Friday, December 2, 2011

Going Places: Kyle Svingen '07

Kyle Svingen '07Looking back, there are so many things that I loved about my four years at Mount Michael— the high academic standards demanded by the teachers, the effort and sportsmanship expected by the coaches, and the support and brotherhood shared among the students. One of the aspects I took for granted was the implicit expectation that every student was going places. The question in the spring of Senior year was not if one was going to college, but where one would enroll in the fall. “I’m going to UNL to study Engineering” or “I’m going to St. Thomas to pursue a degree in Philosophy” or “I’m going to be a cadet at West Point.”

I went to a small liberal arts school in Northfield, Minnesota called St. Olaf College, where I majored in Physics and Religion while participating in numerous music ensembles and engaging in all the richness of campus life. Like my four years at the Mount, my time at St. Olaf prepared me to be successful, both personally and professionally. Perhaps the most valuable gift from the values-based education I received at Mount Michael and St. Olaf was a deeper understanding of my place in the world.
Conversations with monks, teachers, professors and peers helped me shape a world view that led me to understand the privilege I have been given. Both of my parents went to college and were able to send me to the best college-prep high school in the state, which empowered me to study at a leading liberal arts college. This privilege is not anything to be ashamed of; instead, it can be used as a tool for the greater good.

After graduating in May of 2011, I signed up for an AmeriCorps service year with a nonprofit called College Possible right here in Omaha. AmeriCorps is a federally-funded national service organization; it’s similar to the Peace Corps, but members serve within the United States. College Possible is a nonprofit formed ten years ago in Minnesota’s Twin Cities with the mission to help low-income students earn their college degrees. Upper-income students are more than ten times more likely to earn a college degree by the age of 24, compared to their low-income peers; this is a disparity that only contributes to the cycle of poverty. College Possible is making college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. Ninety-one percent are students of color who come from families that make an average of $25,000 per year. Students attend twice-weekly sessions after school during the course of their junior and senior years. My role within College Possible is a junior coach; I work with high school juniors, building the idea that college is an expectation, not an aspiration, and facilitating ACT test-prep, learning about the college application process and exploring college options. In their senior year, the curriculum shifts from test-prep to applying for admission, financial aid and scholarships. College Possible coaches continue to support our students throughout college, giving our students every benefit we can to empower them to success. Over the last ten years, 98% of our students have earned college admission, and of those, 80% have earned a college degree or are currently enrolled in college!

College Possible has done awesome things for low-income youth in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee; Omaha is the third city in which College Possible operates, and we are very excited to make a difference in this community. In our first year, we will be serving 60 students in two local public schools, and we are hoping to serve in six high schools next year, with plans for further expansion.

I’m excited to be making a difference in the lives of these students. Many never considered going to college prior to enrolling in College Possible, and now they are on a path to success. Just like at Mount Michael, the most common question posed to a College Possible Senior isn’t if he or she is going to college, but where; our students believe in themselves, and know that they are going places!
~ Kyle Svingen (’07) (article featured in the winter 2011 edition of the Michaeleen)