TRIPS Students Serve with Alumni

Emily Wavro ’14 works with a St. Anthony’s student. Photo courtesy Carolina Itsines.
Emily Wavro ’14 works with a St. Anthony’s student. Photo courtesy Carolina Itsines.

Teresa (Amman) Reilly ’09 wanted to turn an ugly stereotype on its head. Specifically, the one that says kids in urban schools are unmotivated, unruly and disrespectful to their teachers. The elementary education major felt she received a wonderful education. But in her current position as instructional dean for third through fifth grades at St. Anthony’s School in Milwaukee, she felt one thing would have made it even better: experience working in a positive urban school environment. Just like the one at St. Anthony’s.

Reilly mentioned this to Tom Kunkel, president of St. Norbert College, at an alumni gathering. Kunkel then talked to Bob Osgood (Education), who spoke to Reilly and, eventually, Sandy Murphy (Campus Ministry). Soon a new partnership – and program – was born. Through the college’s TRIPS service break program, education students can now sign on to work with St. Anthony’s teachers during their winter or spring break. The kicker? The school employs an astounding 12 SNC alumni.

“That’s a very cool, rare thing,” says Murphy.

The new TRIPS program had a short trial run in the spring of 2013, then its first full session in January 2014. All participating St. Norbert students were paired with St. Norbert alumni teachers at the school and allowed to participate however they felt most comfortable – whether merely absorbing the urban educational environment or plunging right in and teaching classes.

“I told them it’ll be what you make of it,” says Reilly. “I didn’t tell them what to do, but I encouraged them to take a risk.”

The result? A big thumbs-up from everyone involved. Katherine Spude ’14 admitted that before her trip, she assumed urban schools were filled with low-achieving, ill-behaved kids. No more.“The students at St. Anthony’s are more driven and determined to go to college and be successful than those at any other school I’ve worked with,” she says.

One St. Anthony’s alum is already enrolled at St. Norbert. Thanks partly to hearing positive comments about the college from the 12 SNC alums teaching at his school, Jose Castillo ’16 began his freshman year at St. Norbert this past fall.

Reilly now dreams of the day when there will be many St. Anthony’s alumni studying at St. Norbert. Then she’ll load up some of her current pupils to tour the college and meet with their predecessors. ’The college kids could say to our students, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’”


March 31, 2014