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EDUCATING THE WORKFORCE OF THE FUTURE Hilary Kelly is a child magnet. When she walks into a room, kids are around her. It’s clear she loves it. As one of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s AmeriCorps Learn Early Achieves Potential (LEAP), members, she saw it as her role to try to give children the ears and eyes that working parents may not always be able to provide. “I can say, ‘today’s the day I’m going to be the 30 minutes of attention they don’t get at home or can’t get in a 20-student classroom,’” Kelly said. SMIF’s AmeriCorps LEAP

program places up to 20 full-time members in early childhood settings across SMIF’s 20-county region to focus on social and emotional skill development so kids are ready to learn when they get to kindergarten. “You can learn hard skills as you get older and build upon those,” said Kelly, who served two years in SMIF’s AmeriCorps LEAP program. “But a lot of kids lack social and emotional skills like compassion and empathy. Too often, those social and emotional skills get pushed to the side.” The AmeriCorps LEAP program

Hilary Kelly works with the children at her AmeriCorps LEAP site in St. Charles. (Photos courtesy Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation)

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is great for someone thinking about a career in early childhood, whether a recent college grad, a retiree, or someone looking to make the switch. My son Marcus served in the LEAP program in 2011-2012. He sees it as a way to bridge cultural gaps. “AmeriCorps transplants young people to serve in communities unlike their own,” Marcus said. “What better way to foster understanding and empathy across disparate populations?”"AmeriCorps members prove to be better workers and citizens in society," said Minnesota

Forge October 2017  
Forge October 2017