In an ambitious effort to prepare vulnerable children for rewarding careers in the future, Risen Christ Catholic School (RCCS), a 310-student, K-8 grade school located in the Powderhorn Park area of Minneapolis, created an innovative program, Imagine the Possibilities.
The one-of-a-kind program pairs senior leaders from about two dozen companies with up to five students in grades 7-8. The business mentors expressly design a project related to their field to be presented over the course of the school year to their group of six students. One of the mentors in this year’s program is Rob Roy, a Greenwood, Minnesota councilman and area business leader. Roy is president of Vinyl Art, one of the nation’s leading custom designers and manufacturers of flexible packaging and vinyl loose-leaf products.
Roy’s teaching schedule at RCCS includes classroom instruction and field trips. “I want the students to see the unlimited career possibilities before them, and to begin to set goals for themselves.” His field trips will include a visit to Vinyl Art.
Roy has served as president of Vinyl Art for 25 years. Located in Plymouth, Vinyl Art offers some of the strongest and most durable products in the industry. Since 1978, the company has stretched its product offerings to feature hundreds of different items, including versatile polypropylene pockets and sheet protectors; vinyl covers for magazines, brochures, menus, hymnals; and adhesive-backed pockets for packing lists, brochures, rewards, coupons and warning labels.
Roy is a councilman for the City of Greenwood and serves on the board of directors for the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District (LMCD), a government agency created to eliminate pollution and regulate of the use of Lake Minnetonka. He is also on the board of the Lake Minnetonka Association (LMA), which serves as a voice for Lake Minnetonka lakeshore owners and businesses. Roy was also one of the founders of Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, Minn. Roy graduated from the University of St. Thomas. He and his wife live in Greenwood.
Ninety-nine percent of RCCS’s students come from families who are living either at or below the poverty line. Many of these students will become first-generation grade school and high school graduates. Because these students have limited contact with the world of business, the school believes they would benefit from personal interactions with business leaders. Imagine the Possibilities allows experienced executives to contribute their knowledge and leadership to positively influence kids who might otherwise never reach their potential.
“The approach is both innovative and creative. Business executives engage with students on many levels, creating opportunities for developing new insights and gaining knowledge that can influence, inform and enlighten other students,” said Fran Rusciano Murnane, RCCS’s director of advancement and Imagine the Possibilities program manager. “Broadening the educational experience of our students provides them with options that can lessen the limitations poverty imposes.”
Student participation includes field trips that demonstrate the application of what is learned from each business executive, helping youth understand the importance of their education in preparation for future careers. RCCS’s (www.risenchristschool.org) Imagine the Possibilities will result in a myriad of benefits to both students and their mentors.
In the initiative’s first year, Imagine the Possibilities received an award for Best Program of the Year from the Minnesota Independent School Forum (MISF) for its academic achievement. To punctuate that success, more than 60 percent of the business executives who participated during the initiative’s first year and over 70 percent of those who participated in the third year are continuing, committing to recreate their programs and continue to mentor RCCS students.
“The success of the program has exceeded all expectations,” said Rusciano Murnane. “But what’s as exciting is the commitment by these talented business leaders to return to mentor again, helping to shape the program to maximize the long-term benefits to the students.”