YPN5Q is a weekly Q&A series spotlighting the state’s top young business and civic leaders and creative minds — professionals propelling change through entrepreneurship, the arts, public service, social media, and community involvement.
This week, we hear from Sadie O’Connor, the head of programming at Minnesota Reading Corps, a statewide initiative of ServeMinnesota (AmeriCorps) that implements a researched-based early-literacy effort to help struggling young readers in kindergarten through third grade.
Since its inception in 2003, O’Connor has helped the innovative program grow from roughly 50 tutors to 800 and helped it to become a nationally-recognized program.
In 2009-2010, MRC operated in more than 300 sites in 90 school districts across Minnesota.
O’Connor oversees an annual program budget of approximately $10 million and leads a staff of 16.
Name: Sadie O’Connor
Current job title: Program Director
Current employer: Minnesota Reading Corps
1. How did you become involved in your current line of work?
At the start of my junior year in college, I was looking for a campus job to earn a little extra cash.
A program called Jumpstart was holding an information session about service positions working with preschool children to develop their early language and literacy skills. A few minutes into the information session, I was hooked.
My experience with Jumpstart opened my eyes to the power of national service and the importance of early literacy. The experience also helped launch my career with Minnesota Reading Corps. And nine years later, here I am.
2. What do you find most fulfilling about your career?
Leading a program that is helping over 20,000 at-risk Minnesota students get on track to being proficient readers by the end of third grade is pretty incredible.
It’s been an amazing journey to be part of Reading Corps from its infancy, helping guide its expansion from 55 AmeriCorps members to 790.
3. What’s your favorite hobby?
Reading. I recognize that answer sounds a little cliché coming from the Program Director of a reading program, but it is true! I read every day and find it to be the perfect way to unwind.
4. What’s something new happening in your life?
This winter I am going to become an aunt for the first time! I have about four more months to plan all the ways in which I will spoil the baby.
5. Who is your favorite local celebrity?
The answer for me is easily Joe Mauer. He’s a good athlete and a good role-model. And he’s good looking.
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