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State Honoree

Nathan Bertelsen


Nathan Bertelsen, 18, of Minnetonka High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota, pioneered a Backpack Tutor program which trained high school students from the suburbs to tutor first- grade students in urban Minneapolis. While investigating an appropriate community service activity for his Eagle Scout project, Nathan learned that students in the city had eighth-grade standard test scores that were 50% lower than the scores of students in the suburbs. He was determined to create a tutoring program to help give inner city students a better chance. Visits to various elementary schools resulted in the selection of a pilot school, and Nathan's efforts to raise funds secured $1,500 to purchase supplies and fund the tutors' travel expenses. Nathan recruited tutors from three area high schools, who were then trained to tutor by teachers from his school. From October 1996 through April 1997, the tutors traveled once a week to the Ramsey Elementary School in Minneapolis where they made a tremendous impact on the children in the program, helping them to enjoy learning. The children, in tum, also greatly moved the tutors. "One tutor told me that the tutor program was his greatest experience in high school," said Nathan. A campaign to recruit 40 tutors for the 1998 program resulted in over 80 responses, which enabled him to expand the program to two additional elementary schools.