After-school program positively influences the Duluth community

By Abigail Kwiecinski The  Mind 2 Mind program in Duluth aims for more than just after-school homework help; it aspires to educate children in ways beyond basic academia. The after-school program was created 10 years ago, by the East Hillside Patch program, as a place for students in the community to receive help with homework. It also provides children an opportunity to be surrounded by positive role models.

The program takes place in the basement of St. Paul's Episcopal church. It runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the school year and is also in session during certain times in the summer. Parents apply for their students to get in. There are currently about 20 students attending from various schools of ages six to 14 years.

Katie Garretson, a volunteer at Mind 2 Mind, thinks that the program is very useful. "It's a good thing that these kids have something to do after school, because most of them would be going home to empty houses," she said.

The program members have done many things over the years. They have picked up trash in the community, gotten involved in campaigns to discourage smokers from lighting up at bus stops, planted flowers and even cooked meals together.

Tamara Miskovic, the site coordinator, said that the three main goals of Mind 2 Mind are academic achievement, social and life skill development and health and wellness. These are all addressed in half-hour stations that the students move through.

Mind 2 Mind begins with a check-in area. Once there, the children, volunteers and staff each rate their mood on a number scale.

After check-in there is a homework station where there is usually a one-to-one ratio of students to volunteers. Twelve-year-old Bethani is thankful for the help she receives on her homework at Mind 2 Mind. "I hate English," she said of the subject she needs the most help with.

The students also have snack and workshop stations. At the workshop station, the staff tries to involve all the students in one activity, but this doesn't mean just playing kickball together.

Usually the staff tries to incorporate activities that have the potential to teach a lesson. Whether it be seeing a speaker at UMD, making thank-you cards for relatives or cooking something delicious, the students usually seem to find the day entertaining.

"It's something fun to do after school," Bethani said. "I would just be sitting at home watching TV if I weren't here."

Fourteen-year-old Allison has been attending Mind 2 Mind for five years. She finds the program very helpful and believes that it "keeps me focused on my life, and keeps me focused on my work."

Garretson said the effect that Mind 2 Mind has on students is quite obvious, noting that in just over a year she has definitely seen changes in many of the students.

One specific student used to get into many fights, and was not doing well in school. He is now attending as a volunteer and often helps younger students with their homework while doing his own.

"I've really seen a change in him after only a year of me being here," Garretson said.

If you are interested in enrolling your child in Mind 2 Mind or are looking for contact information, check out Grant Community Schools or East Hillside Patch.

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