Graduation took on a new look this spring for students around the country.  For fifty-seven students across the Northwest Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD) consortium, graduation happened May 14, 2020, via video conferencing thus ending their tenure in the Step-Up Mentorship Program.

Students, superintendents, mentors, and NWSISD staff dialed into Google Meets for a celebration to honor the graduates. 

The program included two videos, student testimonials, comments from Step-Up team leaders, program organizers and superintendents, and the Canon Family Scholarship award.

“You are seriously going to change the world,” said Dr. Kim Hiel, Superintendent of Fridley Public Schools, speaking to the young men. “Don’t allow anyone to label you. Remain label-less so you can be limitless.”

“You deserve to be celebrated,” said Ross Giles, Anoka-Hennepin School District student achievement advisor, “and see where your growth and limitless potential will take you.” Giles continued telling the young men that “a purpose driven life will forever change your path.”

Speaker after speaker built on that same message. “…this situation will better prepare you for the future.  You will create the change we need to make it a better place,” said Troy Johnson, IDS728 equity specialist. “Leadership.  It’s about having heart, focus, and determination,” said Ea Porter, Assistant Director, Community Engagement and Recruiting School of Education at St. Thomas University, Minneapolis Campus.  Porter continued with telling the young men, to “be accountable to yourself. Remember, detour does not mean stop, it means to figure out your way around the obstacles.”

Step-Up graduates also shared their thoughts about the Step-Up Mentorship program:
                   …it helped me to become a better person. I developed myself.
                   …my favorite part was all of it!
                   …taught me to not look at one view, now I have an open mind in serving others.
                   …camp was one of my all-time favorite things we did
                   …shaped where my life is right now. It drove me to be a servant leader, help others out
                   …I wanted to give up, and want to thank my brothers, we all grew up together.  I am glad this program was in                                place to push me and make me not give up.

The Step-Up Mentorship Program was created to support young men throughout their high school career.  The program begins with the week long Summer Summit held at University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis Campus.  The Summer Summit is intended to prepare students for the increased rigor they will encounter in high school.  Participants are identified by their school district as potentially benefiting from additional academic and social support and guidance.  Students who participate in the Summer Summit receive additional guidance and are involved in mentorship activities throughout their high school careers.

The Cannon Family Scholarship was awarded again this year to recognize an outstanding Step-Up Mentorship graduate.  An application and specific requirements are required to be considered for the $1,500 scholarship. Daniel Toweh, III from Fridley High School, an IB World School, in the Fridley school district was this year’s recipient. 

And for new beginnings?  After high school graduation, almost all the young men plan to continue their education at a post-secondary school of choice and/or military.  Congratulations Class of 2020!

Step-Up Mentorship Graduates 57 Seniors

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