Mayo helps pay tuition for minorstaffers interested in teaching

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Mayo Clinic has donated $100,000 to a new Rochester public schools program aimed at diversifying its teaching staff.

The money will be used to pay college tuition for non-teaching minority employees who are interested in becoming teachers.

The district launched the tuition-reimbursement program in the spring using a $15,000 donation from the Rochester Area Foundation to get three people started on an education degree.

With the Mayo donation, a fourth district employee has entered a teaching degree program, said Tim Alexander, the school district’s human resources director.


The district will receive from Mayo Clinic $25,000 a year for four years to help fund the program, said Karel Weigel, Mayo’s administrator for community relations.

The program provides up to $2,500 per semester or $5,000 a year in tuition. In exchange, graduates must commit to teach in Rochester public schools (if they are offered a job) one year for each year they received tuition reimbursement.

Mayo Clinic donates about $2 million a year to programs that benefit the community, and this new school district initiative fits Mayo’s criteria for worthy efforts, Weigel said.

"When we support programs, they generally are doing things that are providing for self-sufficiency and/or capacity building in the community. And this speaks to both of those criteria points," Weigel said.

The district hopes to diversify its staff to better reflect a changing student body, of which about 25 percent belong to minority groups. Currently, less than 3 percent of the district’s approximately 1,100 teachers are minorities.

Many people, including district officials, believe it is important both for majority and minority children to see teachers of color in the schools, as role models and authority figures.

Weigel said that the program does have an effect on Mayo Clinic and other Rochester employers because the work force here is becoming more diverse.

"They are our neighbors. And the more we can do the right kinds of things for everybody, the far better our community is going to be," she said.

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