Looking for a new way to volunteer and enrich your community this year?

Beltrami County’s Students First program provides an opportunity to caring adults who have a desire to make a positive impact on middle and high school students at Bemidji Area Independent School District 31 as well as Kelliher Schools. 

For over four years, EAPCers have served as volunteer Success Coaches with more staff joining the coaching community each year. Currently, Jerry Vaughn, Cory Vaughn, Jim Stocke, and Melanie Schmidt each spend time once a month with one particular student they have been matched with. From month to month and eventually year to year, they get to see their student grow up, mature, and begin to make concrete decisions about the future. Success Coaches are there to have important conversations with students during a critical time of life. Some of those conversations happen at home, but every single student could use an extra caring adult to inspire them to dream big, set goals, and pursue success.

“I started as a coach in the program four years ago. This program creates a positive mentor-student relationship to aid the student through these sometimes difficult years and help them focus on their strengths to achieve their goals and solve the problems they encounter. It’s a great relational program for both the student and the coaches.”
—Jerry Vaughn, Senior Mechanical Designer, EAPC Architects Engineers

Students are Selected Randomly to Participate in the Program

In the fall of their sixth grade year, students are randomly selected to be a part of a fun, “privilege” program. Throughout their sixth grade year, students meet with Students First staff and are matched with community volunteer Success Coaches in the fall of their seventh grade year. That match is designed to last through graduation.

Mission: Students First is a community effort to help students reach their full potential by pursuing their Success Plan goals with support from caring adults.

80 New Success Coaches are Recruited Every Year

In 2017, more than 400 students in Bemidji and Kelliher schools were active in the program. Every year, Students First recruits approximately 80 new community volunteer Success Coaches and they are always accepting applications for interested Coaches.

Make a Big Impact in a Student’s Life Without Cramping Your Schedule

By becoming a Success Coach, you can make a big impact without turning your schedule upside down. This program provides a way for busy people to take 45 minutes once per month during a week day and come to the school to meet with their student. Success Coaches are never asked to give more time than that or to meet with students outside of Students First sessions. Sessions are never scheduled in the evening, on weekends, or over the summer. However, because Success Coaches meet with their student once per month throughout the school year and stay matched with that same student from seventh through twelfth grade, they build a lasting relationship.

Each Volunteer Students First Success Coach gives a student roots in our community, making the student feel accepted, welcome, and encouraged to dream and grow.

Could You Be a Students First Success Coach?

To serve as a volunteer Success Coach, you will be asked to do the following:

  • Support a young person through a one-to-one connection, helping them set individual goals and work toward accomplishing them
  • Serve as a positive role model and friend, encouraging your student to recognize and develop individual strengths
  • Be a caring, patient, realistic, respectful and resilient adult in your student’s life
  • Attend a 90-minute Success Coach orientation and training
  • Meet face-to-face with your student once a month during the academic year at a scheduled Students First session
  • Communicate with program staff for support and guidance
Help a Student Reach Their Full Potential

Students who participate in the Students First program will:

  • Learn about themselves—individual talents, interests, strengths (what is right about them)
  • Develop a sense of hope about their future
  • Develop a key relationship(s)
  • Develop short and long-term goals
  • Develop a plan, a pathway, a road map to get to their goals
  • Learn about career opportunities—connect to their talents, interests, strengths
  • Develop life skills
  • Develop problemsolving skills
  • Create a connection to their community
Students First Breaks Barriers and Builds Relationships

There is much discussion locally and nationally about the divide between young people and adults. Adults feel they encounter many barriers when trying to reach and understand young people. Technology is perceived as the greatest barrier with the prevalent use of cell phone technology and social media. Students First gives adults the opportunity to get involved and really get to know and understand a student. Some of our volunteers would otherwise have no reason to engage with students in our schools. So instead of questioning technology or the direction of today’s youth, our Success Coaches help students build a skill set for face-to-face communication.

Students Love Students First

What some students have shared:

“Students First is an amazing group. It’s fun and full of joy. I feel happy here and I like my coach. Thank you.”

“I wouldn’t mind meeting more often.”

“Students First is important to me.”

“It has helped me with my goals.”

“I think it is a wonderful program, I love it so so much, I will be sad when it’s over. I think it is very helpful as far as strengthening my strengths go.”

“…it’s fun, you get to learn more about yourself and the coaches help get ready for your future.”

“Students First is a great program that helps students feel cared for by their community and understand their personal strengths.”

Coaches Benefit from the Program Too

Here’s what some of the Coaches have said:

“This is a very well organized program and has more of an impact than I think I even know. I’m happy that I have been able to be a part of Students First!”

“My student is so very different than me as far as interests and life experiences are concerned—but we are so well matched as far as what I feel like I have to offer her and (surprisingly), what she has to offer ME!”

“I feel StrengthsFinder is one of the best educational tools that I have seen. I wish I had something like that as a teenager.”

“I think the program is worthwhile because it gets students thinking about their future and decisions they are making now.”

Ready to Become a Volunteer Success Coach?

Check out these resources for more information and contact Students First Program Coordinator, Melissa Heglund.



Melissa Heglund
Program Coordinator