The Minnesota Reading and Math Corps, part of the AmeriCorps umbrella, is a network of more than 1,200 members able to help 34,000-plus students statewide. Tutors commit to a year of service, during which they undergo training and earn a living allowance of up to $526 biweekly and an education award of up to $5,645 to help pay for furthering their own education. Full-time tutors are also eligible to receive health insurance.
"Doing this is a way that people can be involved in the community and make a real difference," said Anna Peters, the recruitment and outreach manager for the Minnesota Reading and Math Corps. "We're looking for people who are dedicated to serving their community, and to working with kids who need that extra support."
Literacy and math tutors come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from high school graduates to retirees, mid-career individuals considering a professional change, and parents looking for a way to support their child's school. "We get people from all walks of life and different career aspirations wanting to be tutors," said Peters. "It is a great way for aspiring teachers to get their foot in the door but a majority of them bring a variety of stories."
Peters said math and literacy tutors fill a critical role for students struggling with math and reading. The Minnesota Reading and Math Corps is a research-based, statewide initiative that works to help every Minnesota student become a successful reader by the end of third grade, and proficient in math by the end of eighth grade. According to their studies, one out of three third-graders in the state are not reading at the expected grade level. In addition, 40 percent of Minnesota fourth through eighth-graders are not proficient in math.
"You have to be able to read in order to learn," said Peters. "And we've found that having a student's algebra skills in place by eighth grade is a strong indication of college success."
Sabrina Edwards, who is starting her third year as a literacy tutor at the YWCA of Minneapolis, said she first got involved in her daughter's education as a volunteer in the infant room at the Parents In Community Action's McKnight location. As her daughter got older, Edwards wanted to stay involved in the school system. A friend, who was a literacy tutor for Minnesota Reading Corp at the time, told Edwards about the benefits of the program and became eager to sign up.
Along with the rigorous training in teaching strategies and skill building, tutors with the Minnesota Reading and Math Corps are assigned an internal coach who helps manage them to manage student caseloads, discuss goals, or address any issues. However, those involved with the program said relationships that tutors build with the students are often the most unexpected reward.
"I thought it would be tough to work with these kids, but it's so easy," said Edwards enthusiastically. "It's so rewarding. The kids love it and they love being in the program because it builds their confidence and improves their test scores. Plus, (the Reading Corp) gives us the tools that we need, that also makes it easier."
Edwards is taking advantage of the education grant provided through to the Reading Corp to begin taking sonography classes at Augsburg College this fall. "This program gave me the opportunity to stay involved in my daughter's education, and to further my education as well. I don't know where I'd be if it hadn't been for the Reading Corp," said Edwards.
Additional information on the Minnesota Reading and Math Corps is available at www.ServeMNAction.org.