Achieve Minneapolis looks for grad coaches

Cari Heicklen (right), a volunteer graduation coach through Achieve Minneapolis, smiles with her mentee, a student from Roosevelt High School. Photo courtesy Achieve Minneapolis

Achieve Minneapolis, the nonprofit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools, is looking for volunteers to mentor high school students next school year.

The nonprofit’s graduation-coaches program has mentors work with small groups of ninth-graders who need additional support or individual 12th-graders who are not on track to graduate.

Graduation coaches meet with their student or students for one hour a month twice a month and provide additional email support between meetings. About 120 coaches serve 300 students in Roosevelt, Southwest Edison and Patrick Henry high schools.

Graduation Coaches Manager Amy Shapiro said the nonprofit is looking for mentors who are open minded and who enjoy being with youth. Research tells them that one in three young people in the U.S. will grow up without a mentor, she said, adding that a supportive and caring adult can make an impact.

“All it takes is one caring adult that can help make a difference,” she said.

Cari Heicklen, a judicial term clerk at the U.S. District Court, worked one-on-one this year with a 12th-grader at Roosevelt. She said she would listen to what was happening in his life during their meetings and check in with him via email.

She tried to keep him excited about graduating, she said, and let him know that she cares about his future.

“It lets them know they have a team of people supporting them,” Heicklen said of the program. “And I love being on their team.”

Heicklen, who is from New York, said volunteering in the program contributed to her wanting to stay in this community.

Her mentee, a student named Antonio, said in a video posted by Achieve Minneapolis that the program gave him the extra push to graduate. He said he and Heicklen talked about what credits he ended to make up and what he needed to do to get into Dakota County Technical College.

He said he could relate to Heicklen, a recent law school graduate, because she just went through a similar experience of graduating.

Mentor Preenon Huq, a junior at Augsburg College, also mentored a 12th-grader at Roosevelt this school year. He said he would highly recommend the program to people, adding that he was able to give his mentee tips in areas such as time management and other skills.

Mentor Preenon Huq (right) and his mentee, a 12th-grader at Roosevelt High School. Photo courtesy Achieve Minneapolis
Mentor Preenon Huq (right) and his mentee, a 12th-grader at Roosevelt High School. Photo courtesy Achieve Minneapolis

“It just felt good that he knew that there was someone there believing in him every two weeks,” Huq said. “… Every single one of the students felt a meaningful impact at the end of the program.”

Last year, 96 percent of participating seniors completed the program with a plan for post-secondary education, work or another opportunity. Visit to learn more about becoming a coach or to apply.