Hannah Burlingame/South-West Review-Lillie News

    Photo credit: Hannah Burlingame/South-West Review-Lillie News

    When John Kidd retired from product development in the athletics industry in January 2016, he was thinking about his wife.

    Kathleen Kidd passed away in 2015. She had spent 22 years assisting the education staff at Kaposia Education Center in South St. Paul. “I wanted to see what she saw day to day, walk the same halls she walked,” says John. Less than one month after retiring, he signed up with Minnesota Reading Corps and chose Kaposia as his home base. The program’s mission is for every child in Minnesota to be proficient in reading by third grade. This year, John is working with 12 students, grades kindergarten through third, in 20-minute sessions, three days a week. “They gave me bankers’ hours this year,” he laughs.

                When John and Kathleen married, John became a father to Kathleen’s 5-year-old son and 7-year-old special-needs daughter. He says he spent plenty of time helping the kids study throughout their school career, especially daughter Carol. He was able to transfer the patience he learned with his own kids to his work with Minnesota Reading Corps.

    But it’s not just the students who benefit. John has had a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. He graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in art (more on that later) and theology. “There weren’t a lot of opportunities to teach at that time, but education has always been key for me,” says John.

                Now that he’s in his fourth year with the program, John has watched first graders struggling to read grow into fifth graders with a high level of reading comprehension. “One student went from reading 40 words per minute to 90 words by the end of last year,” says John. “This year, she’s up to 117.”

                John calls his post-retirement gig a fun experience. By now, all of the students in the school, even those who don’t work with John, give a shout out to Mr. Kidd when they see him in the halls. “It’s like parenting without taking them home at night,” John jokes. “It keeps you young. I go home totally tired and thinking about how I can reach that one kid who just isn’t getting it, but it’s still a lot of fun. And it’s so necessary. Kids are suffering, even at the university level. They are arriving at college without the necessary writing skills because they come from a shorthand-texting culture. There’s a big need for more tutors to work with these kids.”

                When he isn’t changing the life of Minnesota’s youth, John is a devout reader, frequently juggling three or four titles at the same time on his Kindle Fire. (During our conversation, he was caught up in The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan.) John has also fallen back in love with painting. A student of da Vinci’s techniques, John says he promised himself when he retired that by the time he was 81, he would complete a painting. He converted part of his living room into a studio, and he’s working on a painting called “Green Eyes.” “I’m being very meticulous about it,” he says. “Just like da Vinci.”