As summer winds down and students make last minute trips to Walmart for supplies, reality is starting to set in for most 2013 college graduates: After 15-plus years of schooling, they won’t be cracking textbooks open this fall.
While some are still perusing indeed.com or wondering what a data specialist actually does, others have found a way to develop professionally, gain experience and give back to local communities.
“I have experience volunteering in other capacities, but nothing like this,” said Rachel Miessler, a recent graduate of Luther College. “I definitely have a lot to learn.”
Miessler is one of four Minnesota Reading Corps members — of whom two are recent graduates — who will be serving in Faribault elementary schools this school year, helping kids in pre-school through 3rd grade become successful and confident readers.
Launched in 2003 as a new state program under the larger AmeriCorps umbrella, Minnesota Reading Corps is an opportunity for young adults to help close the achievement gap among students in Minnesota, especially when it comes to literacy.
According to a report released by MinnCAN – an organization that runs results-oriented advocacy campaigns for Minnesota’s most disadvantaged students — in the Faribault Public School District, only 25 percent of black students were proficient in math and reading last year compared to 77.6 percent of their white peers. The achievement gap between low-income and non-low-income student was slightly smaller, with 50.8 percent of low-income students showing proficiency compared to 80.8 percent of non-low-income students.
The Reading Corps volunteers are working to help change these sobering statistics.
“The Minnesota Reading Corps focuses on students that do not qualify for Title 1 services but are below grade level,” said Terry Ronayne, the principal at Roosevelt Elementary School. “It’s direct, one-on-one literacy intervention. They provide a really important service and another piece of the overall literacy puzzle.”
For Miessler, serving as a member of the Reading Corps in Faribault is a chance to make a real impact but also continue forward on a path she has been following for years.
“I started volunteering at the public library in 5th grade,” said Miessler. “I love reading, especially with kids. My ultimate goal is to work with children somewhere in the world.”
Though Miessler will be living on a small stipend — about $500 every two weeks — during her 10-month service term, that doesn’t faze her. She is just happy to be a part of such a powerful program.
“This program is impacting so many kids,” said Miessler.