Candace Bunyan is a busy college senior who's well on her way to earning her teaching license and master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota. In addition to being a student, she also works for the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and Center of Academic Planning and Exploration as a peer coach for UMN students, serves as a mentor for Minnesota History Day and teaches in the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools. To top it off, this year she became an AchieveMpls Graduation Coach!
A graduate of Edison High School, Candace says being a Graduation Coach is a satisfying way to give back to today's students. Candace used our Edison Career & College Center extensively when she was a student to learn about college and scholarships options, visit campuses, connect with school-based enrichment programs, access financial aid resources and perfect her college applications. She got great advice and support from our Center coordinator Ms. Nora, who became a key adult mentor in her life. She also participated in our STEP-UP Achieve youth employment program. During her summer internships at at the University of Minnesota and Teach for America she connected with other mentors and solidified her desire to become a teacher.
“The great mentors in my life invested time in me and helped me get where I am today. I want today’s students to have mentors just like I did. When I heard about the Graduation Coaches program I knew this was a wonderful way to get involved and give back.”
As a Graduation Coach for 9th grade students at Edison, Candace and other Coaches received an orientation that introduced the goals of the program, explored teen brain development and best practices in mentoring, and introduced the program curriculum, which guides her twice-monthly meetings with students. “The curriculum is very discussion-based and helps me talk about a wide range of topics that are relevant to my students," she says. "It also helps me create a plan for each session that's flexible enough to respond to what we need to address at each session.”
Candace began her work with her students by setting some ground rules. She asked them what they wanted to get out of the experience and how she could support them. She also helped them set short-term and long-term goals that they revisit at each of their meetings.
“As they got comfortable with me we talked more and more about everything in their lives – school, social things, everything,” she says. “I listened to them and then made sure to follow up with them about what we talked about. Sometimes this was related to Grad Coaches curriculum, other times it was just to check in and see how things were going. The most important thing was that I showed up and was there to listen.”
Join us as a Graduation Coach in 2017-18
Candace is just one of over 120 caring adults who spends an hour twice each month with small groups of 9th graders or one-on-one with 12th graders. Our Coaches range from college students to retirees, young professionals to established business leaders and everything in between.
But they have one thing in common: they believe in the power of Minneapolis youth and want to see them succeed. Throughout the academic year they build strong relationships that help students increase their confidence, graduate on time and create a plan for life after high school. We are tremendously thankful for the gifts of time, expertise and care that our Coaches provide for our students.
and our other life-changing career & college readiness programs.