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Success coaches wanted to help students

Students First, a collaborative initiative that involves numerous community organizations and leaders striving to help students create their own success plan and have access to a caring adult, is looking for adults from the community to serve as student success coaches for area seventh-graders.

Originating with "Bemidji Leads!" and facilitated by Beltrami Area Service Collaborative and Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Students First embarked in a trial phase this year. Now, the program is looking for volunteers from the community to help with the program.

Individuals older than 21 years interested in becoming a success coach are invited to attend one of two orientation sessions to be held 4-6 p.m. Monday or noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Beltrami County Administration Building's conference room.

Participating students and coaches will be asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their interests and strengths, which will be used by a Students First educator to pair coaches with students.

Coaches will then be asked to spend one half-hour with the student once a month from March until May.

The ultimate goal of the initiative is to have each student have access to a caring adult and to continue to develop their own success plan throughout their junior high and high school career.

The project is not aimed at troubled and dysfunctional students. Students First focuses on students who have potential but need guidance and direction. Coaches will help them develop short- and long-term individualized plans for success.

At least 60 coaches have signed up, but 30 more are needed, Students First Director Lara Gerhardson said.

"The students are really excited to meet the success coaches," she said.

The role of coaches is not to keep a student entertained for one half-hour, Gerhardson said. Rather, coaches will be given guided conversation starters and professional development materials from a Students First educator.

In addition, all meetings will take place during school hours and at the school.

"We're looking for a variety of people with a variety of interests," Gerhardson said. "All of the research we've looked at has shown that having a caring adult in one's life is one of the top indicators of success."

After attending the orientation session, coaches will need to register for the program and the school district will then perform a background check on the individual.

"Coaches will get to make an impact on the students and the community in a very manageable amount of time," Gerhardson said. "They, too, will learn about their own strengths."

For details or questions about the initiative or about becoming a student success coach, contact Gerhardson at (218) 333-8042 or email her at