SDSU alumnus finds joy in helping young Minnesotans

Andrew Lafrance

Andrew Lafrance

There are few things greater than giving a child a better opportunity to succeed in life. SDSU graduate Sheila Molde does this daily.

“I get to help children discover the joy of reading every day. I’ve always loved reading, and helping kids get a strong foundation early on is very important.”

Molde, a 1986 alumnus, helps elementary students succeed in reading by working with Minnesota Reading Corps. She volunteers her time to assist children in kindergarten through third grade who are below usual reading proficiency levels.

“MRC is affiliated with AmeriCorps, which is like the American version of the Peace Corps,” said Molde. “There are AmeriCorps programs out there such as building houses. But the main goal of AmeriCorps is to help people, and I get to do that by teaching children to read.”

Molde, who began working with Minnesota Reading Corps last August, said she teaches students every day.

“I am part time, but I still work with students every day,” Molde said. “I have roughly 10 to 12 students per day, but the number can vary depending on how many students are struggling.”

Molde said her students are not handicapped in any way but seem to have more difficulty grasping the concept of reading than other elementary students. She works with each student for fifteen to twenty minutes per day.

“All they need is practice. After gaining confidence, they do just fine.”

Molde graduated from SDSU with a major in sociology and a minor in child development and family relations. She now resides in St. Cloud, Minn.

Part of the reason Molde enjoys her work is because she gets to work with children, something that she enjoys.

“I am very interested in preschool age children, but elementary students are exciting, as well,” she said.

Unfortunately, South Dakota does not have a program like MRC, something that saddens Molde.

SDSU student Chilee Nleya, a sophomore English major from Rapid City, said she would enjoy working with a program like MRC.

“It would be great to have something like that in South Dakota,” she said.

Nleya said she hopes that students at SDSU realize how important it is that today’s college students help younger kids learn how necessary reading is.

“Even though technology is a huge part of how we learn now, the importance of knowing how to read has not diminished at all. Having a program like MRC here in Brookings would really put the focus where it needs to be.”

MRC’s Statewide Program Manager Sadie O’Connor said there are seven regions in Minnesota for MRC. Each region has a director, but she coordinates between all of them.

“I work closely with each staff person,” she said. “I do some traveling, but a lot of it is just e-mailing, phone calls and checking up to see how everything is going.”

O’Connor began working for MRC in August 2004, which she said is the year after the pilot year of the program.

“The first year I held this position, we had 23 members, or volunteers, working for us. Next year, we are looking at having at least 550 members going out and helping children learn how to read.”

Each school can choose whether or not to have the MRC program available to students. So many schools were added this past year, O’Connor is creating another region in order to be better organized.

“Next semester we will have eight regions. Word of mouth is powerful for us, and people within the schools are really going out and telling other schools and districts about what we do and how it is helping their students,” she said.

O’Connor said that MRC is an amazing program.

“Just seeing the growth that we have had in the past five years is astounding. The schools really want our program to be available within their schools.”

Molde said she finds what she does very meaningful.

“Children need to catch the joy of reading young,” Molde said. “Being able to help instill that in them ? it is very, very worthwhile.”