Promise Fellows planned for Spring Lake Park schools

District 16 is in the process of hiring 10 Promise Fellows to help students lagging behind academically.

Denise Waalen, director of education services, announced the district has been accepted into the program presented by Minnesota Alliance With Youth. Plans are to place six fellows at Westwood Middle School and four at Spring Lake Park High School.

Waalen made her comments in a report at the Nov. 13 regular school board meeting.

MAWY partners with AmeriCorps and ServeMinnesota to host the Promise Fellows program.

Fellows are college graduates who work for nearly one year in a ratio of 1:30 students.

In total, the 10 fellows will reach 300 students in the district’s schools. The initiative supports the district’s mission of personalization for each student.

“It’s a very nice fit with college readiness and our systems of intervention,” Waalen said.

The program is not targeted for students receiving special education services. Rather it is intended for students who “need an extra boost,” she said.

The fellows will help students get to school on time and help those who are truant. Fellows assist students in choosing the appropriate courses for college readiness and they serve as an adult role model to students.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to get more adults in to help schools,” said Colleen Vranish, District 16 school board chairwoman. “It will be interesting to see how kids blossom under this.”

The fellows will spend four to six hours a week looking into student data and grades to help better serve children with whom they will be working.

Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg cited Northfield Public School District. About six years ago, the high school graduation rate in Latino students was at 38 percent. With the help of Promise Fellows, the graduation rate among Latino students soared to 100 percent, he said.

The program involves a six-year commitment from MAWY. Districts commit for one year at a time and can withdraw from the program at the end of the commitment period.

Fellows receive a modest living allowance. MAWY pays $6,500 and the district matches with $6,500 per fellow, according to the district.

In return, fellows work 1,725 hours for 50 weeks. Some of their student loans can be deferred under a qualified plan. Fellows also receive health insurance and training and professional development.

The program partners with community-based organizations, such as faith-based groups, school staff, parents, business leaders and government officials.

The Promise Fellows will start working with Spring Lake Park students in December, according to Waalen.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]