Numerous mentoring programs around the country regularly match businesses with kids. The varied programs are critically important and often show positive results.
But few, if any, of these initiatives involve top executives in an effort to broaden the horizons of at risk students through the world of business. In an effort to prepare vulnerable children for rewarding careers in the future, Risen Christ Catholic School (RCCS), a 350-student, kindergarten through eighth grade school located in the Powderhorn Park area of Minneapolis, created the “Imagine the Possibilities” program and enlisted Dr. Gregg Dyste, a neurosurgeon who lives in Medina, as a mentor for students. Dyste focuses his practice on brain tumors and conditions and trauma of the brain and spine.
The one-of-a-kind “Imagine the Possibilities” program pairs senior leaders from about two dozen companies with up to six students in grades seven to eight. 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.
Dyste’s teaching schedule at RCCS will include classroom instruction and field trips. “I am very excited to design my program around teaching these young people the limitless possibilities that are available in the field of medicine,” he said. His field trips will include visits to Abbott Northwestern Hospital and to the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Dyste is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School. He completed his general surgery internship and his neurosurgical residency training at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, Iowa. He is enrolled in a physician leadership program at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul.
Dyste serves as president of Metropolitan Neurosurgery, PA, which is affiliated with Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, Unity, University of Minnesota Fairview and North Memorial hospitals. He is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), Organization for Computational Neurosciences (CNS) and Minnesota Medical Association (MMA).
In addition to his participation in the “Imagine the Possibilities” mentoring program, Dyste is active in the Twin Cities community, including serving as honorary chair of Restart, Inc.’s fund raising event, helping to raise money for individuals who have had severe or traumatic brain injuries. Dyste is a graduate of Minnetonka High School.
Ninety-six 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, school official believe their students 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.
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 business executives who participated during the initiative’s first year and over 70 percent of those who participated in the third year are continuing to mentor RCCS students and committing to recreate their programs.