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Grants sought to provide mentor support for low-performing students

By Nick Longworth
Tony Sanneh, CEO of the Sanneh Foundation, testifies March 7, in favor of HF268, sponsored by Rep. Tama Theis, which would authorize grants to the foundation to provide all-day, in-school, and after-school academic and behavioral interventions for low-performing and chronically absent students. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Continued mentor program funding could provide extra support for continually absent and low-performing students.

HF268, sponsored by Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud), would appropriate $2.5 million per year to the Sanneh Foundation to hire and train staff as mentors who provide in-class and after-school behavior and academic support to students. Dollars could also be used to support mentors pursuing teacher licenses.

The House Education Finance Committee laid the bill over Tuesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. Its companion, SF1189, sponsored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Finance Committee.

The Sanneh Foundation’s Dreamline is a youth advancement program focused on education, wellness and uniting communities through advancing diversity and equity in schools.

“[The foundation] has made an incredible difference in the St. Cloud school district; it makes us all squeal-happy,” Theis said.

The program began there last school year.

“Within six months I knew we were becoming successful because we had students attending school who wouldn’t before,” said Kim Johnson, Dreamline coordinator for St. Cloud Public Schools. “One of the main reasons we have been so successful is the passion of our mentors.”

According to Foundation CEO Tony Sanneh, school mentors have spent more than 260 hours with students so far this school year.

“We build character by holding students accountable and helping them realize their own dreams,” he said. “Our focus is doing whatever we need to do to help kids.”

According to program data, grades have risen as a result.

Students mentored through the Dreamline program in St. Paul Public Schools during the 2015-16 school year saw a 64 percent increase in “A” grades earned; conversely, “D” grades declined by 55 percent and “F” grades by 18 percent.

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