Students ‘STRIVE’ for better outcomes

The STRIVE volunteers are North Branch Rotary members who offer their time and advice to seniors at North Branch Area High School. Photo by Derrick Knutson
The STRIVE volunteers are North Branch Rotary members who offer their time and advice to seniors at North Branch Area High School.
Photo by Derrick Knutson

Nearing graduation can be a daunting time in any student’s life, especially if that student has experienced struggles throughout high school.

There are numerous reasons why grades aren’t as high as they could be for some students. Perhaps life at home is a distraction, or maybe school isn’t challenging enough. Some students might just need a little extra help in some subject areas.

Other factors that result in low grades certainly apply.

At North Branch Area High School, members of North Branch Rotary are part of a new program that aims to help seniors be more successful during and after high school.

Students Taking a Renewed Interest in the Value of Education is in its second year at the school. The program pairs Rotary members with one or two students, and they meet 12 times per school year.

The students talk to the Rotary members about a myriad of issues, ranging from basic stressors to larger topics like applying for college financial aid. Rotary members also work with the students on issues like time management and study practices, but they do not tutor the students.

The Rotary Club organizes civic-minded professional men and women to meet weekly and volunteer their time, money and expertise to improve their communities.

STRIVE Chairman and Cambridge Rotary President Eric Champion said, to be eligible for the program, a student must be in the bottom one-third of the class in terms of grade point average.

Those students are sent a letter asking if they’d consider being involved in STRIVE.

Once they’re accepted into the program, they must attend all STRIVE meetings, report to class on time, bring appropriate learning materials to the classes, participate in activities as directed, treat other members of the group with respect and honor requests of the Rotary members who volunteer their time to the program.

So far, Champion deems the program a success.

“It’s been rewarding to all the mentors we have in our club,” he said. “It’s fun, can be daunting at some times, but it’s very rewarding, to say the least. Hopefully, we’re making a difference.”


‘It’s been a lot of help’

At the STRIVE meeting Thursday, NBAHS seniors Rachel Juve and Laura Cook commented about their perceptions of the program.

“I think it’s been a lot of help,” Cook said, noting she’s liked having people to talk to who have been through college.

Juve echoed that assertion.

“It’s really nice to have someone to talk to, even about random issues that you’re stressing out about,” she said. “We’ve talked a lot about different options for colleges and things you can do while you’re there and how to get there. Everyone has been really helpful.”

Cook and Juve have utilized the program to paint clearer pictures of what they’d like to do after college.

Cook plans to be a social worker and has already been accepted to Anoka Ramsey Community College to start her studies. After she’s done with her two years in Cambridge, she plans to move to Alaska, enroll in a university and finish the rest of the courses needed for her degree.

Juve will be attending Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., where she plans to major in history and minor in art.


Finding focus

Sue Humble, an administrative assistant for the Chisago County Soil and Water Conservation District, said her son Zakry completed the STRIVE program last year.

She said Zakry received high marks on tests throughout high school, As and Bs most of the time, but completing homework was a struggle.

She said when he started with the STRIVE program with Champion as his mentor, he began to make positive strides.

Sue Humble added that Champion was a former Boy Scout, and Zakry was involved with the Scouts.

“He took a liking to Eric (Champion),” she said.

By working with Champion and the STRIVE program, Zakry was able to focus more on school, and his grades improved.

Sue Humble said he received an award from the program at the end of the year for showing the most improvement among the students in STRIVE.

Zakry then finished with the Boy Scout program and became an Eagle Scout, got his own car and landed two part-time jobs.

Sue Humble said Zakry plans to work for a while and save some money while he thinks about what career he’d like to pursue.  She lauded Champion and the other Rotary members who take the time to work with the STRIVE students.

“As a mom, you can say until you’re purple, ‘You’re so smart,’” she said. “But when someone else can see that and they step in and say, ‘you can do this,’ it means a lot more.”

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