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By Toe Mahasongkham, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow serving at Saint Paul Harding High School (with the Sanneh Foundation) 

Throughout life, we all yearn and seek for a place that we belong to; a place where we can be ourselves and a place where we can succeed. This place, especially for High School freshmen is extremely pivotal for them to set themselves up for success or failure for the next four years and beyond.

One particular student at Harding High School in St. Paul, MN was in search of a place. He was previously expelled from his old school and already was getting into trouble and making bad first impressions to both his fellow students and staff. He was slowly slipping and if he would of kept on regressing the way he was; in no time, he most likely would of have started looking for another new school again.

Fortunately, our staff noticed this sense of belonging and started relationship building. Take school away from the equation and start talking about what he liked, crack a few jokes here and there, make him smile, and give the student a chance to express himself. Eventually, he starts attending our after school program and is now one of our regulars. He now has found his place; a place where he is accepted for who he is, a place where he is wanted, a place where he can call home.

[From “Voices From the Field: Reflections from Minnesota Alliance With Youth’s AmeriCorps Members.” Winter 2017.]

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