Mentors ensure youth are prepared to succeed in school and life – True North AmeriCorps

Northeastern Minnesota suffers from a high poverty rate which leaves many families without the resources for academic enrichment. Nearly half of Duluth Public School students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch (MDE, 2015), and 17.7% of children in Saint Louis County live in poverty (Kids Count, 2012). These children often lack community support and positive role models outside the family. Far too many become at risk for dropping out when they are older, because of low attendance, poor behavior, or inadequate classroom performance.

True North AmeriCorps helps change the trajectory for at risk students by placing adults as mentors and tutors in schools and youth serving agencies in Duluth and Proctor. True North AmeriCorps members help ensure youth in grades K-8 are prepared for academic, civic, and economic success by connecting with a caring adult. Last year, True North AmeriCorps members served more than 1,000 children in persistently low-performing schools and community agencies in Duluth and Proctor.

True North member Martha Clanaugh served her second year with the program at Laura MacArthur Elementary, a K-5 elementary school in her hometown of Duluth. Martha’s daily activities at the school included working with students on her caseload who need extra support in reading and math to help them meet or exceed grade level expectations. She said, “Seeing the students get so excited from learning is what I really love about this program.” With consistent tutoring and encouragement, her students made great strides in reaching their targets.

Twice a week, Martha ran an afterschool program called Destination Imagination, where she helps “students to broaden their creativity in a structured setting.” Destination Imagination issues a series of challenges each year and teams must work together to come up with an innovative solution. In its first year, Laura MacArthur Elementary’s team placed first at the regional and state levels of competition, and earned the opportunity to compete at the global level in Knoxville, Tennessee. Martha said the team, school, and community all pulled together to support the students and raise travel funding. She said, “This entire experience, seeing how much this meant to so many people, really helped me to see the importance of service.”

True North AmeriCorps is changing the outcomes for at risk students who otherwise lack supports and resources. Members help students on their caseloads to be successful and to realize their potential.

Martha (right) at the Destination Imagination competition.

Martha (right) at the Destination Imagination competition.